What is the Difference between Useful and Convenient?

RopeWhen students in the U.S. apply to college, they often have an interviewer.  The interviewer may ask them many “normal” questions, such as “Why do you want to study at our university?” or “What are your future goals?”  The interviewer may also ask a much stranger question, such as “How many ways can you think of to use this rope?”  This is a test of the student’s creativity.  The student might say, “A rope can be used for…

a belt
an animal trap
hanging up clothes

tying someone up
mooring a boat
escaping from jail
a dog leash
lawn decoration
tug of war

The student was lucky to be asked about a rope because a rope is very useful.  It has many uses.  There are many different purposes for a rope.

Similarly, English is useful.  Many people want to learn English.  Why?  They study English because it is a useful language.  With English, you can watch movies, TED Talks, and YouTube.  You can listen to songs.  You can work in an international company.  You can travel.  You can read scientific journals.  You can make friends and speak with people from all over the world.  English has many uses.

HightopsTennis shoes are more useful than high heels.  You can wear them for sports, for walking, for when your feet are tired.  You can use them outside and inside, on flat floors and bumpy ground.  They last a long time (they are durable).  High HeelsIn contrast, high heels aren’t as useful.  They aren’t comfortable and are difficult to walk quickly or run in.  They are best worn inside.  They aren’t comfortable enough to wear for a long time.  They also don’t last for a long time (they are fragile).

While useful means able to be used in several ways, the word convenient means easy to use.

useful convenient transportation Bus and MAX on 5th at Yamhill. Steve Morgan photo, 2011.

Public transportation in your city might be convenient.

If there are many bus routes in your city, if it is easy to go from one place to another without a car, then public transportation in your city would be convenient.    If you have a grocery store on the corner of your street, it is easy to go shopping.  Shopping at that store is convenient for you.  If you have to go to the bank and the barbershop is right next door, it is convenient to get a haircut at the same time that you go to the bank.  If you want to contact someone quickly and quietly, it is convenient to send a text message.

Going back to my example of the rope.  While a rope is useful for trapping an animal, it may not be a convenient way to get meat.  It is difficult to make a trap and rare for an animal to get caught.  English is a useful language, but it may not be convenient for you to learn.  You might have to quit your job or take a break from university to travel to an English-speaking country and live there until you learn English.  So something can be useful yet not necessarily convenient.

I hope this helps you understand the difference between these two very useful adjectives, and I hope this blog is a convenient way for you to get English information.

Learn more about “convenient” and “versatile” on the PELA blog:

What is the Difference between Convenient and Versatile?