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When to Use Nauseous or Nauseated

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

'Nauseous' and 'nauseated' have similar meanings, both referring to being made to feel physically ill, but they do different jobs in a sentence. 'Nauseated' is a verb that shows the action of making someone ill, while 'nauseous' is an adjective that describes the state of being physically ill.

That Smell is Disgusting

Yesterday, I decided to clean out my refrigerator for the first time in a year. The rotting food in the bottom drawer gave off a disgusting smell that nauseated me. And it made me nauseous.

'Nauseous' and 'nauseated' are both related to nausea, the state of being physically ill and on the verge of vomiting. But why do we have three different words to describe the same thing? Because they are not identical and can't be used interchangeably. That is, they are different parts of speech.

To start with, 'nausea' is a noun that refers to the state of being ill. And the two words we're concerned about, 'nauseous' and 'nauseated', are also different parts of speech. 'Nauseated' is a verb, or action word, that refers to the actual act of making someone feel like vomiting. 'Nauseous' is an adjective, or describing word, that describes someone who is sick.

Something nauseated this emoji and now he is nauseous.
Nauseated

The Smell Nauseated Me

'Nauseated' is the past tense of the verb 'nauseate', which means to make someone feel physically ill. As the name implies, it is used to describe actions that have already happened in the past, and like many past tense verbs, it ends in '-ed'. This ending is the easiest way to tell it apart from 'nauseous'. Here are some examples of when to use 'nauseated':

  • I was nauseated by the smell of the baby's dirty diapers.
  • The landfill nauseated everyone driving by it.
  • Christine had severe motion sickness, which means she was nauseated by car and plane rides.

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