# Reduce vs. Decrease: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 2, 2023
Reduce means to make something smaller in size, amount, or extent, usually with intent, while decrease refers to the process of diminishing in size, amount, or extent, possibly without intent.

## Key Differences

Reduce and decrease, while similar, imply subtle variations in their usage and context. The term reduce often involves an element of intent or deliberate action, often denoting an active effort to bring down the quantity, size, or degree of something. It can also carry a broader sense, referring to simplifying or breaking down into components. On the other hand, decrease typically describes the process or result of diminishing and may not necessarily involve intentional action. It can occur naturally or as a result of other influences and generally signifies a reduction in size, amount, number, or extent.
In application, when one chooses to reduce waste, it implies a conscious effort to limit waste production, which might involve recycling or using fewer resources. Conversely, when we observe that daylight hours decrease in winter, we are describing a natural, cyclical, and unintentional process of reduction in the amount of daylight. Here, decrease denotes a phenomenon occurring without direct human intervention or deliberation, highlighting its more passive or observational nature.
Speaking about their connotations, reduce tends to reflect more on the actions or processes that lead to a lesser amount or size, and it often emphasizes the methodology or approach utilized to achieve a smaller quantity or degree. In contrast, decrease is more focused on the outcome or the state of being reduced and is less concerned with the methods or actions leading to such a state, making it a more neutral and descriptive term.
These words are versatile and can be used in various contexts, be it mathematical, scientific, or everyday language. In mathematics, to reduce a fraction means to simplify it to its lowest terms, highlighting a process or action. To say a value decreases in mathematics simply illustrates that the value is getting smaller, reflecting a state or condition.
From a grammatical perspective, both words can be used as verbs, and decrease can also be used as a noun, referring to the process or amount by which something gets smaller. Reduce often emphasizes action and process, while decrease emphasizes state and result.

## Comparison Chart

### Intentionality

Often implies intent and deliberate action
May occur naturally or unintentionally

### Focus

More on process and action leading to a smaller state
More on the result or the smaller state itself

### Usage

Broader, can refer to simplification or breaking down
Generally signifies a reduction in size, amount, or number

### Grammatical Role

Primarily used as a verb
Used as both a verb and a noun

### Context

More active and involved
More observational and passive

## Reduce and Decrease Definitions

#### Reduce

To bring to a weaker or more difficult condition.
The illness had reduced him to a shadow of his former self.

#### Decrease

The process of diminishing or the amount by which something is lessened.
There was a decrease in sales last month.

#### Reduce

To decrease the volume, quantity, or degree.
Reduce the sauce by simmering.

#### Decrease

To reduce the number, extent, or duration of something.
We need to decrease the time spent on unproductive tasks.

#### Reduce

To bring down, as in extent, amount, or degree; diminish.

#### Decrease

To become less or smaller in size, amount, or degree.
Profits have decreased significantly this quarter.

#### Reduce

To gain control of; subject or conquer
"a design to reduce them under absolute despotism" (Declaration of Independence).

#### Decrease

To make something smaller or less in size, amount, or degree.
We must decrease the amount of waste we produce.

#### Reduce

To subject to destruction
Enemy bombers reduced the city to rubble.

#### Decrease

To become or cause to become less or smaller, as in number, amount, or intensity.

#### Reduce

To bring to a specified undesirable state, as of weakness or helplessness
Disease that reduced the patient to emaciation.
Teasing that reduced the child to tears.

#### Decrease

The act or process of decreasing.

#### Reduce

To compel to desperate acts
The Depression reduced many to begging on street corners.

#### Decrease

The amount by which something decreases.

#### Reduce

To lower in rank or grade; demote.

#### Decrease

(intransitive) Of a quantity, to become smaller.
The quality of our products has decreased since the main designer left.

#### Reduce

To thicken or intensify the flavor of (a sauce, for example) by slow boiling.

#### Decrease

(transitive) To make (a quantity) smaller.
Let's decrease the volume a little so we can hear each other talking.

#### Reduce

To lower the price of
The store has drastically reduced winter coats.

#### Decrease

An amount by which a quantity is decreased.
After six years of constant growth, the company reported a slight decrease in sales last year.

#### Reduce

To decrease the viscosity of (paint, for example), as by adding a solvent.

#### Decrease

(knitting) A reduction in the number of stitches, usually accomplished by suspending the stitch to be decreased from another existing stitch or by knitting it together with another stitch. See Decrease (knitting).

#### Reduce

To put in a simpler or more systematic form; simplify or codify
Reduced her ideas to a collection of maxims.

#### Decrease

To grow less, - opposed to increase; to be diminished gradually, in size, degree, number, duration, etc., or in strength, quality, or excellence; as, they days decrease in length from June to December.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
The olive leaf, which certainly them toldThe flood decreased.
Crete's ample fields diminish to our eye;Before the Boreal blasts the vessels fly.

#### Reduce

To turn into powder; pulverize.

#### Decrease

To cause to grow less; to diminish gradually; as, extravagance decreases one's means.
That might decrease their present store.

#### Reduce

To decrease the valence of (an atom) by adding electrons.

#### Decrease

A becoming less; gradual diminution; decay; as, a decrease of revenue or of strength.

#### Reduce

To remove oxygen from (a compound).

#### Decrease

The wane of the moon.

#### Reduce

To add hydrogen to (a compound).

#### Decrease

A change downward;
There was a decrease in his temperature as the fever subsided
There was a sharp drop-off in sales

#### Reduce

To change to a metallic state by removing nonmetallic constituents; smelt.

#### Decrease

A process of becoming smaller or shorter

#### Reduce

(Mathematics) To simplify the form of (an expression, such as a fraction) without changing the value.

#### Decrease

The amount by which something decreases

#### Reduce

(Medicine) To restore (a fractured or displaced body part) to a normal condition or position.

#### Decrease

The act of decreasing or reducing something

#### Reduce

(Linguistics) To pronounce (a stressed vowel) as the unstressed version of that vowel or as schwa.

#### Decrease

Decrease in size, extent, or range;
The amount of homework decreased towards the end of the semester
The cabin pressure fell dramatically
Her weight fall to under a hundred pounds
His voice fell to a whisper

#### Reduce

To become diminished.

#### Decrease

Make smaller;
He decreased his staff

#### Reduce

To lose weight, as by dieting.

#### Decrease

To lower in grade or importance.
A decrease in quality will affect customer satisfaction.

#### Reduce

(Biology) To undergo meiosis.

#### Reduce

(transitive) To bring down the size, quantity, quality, value or intensity of something; to diminish, to lower.
To reduce weight, speed, heat, expenses, price, personnel etc.

#### Reduce

(intransitive) To lose weight.

#### Reduce

(transitive) To bring to an inferior rank; to degrade, to demote.
To reduce a sergeant to the ranks

#### Reduce

(transitive) To humble; to conquer; to subdue; to capture.
To reduce a province or a fort

#### Reduce

(transitive) To bring to an inferior state or condition.
To reduce a city to ashes

#### Reduce

To decrease the liquid content of food by boiling much of its water off.

#### Reduce

To add electrons / hydrogen or to remove oxygen.
Formaldehyde can be reduced to form methanol.

#### Reduce

To produce metal from ore by removing nonmetallic elements in a smelter.

#### Reduce

To simplify an equation or formula without changing its value.

#### Reduce

To express the solution of a problem in terms of another (known) algorithm.

#### Reduce

To convert a syllogism to a clearer or simpler form.

#### Reduce

To convert to written form. (Usage note: this verb almost always appears as "reduce to writing".)
It is important that all business contracts be reduced to writing.

#### Reduce

To perform a reduction; to restore a fracture or dislocation to the correct alignment.

#### Reduce

To reform a line or column from (a square).

#### Reduce

To strike off the payroll.

#### Reduce

To annul by legal means.

#### Reduce

To translate (a book, document, etc.).
A book reduced into English

#### Reduce

To bring or lead back to any former place or condition.
And to his brother's house reduced his wife.
The sheep must of necessity be scattered, unless the great Shephered of souls oppose, or some of his delegates reduce and direct us.

#### Reduce

To bring to any inferior state, with respect to rank, size, quantity, quality, value, etc.; to diminish; to lower; to degrade; to impair; as, to reduce a sergeant to the ranks; to reduce a drawing; to reduce expenses; to reduce the intensity of heat.
Nothing so excellent but a man may fasten upon something belonging to it, to reduce it.
Having reducedTheir foe to misery beneath their fears.
Hester Prynne was shocked at the condition to which she found the clergyman reduced.

#### Reduce

To bring to terms; to humble; to conquer; to subdue; to capture; as, to reduce a province or a fort.

#### Reduce

To bring to a certain state or condition by grinding, pounding, kneading, rubbing, etc.; as, to reduce a substance to powder, or to a pasty mass; to reduce fruit, wood, or paper rags, to pulp.
It were but rightAnd equal to reduce me to my dust.

#### Reduce

To bring into a certain order, arrangement, classification, etc.; to bring under rules or within certain limits of descriptions and terms adapted to use in computation; as, to reduce animals or vegetables to a class or classes; to reduce a series of observations in astronomy; to reduce language to rules.

#### Reduce

To change, as numbers, from one denomination into another without altering their value, or from one denomination into others of the same value; as, to reduce pounds, shillings, and pence to pence, or to reduce pence to pounds; to reduce days and hours to minutes, or minutes to days and hours.

#### Reduce

To add an electron to an atom or ion.

#### Reduce

To restore to its proper place or condition, as a displaced organ or part; as, to reduce a dislocation, a fracture, or a hernia.

#### Reduce

Cut down on; make a reduction in;
The employer wants to cut back health benefits

#### Reduce

Make less complex;
Reduce a problem to a single question

#### Reduce

Bring to humbler or weaker state or condition;
He reduced the population to slavery

#### Reduce

Simplify the form of a mathematical equation of expression by substituting one term for another

#### Reduce

Lower in grade or rank or force somebody into an undignified situation;
She reduced her niece to a servant

#### Reduce

Be the essential element;
The proposal boils down to a compromise

#### Reduce

Reduce in size; reduce physically;
Hot water will shrink the sweater
Can you shrink this image?

#### Reduce

Lessen and make more modest;
Reduce one's standard of living

Make smaller;
Reduce an image

#### Reduce

To remove oxygen from a compound, or cause to react with hydrogen or form a hydride, or to undergo an increase in the number of electrons

#### Reduce

Narrow or limit;
Reduce the influx of foreigners

#### Reduce

Put down by force or intimidation;
The government quashes any attempt of an uprising
China keeps down her dissidents very efficiently
The rich landowners subjugated the peasants working the land

Undergo meiosis;
The cells reduce

#### Reduce

Reposition (a broken bone after surgery) back to its normal site

#### Reduce

Reduce in scope while retaining essential elements;
The manuscript must be shortened

#### Reduce

Be cooked until very little liquid is left;
The sauce should reduce to one cup

#### Reduce

Cook until very little liquid is left;
The cook reduced the sauce by boiling it for a long time

#### Reduce

Lessen the strength or flavor of a solution or mixture;
Cut bourbon

Take off weight

#### Reduce

To make smaller or less in amount.
We need to reduce our spending.

#### Reduce

To bring to a simpler or more basic form.
The equation can be reduced to a simpler form.

#### Reduce

To diminish in size, extent, or range.
The company decided to reduce its range of services.

## FAQs

#### Can reduce imply a deliberate action?

Yes, reduce often implies a deliberate effort or action to make something smaller or lesser.

#### Is decrease more passive?

Yes, decrease often describes a process of diminishing that can occur without direct human intervention.

#### Can both reduce and decrease refer to size, amount, and number?

Yes, both can refer to a diminution in size, amount, or number.

#### Is reduce broader in context than decrease?

Yes, reduce can have broader applications, including simplification and breaking down into components.

#### Can decrease also be a noun?

Yes, decrease can be used as both a verb and a noun.

#### Is decrease more neutral in connotation than reduce?

Yes, decrease generally has a more neutral and descriptive connotation.

#### Can reduce be used in mathematical contexts?

Yes, in mathematics, reduce is used to denote the simplification of expressions or fractions.

#### Does reduce emphasize more on methodology?

Yes, reduce often emphasizes the process or approach utilized to achieve a lesser state.

#### Can decrease happen unintentionally?

Yes, decrease can occur unintentionally or naturally.

#### Can the term reduce imply weakening or deteriorating?

Yes, reduce can imply bringing to a weaker or more difficult condition.

#### Can the term reduce refer to cooking processes?

Yes, reduce is used in cooking to describe the process of decreasing the volume of liquids.

#### Can decrease be used to describe natural phenomena?

Yes, decrease can describe natural, cyclical processes like the decrease in daylight hours in winter.

#### Can reduce imply a reduction in range or variety?

Yes, reduce can imply a decrease in range or variety of services or products.

#### Does decrease refer more to the result or outcome?

Yes, decrease is often more focused on the outcome or the smaller state itself.

#### Does reduce usually involve an agent or a doer?

Often, reduce implies an agent or a person who is making something smaller or lesser.

#### Is decrease related more to the state or condition?

Yes, decrease is often more about the state or condition of being reduced.

#### Can decrease refer to quality and importance?

Yes, decrease can refer to a reduction in quality or importance.

#### Is the term reduce more action-oriented?

Yes, reduce is often more action-oriented, emphasizing effort and activity.

#### Can both reduce and decrease be used in everyday language to describe lessening or diminishing?

Yes, both terms are commonly used to describe the act or process of making something smaller or lesser.

#### Does the term decrease illustrate observation more than action?

Yes, decrease often illustrates observation and may or may not involve direct action.