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The Many Ways to Use "Even"

The Many Ways to Use "Even"

"Even" is a sneaky word. It seems very simple at first, but if you look closer, you'll realize just how much it is used in daily conversation. It also has a very wide variety of meanings; it can be an adjective, an adverb and even a verb!

This time, we'll take a look at how to use it in each of its forms before covering some of the idioms and common expressions it's used in. How many do you know?

The basics

"Even" can be used in several ways, but one thing that's common in many of its uses is the idea of balance.

When you are comparing two or more things, even is often used to represent those things reaching the same level, the same point or the same amount. This balance can be either literal or figurative. Keep this idea in mind as you read the example sentences for each usage.

As an adjective

Flatness or smoothness

A row of four pictures hung evenly on a wall

Surfaces are even if they are smooth and don't have bumps or holes. Also, if different items are arranged to create a straight line, you can say they are even.

The chef carefully spread an even amount of cheese on the pizza dough before adding toppings.
Do these pictures look even to you?
No, move the one on the right up a little bit.

Equal in number, value, skill, etc.

Two or more people or things are even if they have the same value, the same level of skill, etc.

Those two fighters are about the same size and have the same amount of experience, so it's an even match.
We all received an even split of the money.


Even is used to describe actions that happen continuously without big changes.

He was a popular English teacher because of his even speaking tone and clear accent.
She ran the entire race at a smooth, even pace.

The opposite of this is "uneven," which can be used for physical surfaces or for figurative ideas.

The road through the woods is bumpy and uneven.

For numbers

The numbers 2, 4, 6 and so on are called "even numbers." When even numbers are divided by 2, the result is two halves with the same value.

The star athlete demanded an even number for his jersey.

The opposite of an even number is an "odd number" (1, 3, 5, etc.).

Everyone whose ticket has an odd number, please line up here.

As a verb

To "even something out" means to make it smooth and flat. This can be used literally or figuratively.

Our team got many points at the start of the game, but the score began to even out as the match continued.
This report is good, but some sections need to be evened out before it's finished.

Here, "even out" means improving a section so that it matches the quality of other sections.

As an adverb

You may be most familiar with even as an adverb. In this form, the idea isn't balance, such as in its adjectival form. Instead, the adverb form is used for emphasis because something is surprising, unexpected or extreme.

Depending on how it's used, even can appear in different parts of a sentence.


A close-up of a person's hands looking through records in a store's rack
Even Shelly liked the performance, and she usually hates opera.

Shelly hates opera, so it's surprising that she would enjoy the opera performance.

I have all of their music, even the rare, early records.

The speaker's collection is complete enough to include items that are difficult to find.

They left already? They didn't even say goodbye!

Here, the speaker is surprised at her friends' behavior.

Hey! Are you even listening to me?!

In other words, "Pay attention!"


When comparing things, even is used to emphasize the difference between them. This usage comes before an adjective or adverb.

I thought my hometown was cold, but it's even colder here!
She's working even harder than everyone expected.

Extra information

Even can be used after a statement to add a little bit of information or to say something more specifically. This usage sounds slightly formal.

That's a fantastic idea. Genius, even.

Other uses

Many people walking through a large, crowded train station

Aside from the uses we've covered, even is also commonly used in idioms and casual expressions. 

Even though

This is a less-formal way to say "despite."

I always get lost in the station even though I've been there many times.

Even so

"Even so" introduces information that goes against what has just been said. It's another way to say "however."

The weather forecast said it would be sunny today. Even so, I decided to bring an umbrella.

Even if

This phrase is used to describe a possibility that would not change a result or decision.

Even if we left now, we would still be late.
I'll get the money, even if I have to work two jobs.

Be even

This is a very common casual expression that means a debt has been canceled and that one person no longer owes another person.

If you help me move my couch this weekend, then we're even.

In this case, it means "You will no longer owe me a favor."

People sometimes add the rhyming word "Steven" to make this expression sound a little silly and less formal. 

Here's that $5 I owed you. We're even now, right?
Yep, even Steven.

Get even

"Getting even" with someone means getting revenge on them!

You think you've beaten me, but I'll get even with you one day!

For both "be even" and "get even," remember the idea of things being balanced. In the case of "get even," someone who is upset wants to make another person upset as well!

For bargaining

When negotiating prices, even is used to indicate a simpler number that is often lower than the original price.

They are $12 each, but you can have three for an even $30.

“I can’t even.”

A woman holding a mug that has "I can't even" printed on the side

This slang phrase is used when someone is surprised by something and doesn't know how to respond to it. It's a shorter way of saying "I can't even think of what to say/do" or "I can't handle this situation." It can be used for both positive and negative events.

Congratulations, Roz! You are the employee of the year!
Oh my God! I can't even!
There's a huge spider in the bathroom! I can't even!


Are you surprised by how many ways "even" can be used? Native speakers say it many times a day without realizing it. As you continue to practice English conversation, each of these usages will gradually become more familiar and natural to you. So keep speaking and you'll be able to master its many uses. Yes, even you!