Immigrate vs Emigrate? Are They Similar? How Do We Use Them?

immigrate vs emigrate

Did you know that on average 1 out of every 30 people you see in the street every day is an immigrant? The bigger your city, state, or country the larger this number might be. If you live in a Northern country that number might be even higher and ever-growing. That is why you need to know the difference and proper use of the words “Immigrate” and “Emigrate”. 

The word “immigrate” should be used when a person moves to a non-native country to live. As for “emigrate” this one is used when a person leaves their current location to go somewhere else to live. Their meanings are different but they have similarities in their implications. 

In this article, we will explore more about each of these words, how to use them correctly in sentences and in the proper context. We will explore as well their similarities and other words connected to them. Stay tuned for more!

street sign reads emmigrate immigrate

Meaning and Origin of “Immigrate”

The word “immigrate” used this way is what we call an intransitive verb. It was first used around the year 1623 and it comes from the Latin word “immigratus”. The meaning of “immigrate” is clear, when a person leaves the country they are from and relocates usually permanently or for a long period of time in a country they are not native from.

Here are some examples of the word “immigrate” used in a sentence:

  1. When I decided to immigrate the hardest part was leaving my family behind until I had settled in.
  2. She was so scared to immigrate to the United States, she barely spoke the language and had no one there when she arrived.

Notice the word is preceded by “to”, that is because is it used in its verb form.

Meaning and Origin of “Emigrate”

The word “emigrate” originates from the Latin word “Emigratus” which means “moved away”. It is also connected to the Latin verb “Emigrare” which translates to “move from place to place.”

The first time the word “emigrate” was used was on 1766. And it is important to note that despite the connection with “immigrate” its meaning is different, referring more to the country where the person comes from rather than the country they are relocating to.

Here are some examples:

  1. People from Russia usually emigrate in groups, or by towns rather than one at a time.
  2. Due to the strong smell of cat’s urine, we emigrated from that apartment.

What Is The Difference Between “Immigrate” and “Emigrate”?

Now that we have seen the origin and meaning of each of these words, and we have also seen them used in a sentence you might face a certain level of confusion. They both refer to leaving your home to go elsewhere but the key to telling them apart is below.

When you “immigrate” you “left from” your place of birth, where you and your family is from to a foreign land. Now when you “emigrate” you “leave to” a place from you where you lived originally but it doesn’t need to be a completely different country. 

That’s why when people refer to those who travel from other lands to settle elsewhere, in a new location where they have no cultural ties, language ties, or otherwise, these people are referred to as “immigrants”, instead of “emigrants.” 

How Do We Use Each In A Sentence?

Before going ahead with the examples and showing how to use “immigrate” and “emigrate” is important to know that these verbs are both intransitive verbs. What do we mean by intransitive? Well, it means that you do not need an object to complete the use of the verb in a sentence.  

For example, 

I love Italian food.

“Love” is a transitive verb. Therefore, it needs an object to justify its use. In this sentence, “Italian food” acted as such. But if we were to use “love” without an object, it would remain forever expecting for an object to be added to gain meaning or complete the idea. 

However, if we said: “I immigrate” or “I emigrate” these sentences both make sense without saying where you are immigrating or emigrating to or why because they are intransitive verbs.

kid emmigrates and other immigrates

Here Are Some Examples of Both Used In Sentences:

  1. To immigrate illegally is never a good idea but for some people, there is no other choice. They either leave their homes or they do not survive. 
  2. Refugees are the most unfortunate type of immigrant. They immigrate in a rush, sometimes with only the clothes on their back and a photograph of better days.
  3. My family told me to think things through before I emigrate to another country. The experience and culture will be amazing but depending on where I decide to go there will also be risks for me.
  4. She told me once she had decided to emigrate that she had feelings for me. As if she intentionally wanted to put me in a position of either leaving with her or choosing to ignore how she felt. 
  5. I chose to immigrate to England because from every country I had visited that is the one that resonated with who I wanted to be the most.
  6. Due to the flood, the people of my country had no choice but to emigrate to high grounds seeking shelter and protection for themselves and their families.
  7. When I brought up moving away to start a new life, the disposition of my partner to emigrate was like bumping on a brick wall.
  8. They were of one mind, even when they thought to immigrate or simply travel, they liked the same locations and without planning always picked the same.
  9. My friend Lucas said I should emigrate to Canada, according to him there is no better place to live.
  10. I don’t think to emigrate and be a stranger in a new country is for me anymore. I am too old for that, I like living where people know my name.

Please note that when using “immigrate” or “emigrate” as in these examples you are using the infinite, not yet conjugated form of these verbs. However, if you are to use the gerund by adding ING, or the past tense and add ED, the meaning and use of these words would not change, you will merely adequate to the context and the proper grammar required to express your idea correctly.

For example:

  • Her family immigrated to North America.
  • He is immigrating to Australia.
  • They emigrated to the South looking for warmer weather.
  • Emigrating was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Should “Immigrate” and “Emigrate” Be Capitalized When Used In a Sentence?

The answer to this question is actually a simple one, both “immigrate” and “emigrate” are capitalized when they are used as the first word of a sentence. Or if they are used as part of a title or heading in a text. 

We would also capitalize these if they were ever to be applied as a proper noun, which is unlikely but not impossible.

A Word About Immigrants

The word “immigrant” is the noun form derived from the verb “immigrate”. 

Nowadays, especially in the United States and according to the Center For American Progress there are 41 million foreign-born people in the US. The majority of those immigrants are from Latin America and Asia. 

Immigrants are a big part of the economy of developed countries. Those that are illegal even more so because they work hard and they do it for lower rates due to their “condition”. But it is still better than the economic situation they left back home, which is the primary reason for people to emigrate.

According to the National Academies Press 1 in 4 people in the United States, today is an immigrant, or their parent or close relative is an immigrant. And contrary to what some people might think they present lower crime rates than national born citizens.

immigrant stares at his shoes looking at UK flag


In today’s world due to globalization, and since the creation of planes that could carry passengers emigration is seen as normal and in some Latin American countries is actually the norm for the up and coming generations.

If you ever have to talk or write about “immigrate” or “emigrate”, just keep in mind that the first one is used when someone is “moving into” a country that is not the one they were born on. And for the second, that one is used when referring to someone that is “leaving to” a country or place where they are not from. 

That is why we call the people that move from their country to another “immigrant”, not “emigrant”. They left their homes and they are moving into a country that is not their own, where they were not born. 

With time immigration will continue to grow, not just from Latin America to the United States but all across the globe. Some people even say that it is in our nature to move, experience new cultures, and see new lands. 

So, there you have it, next time you talk about immigration you will know how to do it properly and which word to use depending on the action you are referring to.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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