Apart & A Part – What’s the Difference?

Apart and a part are commonly confused in written English because they sound the same when spoken. However, they have different meanings and we should differentiate between the two when writing.

A Part – Meaning & Examples

A part is simply a noun (part) with an indefinite article (a) in front of it. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists 15 different definitions for part, but the gist of the most frequently used meanings is:

part (noun) – A piece of something

Take a look at the following example sentences:

  • She wanted a part of his pizza. (Maybe one slice; not all of it)
  • Part of me wants to go home. (But another part of me wants to stay)
  • Robbie is a part of my family. (One of many people)
  • Laurie ate a large part of the meal. (But, surprisingly, not all of it)
Laurie ate a large part of the meal. (Bali, 2011)

As stated, there are other definitions of part, with most (if not all) suggesting the ‘thing’ in question is a smaller section of a larger whole. For example, if an actor has a role in a play or a film, you could say that Brad Pitt had a part in Snatch. While the OED suggests this is a separate definition to the one offered above, it does align with the concept of part meaning a piece of something bigger.

Apart – Meaning & Examples

Apart is an adverb. The OED provides 3 definitions of the word, with separation being the central theme:

apart (adverb) – Separated by time or distance

Here are some example sentences:

  • Sheffield and Liverpool are 62 miles apart. (Distance)
  • Katie’s marriages were two years apart. (Time)
  • Ian and Steve grew apart. (Metaphorically, emotionally)
  • The toy broke apart. (Broke into separate pieces)

Apart is also used in a couple of phrases. I suspect – but have no data to back this up – that this phrase is the one responsible for the most errors:

Apart from (phrase) – Except for

For the last time in this post, let’s look at some example sentences:

  • Intelligent people love all music, apart from Coldplay. (Reasonable)
  • I can do everything apart from dance. (Arrogant)
  • Apart from the weather, it was a good holiday. (True)
Apart from the weather, it was a good holiday. (Boracay, 2015)

Summary & Questions

If it is a noun meaning a piece of something, use a part. If it is an adverb meaning separated or part of a phrase meaning except for, use apart. Now test yourself. The answers are below the photo.

(1) I dropped the bottle and it smashed a part/apart.
(2) A part/Apart from ketchup, he’ll eat anything.
(3) Everyone wants a part/apart of the action.
(4) The couple drifted a part/apart.
(5) Gandhi’s protest played a part/apart in the independence movement.
(6) My last two posts were almost one month a part/apart.

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but I needed something to keep the questions and answers apart. (Sheffield, 2022)

Answers

(1) I dropped the bottle and it smashed apart.
(2) Apart from ketchup, he’ll eat anything.
(3) Everyone wants a part of the action.
(4) The couple drifted apart.
(5) Gandhi’s protest played a part in the independence movement.
(6) My last two posts were almost one month apart.

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