Prospective vs. perspective?

The noun prospective references the future. The noun and adjective perspective describes what’s expected or possible in the future.

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What is the difference between prospective and perspective?

The words prospective and perspective sound similar enough, and they both reference an ability “to see” or “visualize.” But when it comes down to using these words in practice, they have separate meanings, and we use them for different parts of speech.

Key points:

  • Use the adjective prospective to describe something expected, likely, or possible in the future.
  • Use the noun perspective to reference a point of view as seen, heard, drawn, or perceived with depth or understanding. 

What does prospective mean?

Prospective is an attributive adjective that describes a specified thing as expected, possible, or likely to happen at a future date.

Example sentences:

  • “Prince Charming did not use Tinder and a Facebook account to find a prospective bride.”
  • “The orphanage plans to conduct several interviews with the prospective mother.” 
  • “The agency helps current and prospective small business owners.”
  • “Your prospective earnings are twofold if you can manage a client’s Twitter account.”
  • “The university hosts virtual application workshops for prospective students.”


Anticipated, contingency, destined, eventual, expected, foresight, future, in the making, intended, likely, planned, possible, potential, probable, prospective, soon-to-be, to be.

Etymology of prospective

For the sense of “looking forward” or “having foresight,” the word prospective derives from Latin prospectus for “view” (shares a Latin root word with the word prospect).

What does perspective mean?

The noun perspective has various meanings that we can break down into three categories: visualization, thought, and audio.

Perspective (visualization)

When it comes to art, “perspective” functions as a mass noun to reference representations of three-dimensional objects (an appearance of depth and measurable distance) on a flat or two-dimensional surface.

When something is “in perspective,” a person or object should have the correct size and position relative to other objects. Distant objects will appear smaller, while larger objects appear closer (also called “linear perspective“). To achieve this, parallel lines need to meet each other at one or more points in the distance. 

If something is “out of perspective,” this means an object or person does not have the correct proportions, causing them to look unnatural or unrealistic. 

Example sentences:

  • “Even perspective in a drawing is achieved through four attachment points.”
  • “The children practiced perspective while drawing the famous statue.”
  • “The cookies look out of perspective. Shouldn’t they be smaller than the windows across the room?”

From a view

The noun perspective also references one’s ability to visualize what’s around them through a view, vista, or prospect. For instance, if someone stands on a mountain, a town might look a lot smaller “from their perspective” than it would if they were standing near it. 

Example sentences:

  • “From this perspective, it looks like the crowd is chasing the reporter.”
  • “I can’t see very well from this perspective.”
  • “Most movies provide audiences with several character perspectives.”

Perspective (of thought)

Similar to its meaning of “from a view,” the word perspective can describe a particular attitude, philosophy, or a way of considering something that depends on one’s experience and personality (also called “a point of view”).

Example sentences:

  • “All blog entries are written from the author’s subjective perspective.”
  • “Try using the advanced search for a more specific perspective on topics.”
  • “From the paparazzi’s perspective, celebrities are not entitled to privacy because they are public figures.”
  • “America’s largest dictionary was initially written from the perspective of two men.”

As a mass noun, perspective also references the ability to perceive things with relative or comparative importance to each other (also called a “sense of proportion”). In this sense, the phrase “keep in perspective” means “to consider a situation or issue wisely and reasonably,” while “put in perspective” means “to compare situations to others so they may be accurate and fairly judged.”

Example sentences:

  • “Reports should try to maintain a neutral perspective going into a story.”
  • “You may be upset about June cancellations, but it’s important to keep things in perspective: we are amidst a pandemic.”
  • “I must put in perspective how important the statute is to the Olympic committee.”

Perspective (audio)

Lastly, the noun perspective can reference spatial distribution of sound (especially as a sound recording technique) so that far-away noises sound faint, while closer sources sound loud. 

Example sentences:

  • “The new sound recording technique gives movies a realistic perspective to background noises.”
  • “Surround sound speakers provide a more natural front-to-back perspective.”


From a view: Command, ken, landscape, lookout, outlook, panorama, prospect, scene, scenery, sight, view, vista, visual field.

Point of view: Angle, eye view, outlook, shoes, slant, standpoint, vantage point, viewpoint.

Perspective as an adjective?

The word perspective is occasionally found as an adjective to mean “of relating to or seen in perspective” (as in the noun) or “aiding in vision” (rarely used). 

Example sentences:

  • “Do you like my perspective drawing?” 
  • “Come take a look into this perspective glass.”

Etymology of perspective

In the sense of “optics,” the noun perspective derives from medieval Latin perspectiva (“the science of vision” or “optics”). According to Lexico, perspect- means “looked at closely” and comes from the verb perspicere, where per- means “through,” and -specere means “to look.” 

Published examples of perspective


  • “She’s operating from a winner’s perspective of abundance, rather than a fear of loss.” — Vogue
  • Embedded journalists would see things from the perspective of the troops, or so the military planners believed.” — The New Yorker
  • “One in three American adults — more than 70 million people — have some type of arrest or criminal record. To put this in perspective, about the same number of Americans have college degrees right now.” — The New York Times


  • “In a recent Perspective piece, ‘When Sparks Fly—Or How Birding Beat My Burnout,’ in the New England Journal of Medicine, a doctor in New Jersey discussed how birding has helped relieve his burnout…” — Harvard Medical School
  • “There’s also a perspective drawing for his Plaza del Cigarro, from 1956, done in rich shades of red and pink.” — Los Angeles Times

Published examples of prospective


  • “Since reaching a two-year high last August, the stock’s multiple of prospective price to sales contracted significantly throughout the winter and spring amid regulatory threats…”  — The Wall Street Journal
  • “Bidding wars — long the scourge of prospective home buyers — are now being waged for rentals, especially in the hippest neighborhoods…” — The New York Times
  • “Then prospective life-insurance buyers submit to blood tests, urine samples, and physical exams to assess their life expectancy.” — The Atlantic

FAQ: Related to prospective vs. perspective

What does aerial perspective mean?

According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, aerial perspective or “atmospheric perspective” is the “method of creating the illusion of depth, or recession” in artwork through color to “simulate changes effected by the atmosphere on the colors of things seen at a distance.”

Additional reading for prospective vs. perspective

If you enjoy learning about English grammar, be sure to check out similar lessons by The Word Counter, such as: 

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between prospective and perspective with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false?: The words prospective and perspective both come from the Latin word “perspectiva.”
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The choice of a single angle or frame of reference is called _____________. 
    a. Having sound sources
    b. Having a perspective
    c. Relative importance
    d. Greater vagueness
  3. Which answer is more closely related to the meaning of prospective?
    a. The ability to see things in such relative perspective
    b. A past date existing out of view
    c. A future event or date
    d. The uncertainty of outline in nearby objects
  4. Various meanings of perspective have to do with __________.
    a. The appearance of things relative to another
    b. Appearance of objects
    c. To have an understanding of what’s important
    d. All of the above
  5. ____________ gives a viewer the effect of distance on flat surfaces.
    a. Visual aid
    b. Binocular vision
    c. Linear perspective
    d. All of the above

Quiz Answers

  1. B
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. C


  1. Andrews, A. F. “Olympic Fencer Kat Holmes Shares Her Keys to Cultivating Focus.” Vogue,, 28 Jul 2021.
  2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Aërial perspective.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Jun. 2016.
  3. Collins, B. “Birding Their Way to the Clinic.” Harvard Medical School, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 25 Jun 2021.
  4. Dimon, J. “If You Paid Your Debt to Society, You Should Be Allowed to Work.” The New York Times,, 4 Aug 2021.
  5. Forman, L. “Time to Roll the Dice on Facebook.” The Wall Street Journal,, 28 July 2021.
  6. Miranda, C. A. “MoMA does Latin American architecture: the High-Low chat with Alexandra Lange.” Los Angeles Times,, 8 May 2015.
  7. Perspective.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  8. Perspective.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  9. Perspective.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
  10. Prospective.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  11. Prospective.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  12. Prospective.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
  13. Perspective.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021. 
  14. Stack, M. K. “A Near Press Blackout in Afghanistan.” The New Yorker,, 4 Aug 2021.
  15. Suri, C. “Want to Rent Your Dream Apartment? Prepare for a Bidding War.” New York Times,, 27 July 2021.
  16. Waters, M. “Millennials, What Will It Take for You to Buy Life Insurance?The Atlantic,, 30 July 2021.