Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gift vs. Present

A friend and former colleague used to make the following distinction that I often think about during the holiday season:
A present is something that you want the recipient to have. A gift is something that the recipient would want.
It's a subtle difference, but we give someone a present because we think they'll benefit from it, whereas a gift is something they have expressed interest in or would like to buy on their own.

An example of a present would be the Sonicare toothbrush I bought for my brother. I really enjoy the one I have and thought he could use one, but he would never have bought it on his own. On the other hand, the digital camera he wanted would be a gift that he really wanted.

Personally, I find it more difficult to shop for gifts and usually prefer giving presents. Although gifts are typically more well-received, I think presents have greater potential for broadening horizons and inspiring new thoughts (maybe that's why I like them better).
  • Do you find that you give mostly gifts or presents?
  • What's your present-to-gift ratio this year?


Stacy said...

I told my mom about this blog and she had her own analogy of a gift vs present that I liked and wanted to share: A gift is something that you _give_ someone out of kindness or thought; whereas a present is something that you give out of obligation, such as for a birthday or christmas.

Jan said...

Thanks for the clarification! :) I'm not a native speaker of English and I've been wondering for a while what the difference between 'gift' and 'present' could be. But, as I see, even native speakers can't agree. :)

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