“Proceed” vs. “Precede”: What’s The Difference?

dark blue text "proceed vs precede" on light blue background

Quick summary

Precede means “to come before,” as in He preceded me in this role or Several steps should precede this one. Proceed means “to move forward” or “to continue an action,” as in Please proceed with Plan A. The plural noun proceeds to refer to money or profits made from sales. The spelling preceed is simply a misspelling.

Proceed and precede are nearly identical in both spelling and pronunciation—hence the common confusion around the two words. But their meanings are quite different. One of these words looks ahead and goes forward, while the other reflects on the past and references what has come before. But which one is which? And what about preceed?

In this article, we’ll proceed to explain the differences between proceed and precede—and how you can remember the difference from now on.

proceed vs. precede

The verb proceed means “to move forward,” “to continue an action,” or “to go on to do something.” For example:

  • Please proceed carefully—there are many crevices in the cave.
  • The play proceeded after a short intermission.

The plural noun form proceeds is most commonly used to mean “money or profit earned from a transaction.” For example:

  • All of the proceeds from the art auction were donated to charity.

The verb precede means “to go before” or “to preface.” For example:

  • He preceded her as president.
  • She preceded her instructions with an important announcement.
  • The chapters that precede this one are quite different.

In both words, the ending comes from the word cede, which comes from the Latin verb cēdere, meaning “to go.”

But to remember the difference between the two words, you can look at their prefixes. The prefix pro- in proceed means “forward,” while the prefix pre- in precede means “before.”

The same root is used in the word recede, whose parts roughly mean “go back.” The word precedent, meaning a decision that acts as a guide for future decisions, is related to precede and can help you remember that precede ends in -cede and not -ceed.

Is preceed a word?

Preceed is a misspelling of precede—it’s not commonly used in any other way. This mistake is likely influenced by the spelling of proceed, which has a pronunciation very similar to precede but ends in -ceed rather than -cede.

Examples of proceed and precede in a sentence

The following example sentences show the different ways we use proceed and precede.

  • They were able to determine that the one civilization preceded the other by thousands of years.
  • The judge wouldn’t allow the trial to proceed until everyone returned to their seats.
  • Robert funded his sister’s new restaurant using the proceeds from his highly successful toy company.
  • Her father preceded her as CEO, and when she took over she proceeded to enact several changes.

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