tools or equipment

Tool(s) or equipment?

Posted by on December 29th, 2017 | 2 responses | alat, IELTS, peralatan, reading, speaking, vocabulary, writing

Students often find these words confusing – tool(s), equipment. Well, they mean different things. Check in a dictionary the meanings of tool and equipment. Then try the practice activity below!

Why do we call items used in a garden ‘tools’ and those used in a kitchen, ‘equipment’? What is the basis of using the word ‘equipment’ and why do we call items used in a laboratory ‘equipment’? This is often a matter of collocation, and of context, but there are other considerations.

If your car breaks down and you do not have a screwdriver that you know can be used to fix the problem, then you might look for alternative objects that could help to open a screw, such as the pocket knife in your back pocket. Any object that helps you to perform a task is generally referred to as a tool. When a chimpanzee uses a stick to reach a banana on a high branch, he is using the stick as a tool. And when prehistoric man used stones to light fire, he was using them as his tools. Even before fire, man sharpened stones and used them as weapons to attack and kill animals. These sharpened stones became his tools. It is thus clear that a tool can be any item that helps in doing work in any situation.

What then is equipment? Well, it is usual to refer to a collection of tools as equipment. We can either use the plural of tool, which is tools, or simply refer to a collection of tools as equipment. Therefore equipment is a set of tools. Another differentiation is the fact that tools are what we work with and equipment can also contain things like safety gloves, helmets, goggles, etc., that someone who is in the welding profession wears when he is using his tools.

Tool’ is also often used metaphorically. Take for example the use of the word ‘tool’ in a news story, for example “The minister used diplomacy as a tool when talking with the foreign delegate.”

In brief…

  • Tools are multi purpose, small, handy objects with which to work in a particular situation
  • Equipment is a general term that is used to refer to a set of tools.


Indonesian flag Hopefully you noticed that equipment is uncountable – this is a common error made by Indonesians!

For more information about equipment try here and here.

2 responses to “Tool(s) or equipment?”

  1. anita says:

    Based on your previously material about little equipment I opened this. During fill and answer the gap, I think (If I’m not mistaken🤔) we do not need Equipment with E capital. It’s quiet confusing me btw in my first trial.Tq
    …Arigato🙏🏾…

    • mm Pak Guru says:

      Actually number 24 should read ‘Equipment’ (capital E), but this activity is focusing on the difference in meaning between ‘tool’ and ‘equipment’. It’s not a punctuation activity, so answers are not case-sensitive.

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