For fun, we'll get some examples from our friends over on Once Upon a Time.
On the surface, there are a number of similarities between substantial and substantive. For example, both can be used primarily as an adjective, but also have lesser usage as a noun. Plus, they share several letters in sequence in common. But are they really that similar and interchangeable?
In reality, most of the dictionaries you look at will give you very similar definitions for these two words, which can cause even more confusion in trying to figure out which is correct. So let's break down the differences by looking at how they're similar first. Both words ultimately come from the Latin substantia, which means "essence" or "being". But each came into being from a slightly different angle, which is how their differences come into play.
Substantial is derived from the Old French substantiel, which is branched off from and older Latin word as listed above. The basic definition that you're going to be working with when using substantial is "of considerable importance, size, or worth". In other words, it's a matter of quantity.
The first time Regina stepped into her mother's vault, she was startled by the substantial number of hearts being stored in little cubbies in the walls.Research indicates that substantial can also be used as a noun, meaning "something substantial", but I've never seen this in use before.
When she cast the curse, Regina made sure her mayoral salary was substantial, allowing her the modern equivalent of her royal way of life.
Substantive, on the other hand, comes from the Old French substantif, and boils down to "having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable".
The lack of a body in the coffin and the way Whale's lab was destroyed were substantive proof that Daniel was alive and roaming Storybrooke.As a noun, substantive describes any word or phrase used as a noun. I've not seen this used before either.
In conclusion, the easiest way to know whether you should use substantial or substantive is this: If you can substitute meaningful and it still makes sense, use substantive. Otherwise, use substantial.
- Substantial via dictionary.com
- Substantive via dictionary.com
- Substantial via OED
- Substantive via OED
- Substantial vs. substantive via Grammarist.com
- Substantial vs. substantive via PainintheEnglish.com