Appropriate or Suitable?

When are these synonyms used differently?

"Suitable" describes something meant for a specific purpose.

  • A winter coat is suitable for keeping you warm; a light jacket is not suitable.

  • A laptop case is suitable for protecting your computer from damage; a plastic bag is not suitable.

"Appropriate" refers to what is accepted culturally or socially.

  • Business attire is appropriate for a job interview; a swimsuit is not appropriate.

  • It is appropriate to kiss your husband or wife on the mouth; it is not appropriate to kiss someone you’ve just met on the mouth.

Questions for Understanding and Discussion

  1. In which situations could you use either equally?

  2. Which situations exclude the use of one but not the other?

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