Change and Vary

29 December 2023

Hi there! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question about the words "change" and "vary."


Hello Teacher,

Ask a Teacher: Change and Vary
Ask a Teacher: Change and Vary

I'm Ali, and I live in Mashhad, Iran.

What is the difference between "change" and "vary?"

I'm keen on knowing how American people use "vary" in different forms in daily conversations.

Thank you,



Thanks for writing to us, Ali!

Here is the first major difference between the word "change" and the word "vary": Only one of them is a noun and a verb.

"Change" is that word. You can "change your opinion" for example. That's change as a verb.

You can also have "a change of opinion." That's change as a noun!

"Vary" is more narrow in meaning. It means to make a partial change in something, or to diversify something.

Sometimes change and vary are synonyms.

Let's look at each one more closely.

Change as a verb

While "change" can be either a noun or a verb, we will compare the verbal meanings and uses to "vary."

It can be used in a lot of different situations and can be a synonym for many other verbs like transform, exchange, switch or alter.

"Change" meanings range from making a difference or altering something particular to completely transforming or replacing something.

Many schools are changing the college application requirements in response to the ending of Affirmative Action.

Water changes from a liquid to a solid when it freezes at zero degrees Celsius.

"Change" can also mean making a slight modification in something to switching or making a shift from one thing to another.

The leaves change colors every autumn.

Emma changed her shirt because she spilled something on it.

Derek changed his money from dollars to euros when he went to France.

Andrey's accent changed after he moved to the big city.


Now let's look at "vary."

"Vary" is a verb. It can mean to make a partial change or to differentiate between items by size, amount or degree.

I like to vary my meals with different types of grains and greens.

Insects vary in size from large to very small.

It can also mean to show or experience a change.

The night sky varies depending on the Earth's rotation and orbit around the sun.

Interest rates vary due to how the economy is.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Ali.

Do you have a question about American English? Send us an email at

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

synonyms n. a word that is similar in meaning to another word

accent n. a way of pronouncing words that occurs among the people in a particular region or country