toefl guide

TOEFL Writing Essential Words - Part 6 - dominate and predominate

Madison Oster October 12th, 2021

Today’s post is an advanced lesson for a lot of TOEFL and IELTS test takers. During your TOEFL and IELTS preparations, you probably came across the following words: dominate, dominant, dominance, domination, predominate, predominant, predominance, and predominantly.

A lot of students look up these words in the dictionary but still don’t truly understand them. So in today’s post, we are going to look at each of these words and give you various examples to demonstrate how to use them. This way you will understand the difference between them and will be able to use them correctly.

So let’s get started!

Dominate VS Predominate

The first words we are looking at are "dominate" and "predominate".

Difference #1

While both of them can be used interchangeably in some sentences, normally "dominate" is used to mean “to have or exert power or influence over something/somebody” "Predominate" on the other hand is mostly used as “to be the most common”. However, dominate can mean “to be the most common”, as well, and this is where it gets confusing. But more on this later. Lets talk about dominate in the sense of “to rule or control something.” first.

Dominate is almost always used with an object. We often see it used in business and sports. Let’s have a look at some examples:

  • The Chicago bulls dominated the NBA in 1996.
  • Our company dominates the market for operating systems.
  • Google and Facebook dominate the fast-growing market for online advertising.

You may encounter the word "dominate" in your history or politics class, as well. Like in the following textbook sample:

  • The Han Dynasty of China has dominated much of ancient East Asia for a long time.

As said before, "dominate" can also mean ‘to be the most common”. This usage appears quite often in TOEFL academic lectures or passages. So, let’s look at some TOEFL academic style example sentences:

  • Invertebrates dominate deep sea regions = Invertebrates are the most common species in deep-sea regions. 
  • Mars' atmosphere is dominated by carbon dioxide. = Carbon dioxide is the most abundant gas in Mars' atmosphere.

Since we are using dominate with the meaning “to be the most common”, predominate, in this instance, is a synonym, so let's have a look now. I could say “Invertebrates predominate in deep-sea regions.” instead of “invertebrates dominate deep-sea regions.” I will explain why "in” is necessary for that sentence to make sense.

Remember we cannot always replace dominate with predominate. Take this sentence here for example:

  • Our company dominates the market for operating systems.
  • Here dominate means have power and influence over the market.

If we use the verb predominate, the sentence becomes

  • Our company predominates in the market for operating systems. (awkward!)

That’s not completely wrong, but native speakers wouldn’t normally write or say it like that. This is because “predominate” is not often used in the sense of “controling or ruling something” while "dominate" is.

Let me give you a better example using predominate:

  • It appears that oak trees predominate in this forest. (Here it means oak trees are the most common trees in this forest)

Difference #2

You're going to learn why "in" was used, so pay attention :)

There is another difference between dominate and predominate. The verb “predominate” is an intransitive verb, meaning it doesn’t take an object, whereas dominate is a transitive verb, meaning it does take objects. That is why we used “in” with predominate before.

Let’s look at the following example sentence using “dominate”

  • Carbon dioxide dominates Mars’ atmosphere.

As you can see, the verb “dominates” takes the object, which is “Mars’ atmosphere”.

We can change this sentence using predominate because dominate here means being the most common. But we cannot simply exchange the two words. We have to write it like this:

  • Carbon dioxide predominates in Mars' atmosphere.

So we have to use the preposition “in” here, since  “predominate” doesn’t take a direct object.

Let’s look at more example sentences of the verb “predominate” where the same applies: :

  • Cottages predominate along the beach. (This means most of the buildings along the beach are cottages)
  • Rain predominates in the tropical regions.  (This means that there is a great deal of rain in the tropical regions)
  • Older people predominate in this neighborhood.

The word predominate is sometimes used with the preposition “over”. So when “A  predominates over B” means “A is more common than B”.  Let’s look at the following examples:

  • In the surface soil, oxygen generally predominates over carbon dioxide.
  • In this area immigrants predominate over local people.
  • Pine trees predominate over oak trees in this park.

You should make sure that you understand the difference between “dominate” and "predominate" as this is crucial to understand the differences between the following words: "dominance" and "predominance", and "dominant" and "predominant" later.

To help you, we have summarized the differences for you here. As a rule of thumb, you should use 'dominate" when you want to express the meaning of “control or power” and when you have an object. You should use predominate when you refer to something being the most common or is widespread in a certain area. Use dominate when you speak about the influence of something. and predominate when you talk about numbers.

Dominance VS Predominance

Let’s look at the nouns. “dominance” and “predominance”.

Similar to the verbs, the noun “dominance”means power and influence over others. And  “predominance” means the state or condition of being most common. Let’s look at an example:

  • The ongoing and increasing dominance of English in world culture and commerce will continue to provide many advantages to Britain in many areas.

Here we imply “There is a greater influence of English over other languages in world culture”

If we replace “dominance” with “predominance” like the following sentence

  • The ongoing and increasing predominance of English in world culture and commerce will continue to provide many advantages to Britain in many areas.

We imply “There is a greater commonness of English over other languages in world culture”

So we can change dominance to predominance in this sentence but it changes the meaning slightly from “English being influential” to “English being widespread”.

Let’s look at another example using "predominance"

  • There is a predominance of older people in the neighborhood. (This means there is a greater number of older people in the neighborhood)

Please note that the noun “dominance” isn’t really used for the state or condition of being the most common. So, the following sentence is incorrect

  • There is a dominance of older people in the neighborhood. (incorrect)

However, since the verb “dominate” can be used in the sense of “to be common”, you could use the verb ”dominate” here,

  • Older people dominate this neighborhood.

Here are more examples using “predominance”:

  • Despite the predominance of female teachers in school, administrative positions are held mostly by men. = Despite most of the teachers in school being women, administrative positions are held mostly by men.
  • The predominance of individualist feminism in English-speaking countries is a historical phenomenon.
  • There is an overwhelming predominance of female images in prehistoric art.

As we know, “dominance” means the power and influence over others, so the phrase “gain dominance” is often used. For example:

  • Hollywood continues to gain dominance in the international film market. = Hollywood’s dominance in the international film market continuously increases.

Dominant VS Predominant

So far we have looked at “dominate”, “predominate”, “dominance”,  and ‘predominance“. Let’s look at “dominant” and “predominant”.

Both adjectives are often used interchangeably, but at the same time, there are occasions where you can use only one of them. Take these two sentences for example.

  • Newspapers play a dominant role in shaping public opinion.
  • Newspapers play a predominant role in shaping public opinion.

Both sentences are correct, but the first sentence is recommended. Why you ask? You can stick to our rule of thumb here: We want to talk about the influence Newspapers have, so we should use dominant. Here the meaning of dominant is “influential”. But be prepared to see both versions.

When we want to refer to the meaning of “being common”, dominant and predominant are both often used. But even then, using predominant is recommended.  The following sentence helps to demonstrate this:

  • The most predominant color in this room is beige.

So using our rule of thumb here, we should use "predominant". What we want to say is that beige is the color mostly used in the room. However, here many people use dominant as well, especially when we mean that the beige color gives the room an overall atmosphere.

So you could also say “the dominant color in this room is beige”.

While we use dominant and predominant often interchangeably, there are examples where predominant does not work. One example comes from genetics, In genetics there are so-called dominant genes. These are genes which define heritable characteristics even if only one parent carries the genes for those characteristics.  Among others, dominant can be used for dominant genes, dominant traits, dominant characteristics or even dominant behavior. For example:

  • (Correct!) Brown hair is a dominant trait. (This means brown hair is dominant)
  • (Incorrect!) Brown hair is a predominant trait.

Let's look at more examples using the word "dominant".

  • The university plays a dominant role in the local economy.
  • Money is the dominant force in consumer societies.

And here are more examples using the word "predominant".

  • Red is the predominant color in the painting.
  • Religion is the predominant theme of the play. (This means in the play they are displaying many things that are related to religion).


The final word we'll discuss in this article is “Domination”.

The noun “domination” is different from “dominance”. Dominance means “the condition of being dominant”, which basically means “have power or influence over others”, while the noun domination is the "act of dominating somebody or something. It can also refer to the condition of being dominated.”

Did you notice the difference? Let’s look at some examples using domination.

  • It wasn’t until the First World War that the U.S began to seriously challenge the British domination of South Africa.
  • European domination of India led to a rise in Indian nationalism.

So why do we use domination here? Because here we want to emphasize the act of dominating something. For instance in “European domination of India” we are implying that Europe actually exerts its power over India by military and economic means.

The terms “political domination”,“market domination”, “economic domination” and “military domination” are often used. Here are example sentences:

The most effective method for market domination is to create a niche market.

  • You're more likely to succeed at market domination if your business faces little or no competition.
  • Political domination is a crucial aspect of colonialism.



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