'Proceed' vs 'Precede': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on August 16, 2023

‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’: What’s the difference? When words sound and are spelled relatively similarly, they can be easily mixed up. Especially when we are hearing words on the fly, or trying to speak quickly, we trip over ourselves way more frequently. Perhaps ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’ are some of those words you think you know but often confuse. Let’s help clarify them so you are comfortable using each one properly. 

In a rush? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: 

  • ‘Proceed’ is a word that means to continue or begin doing something
  • ‘Precede’ is a word that means to come before something

What’s the Difference Between ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’?

Words that sound similar are always prone to being mixed up, especially when we’re rushing through them. Additionally, with words like ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede,’ revolve around a similar subject, which in this case is the timing of events, so it’s more natural to confuse them. 

So how do we tell them apart?

In this case, we are actually going to use the spelling differences to our advantage and look at some key aspects that can act as clues. Let’s start by looking at prefixes.

Note: A prefix is a set of letters that get added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. 

  • The prefix ‘pro-’ as used in ‘Proceed’ comes from the Latin root meaning “forward” or “for,” as in being in favor of something. To ‘Proceed’ means to continue or move forward with something so that we can use the prefix as a reminder of the word’s definition. 
    • Other examples of words with the prefix ‘pro-’ that can serve as clues are progress, promise, procrastination, and promotion. 
  • Meanwhile, the prefix ‘pre-’ as used in ‘Precede’ comes from the Latin root meaning “before.” The word ‘Precede’ indicates coming before something else so that we can link it back to its prefix for reference.
    • Other examples of words with the prefix ‘pre-’ are predict, preschool, prehistoric, and even the word prefix itself!

Getting a feel for how words are formed can make understanding them easier and be a good starting place for learning other words with the same prefixes. But there are other important aspects of vocabulary learning that require attention as well. Let’s take a closer look individually at ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’ to understand each word fully. 

Definition of ‘Proceed’: What Does it Mean? 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Proceed’ is a verb that means: 

  • Begin or continue with a course of action
    • “We can proceed with our investigation.”
  • Move forward, especially after reaching a certain point
    • “The shipment would proceed to Milwaukee.”
  • Do something as a natural or seemingly inevitable next step
    • “Opposite the front door was a staircase, which I proceeded to climb.”
  • (in law) start a lawsuit against someone
    • “He may still be able to proceed against the contractor under the negligence rules.”
  • (of an action) be started
    • “Negotiations must proceed without delay.”
  • (of an action) be carried on or continued
    • “As the excavation proceeds, more bones will be discovered.”
  • Originate from
    • “His claim that all power proceeded from God.”

Synonyms of ‘Proceed’

  • Continue
  • Advance
  • Go ahead 
  • Pass on
  • Progress
  • Fare
  • Travel 
  • Journey
  • Extend
  • Flow from
  • Originate
  • Derive
  • Pass

Antonyms of ‘Proceed’

  • Decrease
  • Discontinue
  • Cease
  • Retreat
  • Finish
  • Fail
  • Halt
  • Retrogress
  • Yield

Phrases with ‘Proceed’

  • You may proceed 
  • Proceed with caution
  • A portion of the proceeds
  • Still proceeding

Definition of ‘Precede’: What Does it Mean? 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Precede’ is a verb that means: 

  • Come before something in time
    • “A gun battle had preceded the explosions.”
  • Come before in order or position
    • “Take time to read the chapters that precede the recipes.”
  • Go in front of or ahead of
    • “He let her precede him through the gate.”
  • Preface or introduce something with
    • “He preceded the book with a collection of poems.”

Synonyms of ‘Precede’

  • Go ahead of
  • Anticipate
  • Foreshadow
  • Predate
  • Presage
  • Antecede
  • Herald
  • Preface
  • Pioneer

Antonyms of ‘Precede’

  • Follow
  • Go after
  • End 
  • Finish
  • Obey

Phrases with ‘Precede’ 

  • Your reputation precedes you
  • Preceded 
  • Precedes it

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’

Since these words appear so similar and have similar enough definitions, distinguishing them in a conversation is important. With words like ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede,’ pronouncing them correctly can be the key to others understanding what we’re talking about — especially when we are speaking quickly, and the words aren’t written in front of us. Take extra care to enunciate the vowels in these words, particularly the prefixes, for maximum clarity. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Proceed’ as a guide: 

  • ‘Pro-cee-d’ (the word is already spelled phonetically, but note the ‘o’ sounds like the word “show”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Precede’ as a guide:

  • ‘Pree-cee-d’ (the final ‘e’ is silent, but the other ‘e’ sounds are wide like in “tree”)

How to Use ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’ in a Sentence

One of the most important parts of learning new words is making sure you feel confident using them in any situation. Whether you’re doing academic writing, giving a presentation, or just having a casual conversation, you want to use your words most effectively. Sometimes the best way to learn to do this is by seeing how new words work in real-world contexts so you can use their surroundings as clues.

Below are some sample sentences using ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’ that you can read and use as a reference, then also try practicing writing some of your own. 

‘Proceed’ Example Sentences

  • They waited for everyone to arrive before proceeding with the board meeting. 
  • After entering the building, he proceeded down the hallway toward the elevators. 
  • The company promised that fifty percent of its proceeds would be donated to charity. 
  • The couple came to the conclusion that all of their recent arguments proceeded from the husband’s meddling ex-partner. 

‘Precede’ Example Sentences

  • When he walked in and started flirting with every girl he saw, she knew his reputation of being a player preceded him. 
  • The movie didn't start on time because it was preceded by nearly 30 minutes worth of trashy commercials. 
  • A lot of arguments and drama preceded the couple’s eventual breakup. 
  • She was scared of the haunted house, so her friend preceded her through the door. 

‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’ Example Sentences

  • Although she preceded him in line, he proceeded to cut in front of her because he thought he was in more of a rush. 
  • The grandfather proceeded with his bedtime story about buried treasure that was lost in a time that preceded the founding of the United States. 

Final Advice on ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede’

The trick to learning new words is learning every facet of them — starting from the roots, working through definitions and pronunciations, and finishing with a solid understanding of how to put the words into action. Remember that with similar sounding words like ‘Proceed’ vs ‘Precede,’ careful enunciation and context clues will be the most helpful, as well as remembering how their prefixes affect their meanings. 

Want a recap? Here’s a short review of what we covered: 

  • ‘Proceed’ is a verb that means to continue or move forward with doing something. 
  • ‘Precede’ is a verb that means to come before something in time. 

Learning words with the same prefixes and roots can be a great way to expand vocabulary. Want to unlock more words? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles and keep building upon your knowledge of the language. 

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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