Item vs. Thing: What's the Difference?
A distinct, individual article or unit. An object, entity, or concept not specifically named.
The words "item" and "thing" are often utilized interchangeably in colloquial English but bear distinct nuances. An item generally refers to a particular, distinct object or unit, often within a group or list. Conversely, a thing is a more general term, applicable to virtually any object, entity, or concept, irrespective of its distinctiveness or specificity.
When speaking of an item, one generally refers to something specific and countable, something that might be enumerated or listed. This quality provides "item" with a precise nature, making it suitable for discussing objects in a detailed manner. On the other hand, a thing can be much vaguer, potentially referring to objects, ideas, situations, or phenomena, making it a more universal, albeit less precise, term.
In retail or sales contexts, one often encounters the term "item" as it indicates a specific product or unit available for sale. This use underscores the item’s identity as a singular, identifiable unit within inventory or a catalog. The term "thing," however, does not confer the same level of specificity and would seldom be used in an inventory or sales listing due to its generic nature.
In everyday communication, the word "thing" can be seen as more versatile. It might refer not only to physical objects (like items) but also to abstract concepts, situations, or entities whose name might be unknown or irrelevant. Whereas, "item" remains anchored to discussing particular, distinct objects, typically those that are tangible and countable.
Legal or formal documents often utilize "item" when detailing lists or inventories, owing to its precision and specificity. "Thing," despite its broad application in daily language, tends to be avoided in formal or legal contexts due to its ambiguity and generality, which could lead to misinterpretations.
A specific, identifiable unit or object.
A general term for objects or entities.
Can be countable or uncountable.
Usage in Retail
Commonly used (e.g., sales item).
Rarely used due to vagueness.
Use in Formal Language
Preferred due to specificity.
Less preferred due to generality.
Seldom used to denote abstractions.
Can denote tangible and intangible entities.
Item and Thing Definitions
An individual article or unit for sale.
This item is currently available at a discounted price.
An unspecified object or entity.
Could you pass me that thing over there?
A piece of news or information.
The reporter shared an interesting item about the event.
A situation or event.
The party was a fun thing to experience.
An individual element in a list.
Please pick up every item on the grocery list.
An action or activity.
Jogging is not really my thing.
A specific topic or issue to be discussed.
The next item on the agenda is the budget review.
A particular matter of interest or concern.
The environment is a thing we should all care about.
A single article or unit in a collection, enumeration, or series.
An object or entity that is not or cannot be named specifically
What is this thing for?.
A clause of a document, such as a bill or charter.
An individual object, especially an inanimate object
There wasn't a thing in sight.
An entry in an account.
That baby is the sweetest thing!.
A bit of information; a detail.
An entity or item
How many things are there on the test?.
A short piece in a newspaper or magazine.
Something referred to by a word, symbol, sign, or idea; a referent.
A romantically involved couple
"[They] soon began seeing each other ... and were an item for a year and a half." (Peter J. Boyer).
Things Articles of clothing
Put on your things and let's go.
Also; likewise. Used to introduce each article in an enumeration or list.
Things Possessions, including clothing; belongings
Pack your things.
It's time to go.
To record, especially in an itemized list.
Often things(Law) That which can be possessed or owned
A distinct physical object.
Tweezers are great for manipulating small items.
Things The equipment needed for an activity or a special purpose.
An object that can be picked up for later use.
An act, deed, or work
Promised to do great things.
A line of text having a legal or other meaning; a separate particular in an account.
The items in a bill
In response to the first item, we deny all wrongdoing.
The result of work or activity
Is always building things.
(psychometrics) A question on a test, which may include its answers.
The exam has 100 items, each of which includes a correct response and three distractors.
A means to an end
Just the thing to increase sales.
A matter for discussion in an agenda.
The first item for discussion is the budget for next year's picnic.
A thought, notion, or utterance
What a rotten thing to say!.
(informal) Two people who are having a romantic or sexual relationship with each other.
Jack and Jill are an item.
A piece of information
Wouldn't tell me a thing about the project.
A short article in a newspaper.
An item concerning the weather
An end or objective
In blackjack, the thing is to get nearest to 21 without going over.
(obsolete) A hint; an innuendo.
A matter of concern
Many things on my mind.
(India) item girl
A turn of events; a circumstance
The accident was a terrible thing.
(transitive) To make a note of.
A particular state of affairs; a situation
Let's deal with this thing promptly.
Things The general state of affairs; conditions
"Beneath the smooth surface of things, something was wrong" (Tom Wicker).
Also; as an additional article.
(Informal) The latest fad or fashion
Drag racing was the thing then.
An article; a separate particular in an account; as, the items in a bill; he picked up four items at the drug store.
(Informal) A persistent feeling, interest, desire, or aversion
She has a thing for him and keeps talking about him. I have a thing about seafood and never eat it.
A hint; an innuendo.
A secret item was given to some of the bishops . . . to absent themselves.
(Slang) An activity uniquely suitable and satisfying to one
Let him do his own thing. Mountain climbing is really my thing.
A short article in a newspaper; a paragraph; as, an item concerning the weather.
(Informal) Used to refer to something with disapproval or contempt
Where did you get that thing? I wouldn't drive that thing if you paid me.
A topic or piece of information having the salacious character of gossip, especially a romantic relation between two people; as, I hear that the boss and his new secretary are an item.
That which is considered to exist as a separate entity, object, quality or concept.
To make a note or memorandum of.
I have itemed it in my memory.
A word, symbol, sign, or other referent that can be used to refer to any entity.
A distinct part that can be specified separately in a group of things that could be enumerated on a list;
He noticed an item in the New York Times
She had several items on her shopping list
The main point on the agenda was taken up first
An individual object or distinct entity.
Bacon pie? Is that a thing?
A whole individual unit; especially when included in a list or collection;
They reduced the price on many items
A small part that can be considered separately from the whole;
It was perfect in all details
Whatever can be owned.
An isolated fact that is considered separately from the whole;
Several of the details are similar
A point of information
An individual instance of a type of symbol;
The word`error' contains three tokens of `r'
The latest fad or fashion.
(used when listing or enumerating items) also;
A length of chain, item a hook
(in the plural) Clothes, possessions or equipment.
Hold on, let me just grab my things.
A single article or unit in a collection.
The museum displayed a rare item from ancient Egypt.
(informal) A unit or container, usually containing edible goods.
Get me a thing of apple juice at the store;
I just ate a whole thing of jelly beans
(informal) A problem, dilemma, or complicating factor.
The car looks cheap, but the thing is, I have doubts about its safety.
(slang) A penis.
A living being or creature.
You poor thing
Sweet young thing
She's a funny old thing, but her heart's in the right place
I met a pretty blond thing at the bar
That which matters; the crux.
That's the thing: we don't know where he went;
The thing is, I don't have any money
Used after a noun to refer dismissively to the situation surrounding the noun's referent.
Oh yeah, I'm supposed to promote that vision thing.
(informal) That which is favoured; personal preference. (Used in possessive constructions.)
It's not really my thing
(informal, with do) One's typical routine, habits, or manner. (Used in possessive constructions.)
Let me do my thing;
I'm here doing my thing
A public assembly or judicial council in a Germanic country.
(informal) A romantic relationship.
(informal) A romantic couple.
Are John and Jennifer a thing again? I thought they broke up.
(MLE) Alternate form of ting.
(MLE) Girl; attractive woman.
Look at the nyash on that thing!
(rare) To express as a thing; to reify.
Whatever exists, or is conceived to exist, as a separate entity, whether animate or inanimate; any separable or distinguishable object of thought.
God made . . . every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.
He sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
An inanimate object, in distinction from a living being; any lifeless material.
Ye meads and groves, unconscious things!
A transaction or occurrence; an event; a deed.
[And Jacob said] All these things are against me.
Which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
A portion or part; something.
Wicked men who understand any thing of wisdom.
A diminutive or slighted object; any object viewed as merely existing; - often used in pity or contempt.
See, sons, what things you are!
The poor thing sighed, and . . . turned from me.
I'll be this abject thing no more.
I have a thing in prose.
Clothes; furniture; appurtenances; luggage; as, to pack or store one's things.
And them she gave her moebles and her thing.
In the garden [he] walketh to and fro,And hath his things [i. e., prayers, devotions] said full courteously.
Hearkening his minstrels their things play.
Whatever may be possessed or owned; a property; - distinguished from person.
In Scandinavian countries, a legislative or judicial assembly.
In Scandinavian countries, a legislative or judicial assembly; - used, esp. in composition, in titles of such bodies. See Legislature, Norway.
A special situation;
This thing has got to end
It is a remarkable thing
How could you do such a thing?
How does this thing work?
A funny thing happened on the way to the...
A statement regarded as an object;
To say the same thing in other terms
How can you say such a thing?
Any attribute or quality considered as having its own existence;
The thing I like about her is ...
A special abstraction;
A thing of the spirit
Things of the heart
A vaguely specified concern;
Several matters to attend to
It is none of your affair
Things are going well
An entity that is not named specifically;
I couldn't tell what the thing was
A special objective;
The thing is to stay in bounds
A persistent illogical feeling of desire or aversion;
He has a thing about seafood
She has a thing about him
A separate and self-contained entity
How can "Thing" be generally defined?
"Thing" is a generic term for an object or entity, often used when the exact name is unknown or irrelevant.
Can "Item" be used in a general sense like "Thing"?
No, "Item" usually refers to a specific object or unit and is not as generic as "Thing."
What is a simple definition of "Item"?
"Item" refers to a distinct, individual unit or entity, often part of a list or collection.
Is "Item" often used to refer to elements in a list?
Yes, "Item" is commonly used to denote individual elements within a list or enumeration.
Is "Item" commonly used in retail and commerce?
Yes, "Item" is often used to describe a particular unit or product available for sale.
Can "Thing" be used in formal contexts?
Generally no, due to its vague and general nature, "Thing" is less suitable for formal use.
Is "Thing" countable or uncountable?
"Thing" can be both countable (e.g., three things) and uncountable when referring to a concept.
Can "Thing" denote abstract concepts?
Yes, "Thing" can refer to tangible objects as well as intangible concepts or situations.
Is "Thing" ever used to denote people?
Colloquially, yes. E.g., "She’s the real thing" – though it’s informal and context-dependent.
How is "Thing" typically utilized in daily communication?
"Thing" is used broadly in daily talk to refer to objects, ideas, situations, or activities.
Can "Item" describe a condition in formal agreements?
Yes, "Item" may detail specific conditions, points, or clauses in formal documents or agreements.
How does "Thing" function grammatically in a sentence?
"Thing" can serve as a noun, often being the subject or object within a sentence.
How might "Item" appear in legal or formal documents?
"Item" might be used to refer to specific articles or units, especially in inventories or lists.
Is "Thing" used in idiomatic expressions?
Yes, "Thing" appears in idioms like "do the right thing" or "the real thing," symbolizing correct action or authenticity, respectively.
Does "Item" appear in any idiomatic expressions?
Yes, e.g., "line item" in budgeting, where "Item" refers to a particular entry in a linear list.
Can "Item" refer to news or information?
Yes, "Item" can refer to a piece of news or information, especially in journalistic contexts.
Can "Thing" refer to a creature or organism?
Yes, "Thing" can loosely refer to living entities, especially in informal or speculative talk.
Can "Item" indicate a topic for discussion?
Yes, "Item" may denote a particular point or topic in discussions, particularly in agendas.
Can "Thing" imply a level of importance?
Yes, as in "the thing is," where "Thing" is used to introduce a statement or point of significance.
Is "Item" ever used to denote an intangible concept?
Rarely, as "Item" usually refers to a tangible object or a specific piece of information.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.