What is the difference between 使用 and 实用? In many contexts they both mean “make use” “put in use” “utilize”. Are they interchangeable or there is a certain refined difference in the meanings they convey ?

2 Answers 2


I don't believe 实用 can be confused with 使用 in any context

使用(v):to use

实用 (adj): practical

实際使用 (v)/(n)--> (際)(使) = acturally use/ practical use

e.g. 实用之后证实无效 Proved to be ineffective after practical use

  • The example sentence you give seems to me to be exactly a context where the two can be confused. What would be the difference if you replaced 实用 with 使用? 使用之后正式无效 would still mean ‘proved to be ineffective after [practical] use’. The fact that the use made it clear that the item was ineffective in effect makes the use in question a kind of practical use. The only difference between 使用 and 实用 in this context, then, is whether you emphasise that or keep it more implicit – definitely a potential source of confusion. Jan 1 at 13:35
  • 实用 in 实用之后 is short for 实際使用, it isn't an official word. To avoid confusion. it is better not to shorten a phrase that can result in an existing word. 实用之后证实无效 works because 实用 is in the verb position and not in the adjective position.
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 1 at 13:44
  • accept shortening 实際使用之后 to 实用之后 is a kind of slippery slope. In extreme cases, someone could shorten 敞開心扉交談 (open-heart talk) to 開心交談 (happy talk)
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 1 at 13:59

I'm guessing there's some confusion here. It's hard to think of a single example where these words are interchangeable.

Importantly, these words belong to different parts of speech:

CC-CEDICT: 使用 (shǐ​yòng) to use / to employ / to apply / to make use of

使用 is a verb. It can take an object, such as in 不许使用手机 = "no using mobile phones". It can function as a noun in e.g. 互联网的使用 = "the use of the Internet".

CC-CEDICT: 实用 (shí​yòng) practical / functional / pragmatic / applied (science)

实用 is an adjective. It's used in sentences such as 它很实用 = "it's very practical" or 实用的课程 = "practical course". To use it as a noun (meaning "practicality"), you'd likely add a suffix, as in 实用性.

It basically never functions as a verb. Actually, I looked it up in my Chinese-Chinese dictionary, and it says it's a verb with the definition 实际使用 with the example 切合实用 = "appropriate application". This seems like a rare, narrow usage.

I'm tempted to think that maybe this question arose from misunderstanding a sentence like:

In fact, using this method is not hard.

Here the verb is 用, and the previous word is 其实. And since 其实 ends with 实, it gives the illusion that 实用 is being used as a verb (despite not being a verb).

Either that, or maybe you're reading content with typos.

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