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Difference Between Enjoyment and Pleasure

Enjoyment vs Pleasure

“Enjoyment” and “pleasure” are two English words that are difficult for ESL speakers to distinguish between and use correctly. This is because many languages have phrases that directly translate to something like “X is pleasing to me” or “X gives me pleasure.” In English, however, we use the two words quite differently. There are different meanings and connotations for the two words. This article will define both words and give examples to explain how they are different and how you can use them correctly in English.

Enjoyment is pronounced /ɪnˈdʒɔɪmənt/ and has one main definition for our purposes. According to The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “enjoyment” means:

[uncountable noun] “the pleasure that you get from something.”

Thus, you can “get enjoyment from” an activity you do, such as a hobby. Another way of using the word is “[to do something] for enjoyment.” You can “spoil [someone’s] enjoyment” and someone can “lose their enjoyment” of something. “Enjoyment” is a synonym of “fun.” “To get/feel enjoyment” means the same thing as “to have fun.” In other words, “fun” is “the feeling of enjoying yourself.”

Pleasure (pronounced /ˈpleʒər/) has three main definitions for the purpose of comparing to “enjoyment.” According to The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, they are:

[uncountable noun] “a state of feeling or being happy or satisfied.”
[uncountable noun] “the activity of enjoying yourself, especially in contrast to working.”
[countable noun] “a thing that makes you happy or satisfied.”

The first definition of “pleasure” is a synonym of “enjoyment.” You can “take pleasure” in doing something and you can “feel great pleasure” from something. The second definition would be used in a narrower context, as in reading something “for work or pleasure.” Something like a nice cup of coffee can be “one of life’s little pleasures.”

In contrast to “enjoyment,” “pleasure” can come from an activity you do or something that happens. For example, you can “smile with pleasure” at seeing a friend but you cannot “smile with enjoyment” at that. Pleasure also imparts a feeling of being satisfied; enjoyment does not necessarily mean you are satisfied. You can “get pleasure” from something.

There are three common idioms you might hear with “pleasure”:

“At your/somebody’s pleasure” is a formal idiom that means “as you want” or “as somebody else wants.” For example, “the apartment will be rented at the landlord’s pleasure.” The landlord will rent the apartment when he/she wants to.
“My pleasure” is a common reply to “thank you” and is synonymous with “you are welcome.” People say “my pleasure” to express that they were happy to do something for someone else.
A “guilty pleasure” is something that makes you feel great in the moment, like eating a bar of chocolate, but which afterwards makes you feel bad or guilty about having done it.

Another way to think about enjoyment and pleasure is in regards to investing in the future versus taking things in. Pleasurable activities are those that fulfil certain needs in the moment, such as food, shelter, and sex. Enjoyable activities are those that make us feel good and keep us looking toward the future because we want to keep doing those things. Some people say that pleasure is more animalistic and enjoyment is more humanistic.

You may not feel enjoyment all the time, even during activities you enjoy, like sports. You may have a hard sports practice during which you do not feel great, but afterwards you will continue enjoying the sport. In contrast, pleasure will make you feel good immediately but you may not feel great later on. Pleasure may not bring you happiness, but enjoyment will.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks, It is so useful.
    Of course I am mindful of finding a concise summary of your article to note down.

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