Difference between Continuous and Continual with Examples

Hello reader, there is something important I wish to call you attention to in this post titled, Difference Between Continuous and Continual with Examples. There are some words that have the same semantic connotations (See 100 Examples of Synonyms) but there is a slight difference in what they actually connote.

There are many words that have similar meanings but with a slightly different connotations. The words ‘continuous’ and ‘continual’ are examples of such words. This post considers the Difference between Continuous and Continual with Examples. In addition, the post also takes a look at related words.

Difference between Continuous and Continual with Examples

A good example of the situation described above is the word continuous and the word continual. To begin with, these two words are adjectives. You can check up what an adjective is, the order of adjectives and adjectival clause.

Continuous Meaning

This is an adjective that means the following: forming an unbroken whole; without interruption (pause or break), uninterrupted or unchanged.

  • The whole performance is enacted in one continuous movement.
  • The vehicles kept going on in a continuous cycle.
  • She has continuous pain in her abdomen.
  • The air-conditioner in the room gives off a continuous humming sound.
  • The lighting makes a continuous whining sound.

In Grammar, the word ‘continuous’ is another term for progressive. For example:

  • The continuous tense shows an action that is still in progress.
  • Gerundive verbs usually indicate a continuous activity,

Synonyms of the word ‘continuous’, in relevant context, include: continual, uninterrupted, unbroken, constant, ceaseless, incessant, steady, sustained, continuing, ongoing, unceasing, without a break, permanent, non-stop, round-the-clock, always-on, persistent, unremitting, relentless, unrelenting, unabating, unrelieved, without respite, endless, unending, never-ending, perpetual, without end, everlasting, eternal, interminable, consecutive, running, with no let-up, without surcease

Definition of Continual

Continual has the following shades of meaning:
Continuing indefinitely in time without interruption.
• Recurring in steady usually rapid succession.

Encarta defines it thus:
Recurring very frequently: happening again and again, especially regularly
• Uninterrupted: continuing almost without interruption or ending

See the following given examples:

  • The continual blaring of the car’s alarm outside made it very difficult for Jane to focus on her work that morning.
  • Cows can drink upwards of 50 gallons of water a day, so making sure the animals have continual access to clean water is a must.

Continuous V Continual

Since the mid-19th century, many scholars and grammarians have put up a clear distinction between continual and continuous. In their analyses, Continual should only refer to “occurring at regular intervals”,” while Continuous should be used to mean “continuing without interruption.”

This distinction overlooks the fact that continual is the older word and was used with both meanings for centuries before continuous appeared on the scene. Today, continual is the more likely of the two to mean “recurring,” but it also continues to be used, as it has been since the 14th century, with the meaning “continuing without interruption.”

Difference between Continuous and Continual

According to Encarta’s explanation, when we talk about something that continues without breaks, over a period of time, we are making reference to the word continual; but when we talk of something that goes on without stopping, we are making reference to continuous.

So a continual noise is one that is constantly repeated, like a dog’s barking, and a continuous noise is one that continues without stopping, like the roar of a waterfall. The same distinction applies to the adverbs continually and continuously as contained in these examples:

  • Critics continually interrupted the speaker.
  • The marathon runner ran continuously for two hours.
  • Christians are enjoined to pray continually.
  • She wept continuously for thirty minutes.

However, in popular usage, continual and continually are now frequently used to mean “without stopping.”

Continuous in a Sentences

Let us see some sentences that exemplify the use of continuous:

  • The CD has different tracks, but it is really one continuous song.
  • There is always a continuous line of traffic in major cities of the world.
  • All she could see is one continuous line.
  • The aim of history is to understand the laws of this continuous movement.
  • Along the coastline is a continuous chain of islands.
  • The continuous hum in the telephone receiver amazes the little girl.
  • She writes mostly in one continuous line with hardly any punctuation.
  • The years of continuous work undermined his health and his eyesight.
  • A continuous stream of water jets out of the broken pressurised pipe.
  • The sound is analogous to an organ pipe which produces a continuous sound.

Examples of Continual in Sentences

Find below various sentences that exemplify the use of the word continual:

  • Sitting like that for a long time would be continual torture.
  • The front door of the hotel was in continual motion with guests coming and going.
  • The country has been ravaged by continual civil war.
  • There is always continual struggles to excel among the students.
  • He regarded his whole life as a continual round of amusement which someone for some reason had to provide for him.
  • Despite the continual struggle for the custody of his son, he has never succeeded.
  • The king’s rule was troubled by continual wars and insurrections.
  • There is a renewed continual migration of Africans to Europe and North America.
  • Many new fields have been opened up in science, but there are still continual progress in the field.
  • During the walk, she kept up continual actions such as skipping, hopping, jumping, running, walking fast, walking slow, and the likes.

Related Words

There are various words that relate to the two words under consideration; that is, continuous and continual. They include the following:


This is the adverb form of the word continuous, an adjective, and it means what occurs at every point. For example:

  • The function is continuously differentiable.
  • The water kept pouring continuously.

It also means ‘with unflagging resolve’ as we have in this example:

  • Dance inspires him continuously to strive higher and higher toward the shining pinnacle of perfection that is the goal of every artiste.

Synonyms of continuously include: ceaselessly, endlessly, incessantly, unceasingly, unendingly, unremittingly, etc.


This is an adverb that derives from the adjective ‘continual’ and it means ‘seemingly without interruption’. See these examples:

  • The manager complained continually that there wasn’t enough money.
  • He fidgeted continually and was tetchy.
  • Even the oldest trees put out continually new leaves and twigs.


This is a noun that means ‘uninterrupted connection or union’. It is derived from the adjective ‘continuous’. Continuity also means ‘a detailed script used in making a film in order to avoid discontinuities from shot to shot’.

Synonyms for this context includes: book, playscript, script, etc. In another context, it means the property of a continuous and connected period of time. Synonyms in this context include: persistence, durability, enduringness, lastingness, strength, etc.


This refers to the following:
• the act of continuing for a long period of time.
• the period of time when something continues
• law : a legal decision that a court case will continue at a later date

In order words, continuance relates to continuation, the extent of continuing (duration), the quality of enduring (permanence) and an adjournment of a court case to a future day.

Let us see these examples:

  • No changes to the property are allowed during the continuance of the lease.
  • The lawyer asked the judge for a continuance.

The synonyms of continuance include: duration, date, life, life span, lifetime, run, standing, time, etc.

Antonyms: cessation, close, discontinuance, discontinuity, end, ending, expiration, finish, stoppage, surcease, termination


Continuant has two shades of meaning. The first refers to ‘something that continues or serves as a continuation’. The second meaning is within the field of Phonetics and it refers to ‘a speech sound (such as a fricative or vowel) that is produced without a complete closure of the breath passage. We can contrast this with a ‘stop’.


Though the word ‘continuate’, an adjective, is now obsolete, it means ‘continuous, uninterrupted’


This is an adjective that means: ‘expressing continuity or continuation (as of an idea or action)’


This is a noun that simply means ‘one that continues’. It has to do with somebody or something that continues something; especially work started by somebody else, or somebody or something that maintains continuity.

Examples of ‘continuator’ in sentences include:

  • Another continuator of Bayle was Jean Leclerc, one of the most learned and acute critics of the 18th century.
  • A truer continuator of Leibnitz in the spirit was Herbart.
  • A continuator, who wrote in the middle of the 15th century, used the materials.
  • His disciple and continuator assisted him.
  • The only monastic chronicler who went on writing for a few years after the extinction of the house of York was the Croyland continuator.

Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

WordWeb is a digital-only dictionary
© Antony Lewis 2015, WordWebSoftware.com

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