AEE 920: Swap vs. Change vs. Exchange in English

Do you know the differences between the words “change,” “swap,” and “exchange” in English?

These are three very tricky words that might seem similar.

Today we’re going to help you understand how to use them differently so that you can have better English conversations with natives.

Here is a question from a listener; “I’d like to make a question: when should we use “swap”, “change” and “exchange”? In my language we generally use only one verb, so it can be tricky to know which verb to use in English. -CarolJW

 

This is a great question!

It shows you are really paying attention to the nuances of English.

These three words are very similar.

 

Change:

This is used more frequently.

It just means to “make or become different” (dictionary).

Examples:

  • I want to change my order. Please give me the cheese pizza instead of the pepperoni one.
  • I need to change my attitude and become more positive.
  • Or as a noun: I need a change in my life. 
  • Do you have any change? (money)

 

Exchange: 

This one is more about a trade, also often used with purchases.

Examples:

  • We exchanged numbers, so hopefully we will speak next week.
  • I can’t believe they didn’t let me exchange my sweater. There was a hole in it!
  • Or as a noun: No exchanges after 30 days. That was an unpleasant exchange.

 

Swap:

Very similar to exchange. In my research, it seems exchange is more formal.

Examples:

  • Wow your smoothie looks amazing. Let’s swap so we can try each other’s.
  • After you’re finished with your book, can we swap? I’ve been waiting to read that one.
  • Or as a noun: That swap wasn’t fair. Give me my car back!

 

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A confusing example:

  • These shoes are uncomfortable. Let me change into my sneakers.
  • I exchanged the shoes at the mall for the ones in my size.

 

Takeaway:

Listen to how this is used, get many examples.

These are all similar words, so you have the basic rules and now see how they are used in context.

There will always be exceptions!

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