Empathetic vs. Emphatic

How to use "empathetic" and "emphatic" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Empathetic is similar to sympathetic and is used to describe someone who is so sensitive to someone else’s feelings that she is able to feel and understand them herself, without the need for direct communication:

empathetic social worker who somehow knew exactly how each person felt

Emphatic is the adjective form of the noun emphasis, and it means “strong; forceful; characterized by emphasis”:

made an emphatic gesture as he ranted

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.