‘Fiction' vs 'Nonfiction': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 7, 2023

'Fiction' vs 'nonfiction' are two words that are often used, so you may have come across both terms already. If you're unsure about what they mean, this article will help.

In short, 'fiction' refers to made-up stories, while 'nonfiction' refers to real-life events.

What's the Difference Between 'Fiction' vs 'Nonfiction'?

The terms' fiction' and 'nonfiction' are most often used in the world of literature: books can be one of the two kinds. But you might also see them used to refer to movies and plays.

But what do they mean? Read on to find out.

'Fiction' Definition

'Fiction' is a noun that describes a story as being made up. Authors often make up stories for entertainment. For example, novels are fictional.

While some of the elements of the story might be based on reality - for example, the location or some of the characters' traits - the events that take place stem straight from the author's imagination.

Here are some famous fiction books:

  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The corresponding adjective is 'fictional.'

'Nonfiction' Definition

'Nonfiction,' on the other hand, is a true story. For example, a biography is non-fictional, as is a documentary. All the elements that take place are real.

'Nonfiction' is also a noun.

Some examples of famous nonfiction books include:

  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Note that some stories might be a mix of fiction and nonfiction. For example, an author might base their book on actual events but change many details and fictionalize it to make it more entertaining.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Fiction' vs 'Nonfiction'

Now that we've clarified each term's meaning, let's find out how to pronounce them. The International Phonetics Alphabet spells fiction like this:

/ ˈfɪk ʃən /

And nonfiction like this:

/ nɒnˈfɪk ʃən /

And when you say the words out loud, they sound like this:

[ fik-shuhn ]

[ non-fik-shuhn ]

When to Use 'Fiction' vs 'Nonfiction'

Let's take a look at some examples of the two words used in context. We'll start with 'fiction.'

I'm just chillin' with my latest fiction book.

I prefer to read fiction; it helps me escape.

We have the author here with us today, and we're hoping she can shed some light on the mysterious ending of her latest work of fiction.

And now for some examples of 'nonfiction.'

He always said he would publish a nonfiction book one day, and that day has finally come.

My dream is to become an acclaimed nonfiction author.

Many celebrities publish a nonfiction book one day or another; usually, it's a biography.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Fiction' vs 'Nonfiction'

So there you have it; the difference between 'fiction' and 'nonfiction' is that:

  • Works of fiction are made up
  • Nonfiction stories describe real-life events

If you'd like to learn about more confusing words, head on over to our blog.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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