Perform or preform – which spelling is correct?

One letter — is it much? Well, usually such philosophical questions have just one answer: it depends. Take these two words: perform and preform. They look similar, but do they mean the same? Is one of them incorrect? Can you use them interchangeably? We are happy to clear out any doubts.

Preform or perform? Which form is correct meaning definition correct form difference examples

Perform or preform — can you spot the correct form?

Both preform and perform are correct forms and two altogether different words. When do you know whether to use preform or perform? First, we need to explore their meanings.

Preform and perform — what do they mean?

Preform can be both a noun and a verb. A preform is “something formed beforehand; an object of manufacture after preliminary shaping”. Analogically to preform means, “to form something beforehand, to bring something to its preliminary shape”.

Perform is used only as a verb and means “to showcase a skill” or “to carry out something”. The verb appears also as a synonym of “fulfil”, for example in relation to contracts. Another meaning of perform is “to do something in a prescribed ritual, or in a formal manner”.

As you can plainly see, when using these words, you cannot rely on autocorrect. The only advice we may give you is to watch your spelling.

Perform or preform in literature

First, see the performance of perform:

Actors are so fortunate. They can choose whether they will appear in tragedy or in comedy, whether they will suffer or make merry, laugh or shed tears. But in real life it is different. Most men and women are forced to perform parts for which they have no qualifications. Our Guildensterns play Hamlet for us, and our Hamlets have to jest like Prince Hal. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories, 1887

If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil.

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, 1962

Plus some examples of preform:

In her lay a Godframed Godgiven preformed possibility which thou hast fructified with thy modicum of man’s work.

James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922

Our concern with history…is a concern with preformed images already imprinted in our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered.

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, 2001

Written by

Passionately in love with English — a romance initiated by reading Tolkien’s books that finally lead her too far, and now she is an English philology graduate. She loves learning, especially when it comes to languages. Interested in visual arts, history and DIY.