Impatient or Inpatient?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between impatient and inpatient?

Impatient is an adjective that describes someone who cannot wait for anything without becoming irritated.

An inpatient is a noun that refers to someone residing at the hospital awaiting care or a procedure.

Impatient and Inpatient

In English, there is often confusion over the spelling of the adjective impatient as some people are unsure whether the prefix should be im or in. This situation arises because inpatient is also a word.

Impatient

The adjective impatient is the opposite of patient (its antonym). It means having a lack of patience. It describes a person who becomes restless or easily annoyed by simple mistakes or having to wait.

The noun form is impatience.

Of note, the prefix im is a way of forming a word's antonym. Confusion arises because adding the prefix in is a much more common way of forming an antonym (e.g., invalid, independent, insane).

Luckily, there are rules about forming these prefixes.
  • In- becomes im- before p, b, and m.
  • (For example: important, immature, and imbalanced)
  • In- becomes becomes ir- before r.
  • (For example: irrespective, irresponsible)
  • In- becomes becomes il- before l.
  • (For example: illegible, illegal)
Examples:
  • When someone is impatient and says, 'I haven't got all day,' I always wonder, 'How can that be? How can you not have all day?' (George Carlin)
  • Patience is the art of concealing your impatience. (Guy Kawasaki)
  • (Here, impatient is in its noun form.)

Inpatient

An inpatient is a noun. It refers to a patient who resides in hospital while under treatment. The opposite of inpatient is outpatient.

Inpatient can also be an adjective in the following terms:
  • inpatient unit
  • inpatient care
  • inpatient ward
  • inpatient treatment
To avoid confusion with the adjective impatient, it is sometimes spelled in-patient.

Examples:
  • If you need to stay at the hospital overnight, it means you're being treated as an inpatient.
  • Many alcoholics require inpatient treatment for life-long, severe drinking problems.
  • (Here, inpatient is an adjective.)
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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are adjectives? What are nouns? List of easily confused words