Difference between “answer”, “reply” and “respond”

Answer vs. Reply vs. Respond

What is the difference between “answer”, “reply” and “respond”?

The English language is always striking in its wealth of options and synonyms that sometimes seem similar in meaning but have different uses. This is especially true for words that describe the process of responding to questions or messages. Today we will look at three such words: “answer”, “reply” and “respond”. Answer is typically used when we provide a response to a question or react to a situation, but its main use is to provide an answer to a question (the answer can be a spoken or written response, or a gesture such as nodding the head or smiling). Reply is more often used as a comment or message; it can be a response but not necessarily to a question. It’s like a response in a dialogue where you continue the conversation. Respond is a more formal and less common word, used to provide a response in a formal situation, for example, when writing a letter or when you are asked for something in a professional context. Overall, the word ‘answer’ is used to provide a direct response to a question. ‘Reply’ more often indicates a general reaction in response to a message or comment. And ‘respond’ encompasses various types of reactions, both verbal and non-verbal, to stimuli or situations

Answer (noun and verb)

Answer (pronounced /ˈæn.sər/) is a noun and a verb that has several meanings and uses. As a noun, “answer” means a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics, a response to a question, or a letter. As a verb, “to answer” can be used to respond to a question, letter, etc. To react with an action or gesture, such as nodding one’s head. To fulfill a responsibility or obligation.


  • She answered all of the questions during the interview.
  • Can you please answer this email as soon as possible?

How to properly use the word “answer” in different tenses

  • Present Simple: I answer the phone.
  • Past Simple: I answered the question.
  • Present Continuous: I am answering your email.
  • Past Continuous: I was answering the survey.
  • Present Perfect: I have answered all the questions.
  • Future Simple: I will answer your call later.

Meaning and usage of “answer”

  • To provide a spoken or written response to a question or inquiry: Example: The student answered the teacher’s question correctly.
  • To respond or react to a situation, challenge, or need: Example: The company needs to answer the increasing demand for their products.
  • To be accountable or responsible for something: Example: The manager has to answer for the team’s poor performance.
  • To correspond or match a particular description or requirement: Example: This job candidate answers all the qualifications we’re looking for.
  • “Answer” is used when a specific response is required to a question or query. Example: “What is the capital of France?” “The answer is Paris.”
  • In formal situations, such as academic tests or legal proceedings. Example: “During the trial, the witness was asked to answer all questions truthfully.”
  • In everyday conversation when responding to others’ prompts. Example: When I asked him about his day, he answered that it had been very busy.
  • ‘Answer’ can also be used when it comes to finding a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics or other exact sciences. For example: ‘The answer to this equation is x=5.

Reply (noun and verb)

Reply (pronounced /rɪˈplaɪ/) can be used as both a noun and a verb meaning to respond to something. “Reply” also denotes a response, but it is usually a more general concept that can include not only a direct answer to a question, but also a general reaction to communication or a situation. It can be expressed verbally or in writing. It has a more informal and conversational tone than “answer.”


Thank you for your email. I will reply to it as soon as possible.

His silence was the only reply she received to her proposal.

How to properly use the word “reply” in different tenses

  • Present Simple: I reply to emails every day.
  • Past Simple: She replied to my question politely.
  • Present Continuous: I am replying to your message now.
  • Past Continuous: He was replying to the comments on his post.
  • Present Perfect: I have replied to all the messages.
  • Future Simple: I will reply to your letter tomorrow.

Meaning and usage of “reply”

  • To provide a response to something that was said or written: Example: He replied to my email promptly.
  • To react to a comment or question: Example: She didn’t reply to my question about the meeting.
  • To express a verbal reaction to something: Example: He replied angrily to her remark.
  • “Reply” is used when we respond to something that is not necessarily a question. Example: I received your message and I wanted to reply right away.
  • In informal and formal situations, such as correspondence or conversations. Example: We have reviewed your application and are pleased to reply with an offer of employment.
  • In sports, “reply” can be used to describe a response to an opponent’s goal or score. Example: After the opposing team scored a goal, our team replied with two quick goals of their own.

“Reply” is typically used in informal communication, such as conversations, emails, social media messages, etc.

Unlike “answer,” “reply” is used to indicate a more informal and conversational response to something said or written by someone in the context of everyday communication. ‘Reply’ is particularly common in written communication, for example, to respond to emails, messenger messages, or comments on social media.

Respond (verb)

Respond (pronounced /rɪˈspɒnd/) is primarily a verb used to express a reaction to something. “Respond” conveys the process of reacting to some stimulus or signal, which may not only be a question but any other trigger. It can be a response to an event, situation, or even a feeling.


The dog responded to its owner’s whistle by running back home.

The government quickly responded to the natural disaster by sending aid to the affected areas.

How to properly use the word “respond” in different tenses

  • Present Simple: I respond to emails promptly.
  • Past Simple: The firefighters responded quickly to the emergency call.
  • Present Continuous: I am responding to your request.
  • Past Continuous: She was responding to the comments on her post.
  • Present Perfect: I have responded to all the questions.
  • Future Simple: I will respond to your message later.

Meaning and usage of “respond”

  • To provide an answer or reaction to something said or written: Example: The student responded to the teacher’s question.
  • To react to a situation or event that occurred: Example: The police responded quickly to the emergency call.
  • To express a certain reaction or behavior in response to something: Example: The medication didn’t respond well to the patient’s condition.
  • In formal situations, such as official statements or interview responses. Example: The CEO responded to the allegations by issuing an official statement denying any wrongdoing.
  • When a person or organization reacts to requests, inquiries or criticism. Example: The customer service department responded promptly to the inquiry about the delayed shipment.
  • In medicine, when describing a patient’s reaction to treatment. Example: The patient responded positively to the new treatment, showing signs of improvement within a week.

“Respond” is a versatile verb used to denote various types of responses or reactions, both verbal and non-verbal, depending on the context. ‘Respond’ is often used in professional and business contexts, for example, a company’s reaction to customer inquiries, responding to allegations or criticism in the media, etc.

In summary, the choice between ‘answer,’ ‘reply,’ and ‘respond’ depends on the context and nature of the response or reaction. ‘Answer’ is suitable for providing direct answers, ‘reply’ is for more informal reactions to messages, and ‘respond’ encompasses a wide range of situations where a certain reaction is required. It’s important to differentiate these three words as they may have different contexts of use. “Answer” indicates a specific response to a question or problem. “Reply” can be a general response to communication. “Respond” expresses a reaction to any stimulus or trigger.

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