The Difference: Specially vs Especially


English speakers whose native language is Spanish or Portuguese often make a mistake with the word specially. Most of the time, the word they should be using the word especially. Here is an explanation of these two adverbs.

Quick Summary

  • The word especially is used for emphasis. It does not modify verbs.
  • The word specially means in a particular (special) way. It does modify verbs.

Main Use of ‘Especially’: Emphasis

When you want to emphasize a noun or situation, use especially.

  • I like my classes, especially English. (noun = English)
  • Most boys, especially my brother, love video games (noun = my brother)

Especially can also modify clauses and other phrases to show emphasis.

  • Finding time to exercise is difficult, especially if you have children. (the situation = If you have children (this is a dependent clause))
  • Dancing is fun, especially with your friends. (prepositional phrase = with your friends)

Finally, especially can give emphasis to adjectives and adverbs. When used this way, especially means quite or very much.

  • The end of the movie was especially interesting. (adjective = interesting)
  • She looked especially beautiful last night. (adjective = beautiful)
  • She sang especially beautifully last night. (adverb = beautifully)

Main Point: Although especially is an adverb, it does not modify verbs. The adverb specially (without the ‘e’) can be used to modify verbs, but it is not used for emphasis. (Read below).

‘Specially’ Modifies a Verb

Definition: done for a particular purpose, done in a different way

Grammatical Structure: Based on my research, specially is almost always used in this structure:

[specially] + [past participle verb]

Examples:

  • The cake was specially prepared for the wedding. (verb = prepared)
  • Lynn is specially trained in human rights law. (verb = trained)
  • The company produces specially-designed equipment for the U.S. military. (verb = designed)

When we say that something was specially designed/prepared/built, we mean that it was done for a particular purpose or in a particular way. For example, if a cake was specially prepared for a wedding, it means something different or particular was done in its preparation, e.g. the names of the couple were written on top of the cake.

a wedding cake

This cake was specially designed.

Other Grammatical Structure: ‘specially’ can be added after the verb.

  • My father treated my sister specially. She was his favorite. (verb = treated)

Using specially in this way is not common and therefore it is not the focus of this page.

Summary

  • The word especially is used for emphasis. It modifies nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and other phrases, but does not modify verbs.
  • The word specially modifies a verb and means in a particular (special) way. It is usually used before a verb in the past participle form (e.g. specially + [designed/made/built])

Do you think you understand? Try our exercises.

Exercises: Especially or Specially?

  1. These shoes are  designed for running.
  2. “This pie is  delicious. Did you improve your recipe?”
  3. Some birds’ wings have  evolved to travel long distances.
  4. He plays golf  well.
  5. Mrs. Walker is often in a bad mood,  if she’s hungry.
  6. Drinking a lot of water is  important for staying healthy.
  7. The company uses  selected grapes for their wine.
Show Answers
  1. specially (specially + past participle)
  2. especially (especially + adjective)
  3. specially (specially + past participle)
  4. especially (especially + adverb)
  5. especially (especially + dependent clause)
  6. especially (especially + adjective)
  7. specially (specially + past participle)

If you have a question or find a mistake, please leave a comment below.

— written by Matthew Barton (copyright) / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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