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Impel vs. Compel (Differences, Meanings, Examples)

What’s the difference between impel and compel? The English language has many words that often sound similar or even share similar meanings (referred to as homophones). Sometimes the words impel and compel are used synonymously. However, that is a mistake.

Read the article below and understand the meaning and difference between impel and compel.

Meaning of impel vs. compel

The meaning of compel is to stop someone in a way to do what one wants the other person to do. Thus, to compel is to force someone to take action, usually by making that person fear the consequences of not doing that thing.

On the other hand, impel means to have a strong motive toward doing a particular thing. Thus, to impel means to persuade someone to take action on either moral or ethical grounds.

Now, understand the meaning more vividly – when a person is compelled for something, they are coerced, regardless of their wishes. Whereas, when one is impelled for something, they are made to realise that it is the right thing to do. This is despite the difficult choice or decision they make.

Impel (verb)drive, force, or urge (someone) to do something.
Compel (verb)force or oblige (someone) to do something.

Understanding the difference between impel and compel

Both these words may be used in place of one another and often confuse people. The difference between the terms – impel and compel is slight, and here is how you will explain them apart.

A person has an impulse when they are impelled to do something. It is determined by a desire, wish, and will to do it.

When someone is compelled to do something, they have a compulsion. This is determined by a force that one cannot disobey without facing any dire consequences.

An easy example o follow could be – Good parents impel us to learn but bad parents compel us to follow rules.

The next section will help you understand the two terms more clearly with relevant examples.

Some examples of impel and compel

To vividly grasp the meaning and difference between impel and compel, it is necessary to go through some examples. The below-mentioned examples exhibit how these two terms can be used in a sentence.

Examples of impel:

  • Ranjit impelled Rani to return back to the village.
  • I will impel my brother to give his favorite chocolate to the little boy.
  • Anita is impelled to work four days a week by her family.
  • Manav will impel me to do the hiking course, even though I am not very strong in climbing mountains.
  • Difficult things sometimes impel her.

Examples of compel:

  • Vijay Rajpuria compelled me to join him at his party.
  • Parul is compelling her husband to leave the job, or else she will leave the house.
  • I am compelled to do the task against my wishes.
  • Jayesh will compel his friends to join the club, or else he will leave their company.
  • Why do I have to compel you to leave my room? 

The above examples must have clarified major difference between the two terms – impel and compel. Now you can use these terms with much confidence and ease.


It is true that one needs to be clear about the meanings and differences of words and phrases to use them in their quotidian life. The English language is full of words that sound and mean the same but can have different meanings attached to them.

In conclusion, compel denotes a forced action, whereas impel signifies a driving force or motivation. Hopefully, now you will be able to use these terms in a proper way, in the right places.


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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