Emulate vs. Imitate | When to use Emulate, and Imitate in a sentence?

Emulate and imitate confuse many of writers. As they both mean to copy, but their usage in a context varies. This post is all about their meaning, and when to use in a sentence.

Quick Look

Emulate means to try to be like, or even better, someone you admire, or love.
Imitate means to copy someone or something for a purpose.

    What is the meaning of Emulate?

    When you emulate someone whom you admire a lot, you try to equal or excel them.
    The Verb emulate means to try to be like someone or something you admire.
    If you emulate Albert Eisenstein, you want to be like him.
    • Sons are traditionally expected to emulate their fathers.
    • It’s a model that we should all emulate if we want to restart the right way.
    • Elon Musk emulates Iron Man.

    What is the meaning of Imitate?

    When you imitate someone or something, you copy them. 
    The verb Imitate means to copy someone's or something's behaviour, appearance, style, sound, etc.

    Collins says,
    If you imitate someone, you copy what they do or produce.
    If you imitate a person or animal, you copy the way they speak or behave, usually because you are trying to be funny.
    • I used to imitate his work in Mad when I was a kid. I wanted to be Mort Drucker; I even loved his name.
    • I was mesmerized by the sound and would try to try to imitate the voices in the shower.

    What is the difference between Emulate and Imitate, and when to use them?

    Emulate suggests trying to equal or surpass someone, especially by copying them. It suggests matching or surpassing a person or achievement by doing the same things that another person has done before.
    Imitate suggests copying something or someone. You imitate someone's hair style because you like it.
    Imitation (noun) is very generic term for copy.  It may also suggest counterfeit representation of something.

    Imitate suggests copying someone unconsciously, semi-consciously or consciously. You may be imitating your grand father unconsciously because of his gene in you. You talk, walk, laugh, etc, like your grand father.
    You imitate your favourite actor semi-consciously because you admire him, and you want to dress, style, talk, etc like him.
    You imitate someone like, politician, actor, comedian, consciously when you mimic them to produce a type of satire.

    Emulate suggests copying someone consciously not to make joke of them, but to achieve what they have achieved. If you emulate your favourite teacher, it is obvious, you want to be like him or even better than him.

    What Paul Brains says,
    People generally know what “imitate” means, but they sometimes don’t understand that “emulate” is a more specialized word with a purely positive function, meaning to try to equal or match. Thus if you try to climb the same mountain your big brother did, you’re emulating him; but if you copy his habit of sticking peas up his nose, you’re just imitating him.

    Common Error:

    Young cricketers try to emulate Sachin.      
    Young cricketers emulate Sachin.      
    Don't write try to emulate, since emulate already has the notion of trying.

    Important point
    Beware of immolate (to kill someone by burning them); It sounds like emulate.
    Immolate pronounces like im-uh-leyt ; Emulate, em-yuh-leyt.

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