Perspective vs. Prospective: How to Choose the Right Word

Perspective is a point of view, while prospective is future oriented

This photograph relies on the technique of forced perspective to create an optical illusion.

Steven Xiong/EyeEm/Getty Images

The words "perspective" and "prospective" are similar, and they share the same root, a Latin word meaning to look. The different prefixes (per- and pro-), however, result in different meanings. The prefix "per-" means thoroughly or completely, while the prefix "pro-" means before in place or time, or a look forward.

How to Use "Perspective"

In a general sense, the noun "perspective" refers to an attitude, an outlook, a set of ideals, or a point of view. In drawing, painting, and photography, however, it refers to a way of portraying (1) three-dimensional spatial relationships on a two-dimensional surface, (2) the angle from which something is viewed, and (3) the proper appearance of objects in relation to each other.

The word comes from a Middle English word and, earlier, a Latin word meaning to look through.

How to Use "Prospective"

The adjective "prospective" is future oriented. It means likely or expected to happen or become in the future—in short, a likely outcome.

The word comes from a Latin term meaning to look toward the future.

Examples Using "Perspective"

Here are some sample sentences using "perspective":

  • The movie retells the Frankenstein myth from the perspective of the creature.
  • "It is true that people, fruit, and puppies can be drawn without knowledge of perspective, but it becomes invaluable when one needs to draw chairs, fruit bowls, and doghouses."
    (David Chelsea, "Perspective! for Comic Book Artists")
  • Studying history can help put the problems of our own time into perspective.

Examples Using "Prospective"

Here are some sample sentences using "prospective":

  • Stricter requirements for prospective parents have made international adoptions more difficult in recent years.
  • "The patron greeted us with his usual blandness, and the next instant turned to me (his prospective dishwasher) and borrowed five francs." (George Orwell, "Down and Out in Paris and London")
  • The lawyers from both sides questioned the prospective jurors before a jury was seated.

Idiomatic Uses of "Perspective"

Here are idioms and examples that use "perspective":

  • The expression "to put (something) in or into perspective" means to look at a subject in a broader context to gain a fair and accurate understanding of it.
    "The $3.5 billion investment is enormous by any measure. Put into perspective, it is bigger than the amount Google raised in its initial public offering of stock in 2004."
    (Michael J. de la Merced, "Saudi Stake in Uber Lifts Advisory Companies to Prime Positions," The New York Times)
  • The expression "from my perspective" means "the way I see it" or "from my point of view."
    "I was asked to comment in a meeting once on the topic of listening to children. I said, from my perspective as a grandparent, it was impossible not to listen." (Helen Penn, "Quality In Early Childhood Services")

How to Remember the Difference

One way to remember the distinction between the two words is to recall that people going prospecting are searching for gold or some other valuable mineral that they expect to find in the future. So a miner who sets out for the first time is a prospective gold miner.