Emigrate vs. Immigrate: When to Use Immigrate vs. Emigrate with Useful Examples

Last Updated on December 7, 2023

When you’re talking or writing about someone moving from one country to the other, you are likely to use two words, Emigrate and immigrate. Are these two synonyms? Are they simply two alternative spellings but have the same meaning? If not, what is the difference? In order to find out the answers to these questions and never get confused with these two words again, read on.

Emigrate vs. Immigrate: What is the Difference?

Emigrate vs. ImmigratePin

Key Takeaways

EMIGRATE is a verb that is used to describe someone who is leaving a region, such as his native country, in order to live somewhere else. On the other hand, IMMIGRATE is a verb that describes someone moving into a different location to live there.

So, these two go together and are very similar but they can’t be used interchangeably. Let’s look at a couple of examples to clearly distinguish the difference.

Understanding the Concepts

What Does Emigrate Mean? 

Emigrate refers to the act of leaving one’s country to live in another. When we use the term ’emigrate,’ we’re focusing on the departure aspect of migration. For example:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger emigrated from Austria to the United States.

What Does Immigrate Mean? 

Immigrate means to enter another country with the intention of living there permanently. It emphasizes the arrival in the new country. For instance:

  • Albert Einstein immigrated to the United States from Germany.

When to Use Emigrate vs. Immigrate

Which word is correct to use in the sentence, “Sophie emigrated/ immigrated from Slovenia with her family when she was only five years old”? Here, we are talking about Sophie leaving her home country to live somewhere else. Therefore, the correct word is emigrated.

What about the sentence, “Michael emigrated/ immigrated to the United States more than twenty years ago”? In this case, you are saying that Michael moved into the United States, so you should say that he immigrated.

These two words can easily describe the same person and mean pretty much the same thing if you use them in correct contexts. Returning to the example with Sophie, you can say that she emigrated from Slovenia but immigrated to Germany.

But how do you remember the difference? There is a simple trick that will help you. When you are emigrating, you are exiting the country where you lived previously. Both of these words start with an e. And when you are immigrating, you are going into a different country; both words start with an i. Keeping this simple rule in mind, you will never have problems figuring out whether someone is emigrating or immigrating.

Helpful Tips for Using “Emigrate” and “Immigrate”

When discussing moving from one country to another, choosing the right word—emigrate or immigrate—can be tricky. We’ve got some tips to ensure we get it right every time.

  • Think of Your Perspective:
    • Emigrate: Use when talking about leaving a country. Example: We emigrated from Ireland last year.
    • Immigrate: Use when referring to entering a new country with the intent to live there. Example: We immigrated to Canada.
  • Pairing with Prepositions: Emigrate is often paired with “from.” Immigrate goes with “to.”
  • Mnemonic DeviceRemember:
    • Emigrate Exits
    • Immigrate Into
  • Verb Forms: We emigrate when we exit. We immigrate when we intend to settle.

Emigrate vs. Immigrate Examples

Examples of “Emigrate” 

  • Her grandparents decided to emigrate from Italy to the United States in the 1920s.
  • Many scientists emigrate to countries that offer better research facilities and funding.
  • He plans to emigrate next year to pursue a job opportunity abroad.
  • The harsh economic conditions forced many to emigrate in search of a better life.
  • To emigrate from their homeland, they had to overcome numerous bureaucratic challenges.

Examples of “Immigrate” 

  • After obtaining her visa, she was able to immigrate to Canada and start a new life.
  • The family immigrated to Australia and became permanent residents there.
  • They hoped to immigrate and find work that would support their family back home.
  • The country has seen an increase in the number of people who immigrate for educational purposes.
  • She is writing a book about her experiences since she immigrated from her birth country.

Practice and Application

Fill in the blank

Fill in the blanks with either “emigrate” or “immigrate” to correctly complete the sentences.

  1. Many people __________ from Ireland to the United States in the 19th century.
  2. She plans to __________ to Canada for better job opportunities.
  3. His grandparents __________ from Italy after World War II.
  4. The family decided to __________ to Australia in search of a warmer climate.
  5. After much thought, they chose to __________ from their homeland due to political unrest.
  6. The city has seen a large number of people __________ from various countries in recent years.
  7. Economic hardships forced many to __________ from their native countries.
  8. He hopes to __________ to the United States to join his family members who are already there.
  9. The history museum has an exhibit on those who __________ from Eastern Europe during the 20th century.
  10. To __________ to a new country can be a challenging and rewarding experience.

Answer and Explanation 

  1. Answer: emigrated
    • Explanation: “Emigrated” is the past tense of “emigrate,” which means to leave one’s own country to settle permanently in another.
  2. Answer: immigrate
    • Explanation: “Immigrate” means to come to live permanently in a foreign country.
  3. Answer: emigrated
    • Explanation: “Emigrated” is the past tense of “emigrate,” indicating the act of leaving one’s country to live in another.
  4. Answer: immigrate
    • Explanation: “Immigrate” means to come to a new country to live there permanently.
  5. Answer: emigrate
    • Explanation: “Emigrate” means to leave one’s own country to live in another, especially for political reasons.
  6. Answer: immigrated
    • Explanation: “Immigrated” is the past participle of “immigrate,” meaning these people have come to live in the city from other countries.
  7. Answer: emigrate
    • Explanation: “Emigrate” means to leave one’s country or region to live elsewhere.
  8. Answer: immigrate
    • Explanation: “Immigrate” is to enter and settle in a country or region to which one is not native.
  9. Answer: emigrated
    • Explanation: “Emigrated” refers to the act of leaving one’s native country to live in another.
  10. Answer: immigrate
    • Explanation: “Immigrate” is to come into a new country to live there permanently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between “emigrate” and “immigrate”?

  • Emigrate: We use “emigrate” when we’re talking about leaving one country to live in another. It’s a process focused on the point of departure.
  • Immigrate: We use “immigrate” when emphasizing arriving and settling in a new country.

Do “emigrate” and “immigrate” refer only to people?

Yes, both terms typically refer to the movement of people, not animals.

Can someone be both an emigrant and an immigrant?

  • Absolutely! If we’re talking about a person who has left their home country, they’re an emigrant.
  • When that same person arrives and settles in a new country, they become an immigrant.

Is there a simple way to remember which term to use?

Certainly! A handy tip:

  • Think of “emigrate” and “exit“—both start with “e”, which can help us remember it’s about exiting a country.
  • Immigrate” and “into” both start with “i”, which suggests arriving in a new country.

What does “migrate” mean, and how is it different?

  • “Migrate” refers to a temporary or cyclical movement, not necessarily for permanent settlement, and it can apply to both people and animals.

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