Substantive or Substantial? What’s the Difference?

Substantive relates to things that have substance, and thus is a change in something’s substance. Compared to that, substantial is used for things that are larger or more significant, so a substantial change would be a significant change in something. 

Most people get confused and use either word in the place of another, when in reality, they’re very different from one another.

Meaning of substantive

Substantive means of or relating to substance, where substance is referred to as meaning. As per Oxford Languages, substantive means having a firm base in reality, or having an independent existence (depending on itself), and is an adjective in the English language (sometimes also used as a noun and verb, but in different contexts).

People often think of ‘substantive’ as referring to the essence or essential element of a thing, for example ‘substantive information.’ Some of the synonyms to ‘substantive’ are: concrete, significant, essential, important, and independent. The antonyms to this word are: inconsequential, insignificant, marginal, nominal, and negligible.


1. “There is substantive evidence for the efficiency of this machine.”

2. “Substantive research needs to be undertaken for testing this theory.”

3. “Substantive discussions have taken place with country xyz on account of diplomacy.”

4. “The lawyer claims that the witness’ deposition doesn’t substantively affect the outcome of this case.”

Meaning of substantial

Substantial means; of considerable importance or worth, ample, large in size or degree, and can also mean strongly made where buildings are concerned. This word can also be used to describe a hearty meal, and the wealth of a company/family (well-to-do). Being an adjective, this word is used to highlight the significance of something.

Substantial can also be used to depict the value or worth of a property, for example if there’s a sizeable property, real estate or infrastructure in a place where the prices are high and rising, you would say that it’s a ‘substantial’ property. Hence ‘substantial’ mostly refers to quantity, size, and extent.

Some words synonymous to ‘substantial’ are: weighty, solid, sizeable, notable, major, and valuable. The antonyms being: worthless, insubstantial.


1. “There was a substantial amount of money in Walter’s account.”

2. “Dorothy’s husband recently made a substantial investment in cryptocurrency.”

3. “There was a substantial difference in their opinions on the new voting laws.”

4. “There was a substantial increase in the demand of this product during summer season.”

5. “Leah’s car sustained substantial damages during the accident.”