Adept, Adapt, or Adopt?

Clarifying Differences in Meaning and Pronunciation

Adept, Adapt, Adopt

For many English language learners, these three words sound too much alike.

Even after learners understand what adept, adapt, and adopt mean and how to use them correctly, the very subtle pronunciation differences present a challenge.

Let's clarify the meanings but pay special attention to the pronunciations.

1. All three words are two syllables. The first syllable a sounds like the a in among.

2. Adept is an adjective. Adapt and adopt words are verbs.


Adept means very good at something.

Adept is pronounced /əˈdept/. The second syllable rhymes with kept, the past tense of keep and slept, the past tense of sleep.

Examples with rhyme:

His old car kept running because he was adept at mechanics.

Although he rarely slept well, he was quite adept at remaining alert all day.

Another example:

If I were more adept at carpentry, I wouldn't have to buy furniture.


Adapt means to change in order to suit a new situation.

Adapt is pronounced /əˈdæpt/. The second syllable rhymes with the first syllable in chapter.

Example with rhyme:

The author will adapt the most exciting chapters of the novel to a film.

Other Examples:

When there is new technology at your company, you must adapt (to it) in order to keep your job.

To use our new blender from Italy in the United States, we had to buy an electric adapter.


Adopt means to make something as your own in a permanent way (legally or otherwise).

Adopt is pronounced/əˈdɒpt/. The second syllable rhymes with opt, a verb which means to choose an option and with dropped, the past tense of drop.

Examples with rhyme:

If she can't become pregnant, she will opt to adopt a child.

He decided to adopt a new religion, so he dropped his old way of living.

Another example:

After much consideration, he decided to adopt only one of the kittens because the adoption fee was so expensive.


Got a weekend? Relax. Layer Up your English!