Tentative – Definition, Meaning & Use In A Sentence

03.11.23 Definitions Time to read: 3min

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Word definitions serve practical purposes and play a significant role in the English language by fostering unity and understanding. They act as bridges in a diverse society of various cultures, languages, and perspectives. In this brief exploration, we will provide a concise definition of “tentative” and shed light on its common usage, offering clarity to its subtle but significant meaning.

Definition of “tentative”

“Tentative” is an adjective used to describe something that is uncertain, hesitant, or provisional. It often implies a lack of confidence or a temporary nature, indicating that a decision, plan, or action is subject to change, further confirmation, or adjustment.

Use of “tentative” in a sentence

“Tentative” functions as an adjective to describe something you are unsure or uncertain about. For example, you are planning a weekend night out with your friends, but you are unsure what to do. Until nothing is planned, you are making “tentative” plans. The following examples will show how to use this term in a sentence.


  • The scientist proposed a tentative hypothesis for further testing.
  • Mark and Lisa were both feeling tentative after their first date.
  • With a tentative understanding, he attended a workshop.

“Tentative” as an adverb

This word is primarily an adjective and is not commonly used as an adverb. However, you can use related adverbs like “tentatively” to describe how an action is performed with uncertainty or hesitation.


  • Alisha tentatively touched the hot plate to check if it was cool enough to take it.
  • Bob tentatively approached the wild animal, trying not to startle it.
  • Maria tentatively tried a spoonful of the new, unfamiliar food.

How to spell “tentative” correctly

The word “tentative” has its origins in the Latin word “tentativus,” which is derived from the verb “tentare,” meaning “to try” or “to test.” Over time, this Latin term evolved into the English word “tentative.” It has been used in English since the 19th century to describe something that is uncertain, hesitant, or provisional in nature. The word’s etymology reflects its meaning, as it relates to trying or testing something without committing to a final decision or conclusion. Due to the influence of similar words, the word “tentative” is sometimes misspelled as “tentetive,” “tentativ,” or “tentavie.”

Correct spelling




Wrong spelling




Synonyms for “tentative”

If you’re feeling unsure about using the word “tentative” in sentences, it might be helpful to know synonyms for it. Moreover, it will simultaneously help you avoid repetition and redundancy in academic writing. Here are some synonyms that convey a subtle sense of uncertainty or hesitation and may aid in your comprehension:

Synonym Examples
Uncertain They've made tentative plans for the weekend.
They've made uncertain plans for the weekend.
Provisional The team decided to make tentative plans for the project.
The team decided to make provisional plans for the project.
Hesitant She appeared tentative about sharing her innovative idea.
She appeared hesitant about sharing her innovative idea.
Indefinite His response to the proposal was tentative.
His response to the proposal was indefinite.


“Tentative” is an adjective that describes something that is uncertain or hesitant. When someone is talking about something “tentative”, he or she is talking about something not definite or conclusive but is subject to change or further evaluation. It often implies a degree of indecision and caution.

“Tentative” functions as an adjective to describe something that is uncertain or hesitant. Here’s an example:

“She made a tentative plan for the weekend, but it may change depending on the weather.”

Yes. “Tentative” is commonly used to describe plans, arrangements, or decisions that are not firmly established and may change.

Both words convey uncertainty, but differ in their functions:

  • tentative”: implies hesitation or a lack of finality
  • provisional”: suggests something temporary and subject to further modification

“Tentative” is not necessarily always negative. It can be used in both contexts, positive and negative, and can indicate a cautious approach or simply describe something that is not yet confirmed.

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