Imagine you're in the middle of an international conference call. Suddenly, you feel a wave of discomfort and uneasiness. It's been an hour since lunchtime; perhaps it's something you ate? You try to excuse yourself from the call, saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm feeling…" You pause midway, wondering which of the two words to use - nauseous and nauseated.

Aren't they interchangeable? In your mind, they both mean feeling sick or queasy. This situation is not uncommon for non-native English speakers in India, where these terms are often used interchangeably.

Today's topic centres on these two commonly confused terms: "nauseous" and "nauseated". While both relate to sickness, their usage is distinct.

So let's look at what these words mean. With our thorough insights and practical examples, you'll never be confused between these terms again!

Understanding Nauseous and Nauseated

The English language has a handful of words that often get used interchangeably, leading to common confusion. Two such words are 'Nauseous' and 'Nauseated'.

Originating from the Latin word 'nausea', which means seasickness, both terms refer to a feeling associated with stomach distress.

  • However, traditionally, 'Nauseous' is an adjective describing something that causes the feeling of sickness or revulsion. For example, "The nauseous smell from the garbage dump made me cover my nose".

  • On the other hand, 'Nauseated' describes the person who feels sick or queasy. For instance, "I felt nauseated after eating that stale food".

Here are some more examples:

  1. Nauseous - The nauseous smell made me cover my nose.

  2. Nauseated - I felt nauseated after the boat ride.

However, modern usage has blurred these lines and 'Nauseous' is often used in place of 'Nauseated'. It's crucial to understand the traditional usage but also be aware of this shift in casual conversations.

The Grammar Behind Nauseous & Nauseated

Even native English speakers often get confused between 'nauseous' and 'nauseated'. Here’s why - the context of usage for these words has changed over time, causing confusion.

  • In grammar, 'nauseous' is an adjective that describes something that causes nausea.

  • Meanwhile, 'nauseated' is a verb, used when you want to express feeling unwell or experiencing nausea.

While these rules are traditionally correct, modern usage often sees ‘nauseous’ being used in place of 'nauseated'. However, as a language learner, it's essential to understand and respect traditional grammatical structures before embracing colloquial shifts.

Common Misuses & Correcting Them

Regrettably, the misuse of 'nauseous' and 'nauseated' is a common occurrence. Let's delve into some examples:

1. Misuse: "I'm feeling nauseous after that roller coaster ride."

Correction: "I'm feeling nauseated after that roller coaster ride."

In this instance, using 'nauseous' implies that the speaker is causing others to feel sick. The correct term here would be 'nauseated', which denotes the speaker's feelings of sickness.

2. Misuse: "The sight of blood makes me nauseous."

Correction: "The sight of blood makes me nauseated."

Again, 'nauseated' should be used to describe the feeling of nausea induced by an external stimulus.

But worry not – with practice, you can avoid these common missteps. Here are other potential confusions you might encounter:

  • Using 'nauseous' when describing someone's reaction to an unpleasant taste or smell.

  • Confusing 'nausea' (the condition) with 'nauseous' (causing nausea).

  • Assuming that 'nauseous' and 'nauseating' are interchangeable.

Practical Tips for Remembering The Difference

  1. Visual Technique: Visualise the word 'nauseous' as being filled with something nauseating, like a rotten egg. This will help you remember that 'nauseous' means causing nausea, similar to how a rotten egg can cause an unpleasant feeling.

  2. Word Association: 'Nauseated' contains the word ‘ate’, which can remind you of eating something bad and feeling sick afterwards. This can help you recall that 'nauseated' refers to feeling sick.

  3. Idiomatic Expressions: Familiarise yourself with idioms where these words appear, such as 'Ad Nauseam', which means to an excessive or annoying extent (external link).

To improve your overall language fluency, reading novels is always a good idea.

How Clapingo Can Help With Vocabulary Enhancement

Clapingo's personalised coaching sessions are designed to boost your confidence in English vocabulary. These one-on-one sessions with native English speakers provide a unique language learning experience, tailored to your learning style and needs.

Our flexible scheduling ensures you can learn at your own pace without feeling overwhelmed. This personalised approach promotes deeper understanding and fosters better retention of challenging vocabulary terms.

Parting Thoughts

We've journeyed through the difference between 'nauseous' and 'nauseated', understanding their correct usage.

One fundamental takeaway is that 'nauseous' is used to describe something causing nausea, while 'nauseated' denotes the feeling of being sick.

Regular practice coupled with expert guidance from platforms like Clapingo can significantly enhance your spoken English skills. Remember that every step taken towards improving your English proficiency is a step towards professional growth and personal fulfilment.


1. Why do people confuse 'nauseous' and 'nauseated'?

Often, speakers mistake 'nauseous' for 'nauseated' due to their similar sounding nature and related meaning. However, they have distinct usage. Traditionally, 'nauseous' describes something causing nausea - like a rotten smell, while 'nauseated' is the feeling of queasiness or being about to vomit.

2. Can I use 'nauseous' instead of 'nauseated'?

While some dictionaries and language experts accept using 'nauseous' to mean feeling sick, it's more accurate and precise to use 'nauseated'. This is particularly important in formal communication or academic writing where clarity is key.

3. Which is more correct: I am nauseous or I am nauseated?

Though both phrases are commonly used interchangeably in modern usage, some language scholars insist on a distinction. According to grammar, saying 'I am nauseous' implies that you are the source of the nausea, meaning you're making others feel sick! The intended phrase should be 'I am nauseated', meaning you feel like throwing up.

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