'Criteria' vs 'Criterion': What’s the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 27, 2023

Wondering whether to use ‘criteria’ or ‘criterion’? And what is the difference between these two words? We’ll answer that in detail in this article, plus teach you how to use both correctly in a sentence.

In short, the difference is:

  • ‘Criterion’ is the singular version of the word. It means a standard of judgment or criticism.
  • ‘Criteria’ is simply the plural version of the word, so it should never be used the way ‘criterion’ is as a singular noun.

‘Criteria’ vs. ‘Criterion - How to Use Both Words

Since you know that ‘criterion’ is the singular version and ‘criteria’ is the plural version, you’d use them that way.

For example, you might say, “There are certain criteria you must meet” when discussing multiple sets of standards.

You’d say, “There’s a criterion you have to meet,” when referring to one standard someone might have to meet.

‘Criteria’ vs. ‘Criterion’- Decoding the Difference

‘Criteria’ and ‘criterion’ are two versions of the same word. The former is the plural version, and the latter is the singular version.

That’s really the only difference. But they can’t be used interchangeably because they’re in two different tenses, and your sentences would not be grammatical.

Make sure your subject always agrees with your verb.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Criteria’ and ‘Criterion’

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘criterion’ and ‘criteria’ is a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based. It could also mean a trait or a mark that characterizes someone or something.

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Bar
  • Gold standard
  • Measure
  • Standard
  • Grade
  • Metric
  • Touchstone
  • Barometer
  • Benchmark
  • Par
  • Mark

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Criteria’ and ‘Criterion’

Wondering how to pronounce ‘criteria’ and ‘criterion’? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce ‘criteria’ correctly, use the phonetic spelling: krIEtIURIUM
  • To pronounce ‘criterion’ correctly, use the phonetic spelling: krIEtIUHRIUH

How to Use ‘Criteria’ and ‘Criterion’ in a Sentence

Now that we know how to pronounce these words and what they mean let’s see some examples of how to use them in a sentence correctly.

Let’s start with ‘criteria.’

  • I’m sorry, but you don’t meet the criteria to be considered for this position.
  • I can’t wait till I finally meet the criteria to compete on American Idol. Right now, I’m too young.
  • To be a pop star, you don’t really need to meet any specific criteria.
  • I didn’t meet the criteria to join the swimming team, all right? Now you know.

Now let’s see some examples of how to use ‘criterion.’

  • The most important criterion for winning the competition is designing the best clothes.
  • The criterion for being accepted into the Gifted and Talented program is excellent grades and participation.
  • The only criterion for the program was good behavior and a GPA of 3.8 or higher.
  • Don’t you want to know the criterion before you apply for this essay scholarship?

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Criteria’ and ‘Criterion’

To recap, we learned that ‘criterion’ is the singular version of the word and ‘criteria’ is the plural form of the word. They both mean a standard of judgment or criticism. So, you know not to use them interchangeably.

If you ever get stuck on this, you can always come back for a quick refresher. We’ve got a ton of content on other confusing words and phrases in the English language. Go check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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