Difference between Friend and Acquaintance

Updated on May 31, 2017

You know deep down in your heart who is a friend and who is an acquaintance. But other than feeling a certain way for one or the other, how would you explain this to someone else? What makes a friend different from an acquaintance and why is it important to differentiate between them?

Definitions

Friend
A group of five friends

A friend is a person you are not related to, but whom you trust and you care about deeply. People usually choose their friends from their peers as they have better chances of finding people who share their interests or who have the same taste in music, film, sports and more. Another reason why friends are likely to be from the same generation consists in them being able to relate to the daily struggles of the individual. A child will have someone to play with, a high school student will have someone to talk to about the changes the body and the heart go through, college students have someone to share their exciting new experiences with, and so on.

More than someone who enjoys the same things you do, a friend also has your best interest at heart. Friendship implies a level of caring about an individual and a willingness to do things for the other person. There are favors you can ask of a friend and favors you would do for a friend. There is also a certain level of intimacy as the closeness between individuals allows for very personal confessions and trusting the other person with delicate information about yourself.

acquaintance
A group of co-workers

An acquaintance is a person you know – you have made their acquaintance in some context. This means that you have either been formally introduced or you know about each other from a common group of people. An acquaintance can be a co-worker, the friend of a friend, a person you interact with at social events, etc. Your attitude around this person is polite and reserved. There is a level of trust between you, in the sense that, when given a choice, you would pick each other out of a group of people if the others were strangers.

Usually, an acquaintance is a person you know in a certain context but with whom you would not care to spend time in a different situation. Not that you dislike each other, but because you share few interests. Also, the amount of information you have about an acquaintance depends on circumstances (you may know where a person lives or where their kids go to school, but not know whether they have brothers or sisters, are married, or own pets).

Friend vs Acquaintance

So what is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance?

The main difference between a friend and an acquaintance is the level of intimacy you share with either of them. A friend is a person you have a strong connection with. An acquaintance is just someone you know by name and with whom you have a contextual connection with (from school, from work, from your friend’s party, etc.).

A friend is someone you know. You know their past and you can even predict their reactions in future situations. Your opinions about each other are formed. An acquaintance is someone you have been acquainted with but you do not know intimately, nor wish to do so. Your opinions about each other are superficial and each of you is careful and reserved, although friendly and polite when interacting.

You want to spend time with a friend because it’s comfortable and relaxing. You have to spend time with an acquaintance if you want to keep the relationship going, even if only with the purpose of widening the circle of people you socialize with. In some cases, an acquaintance that you get to know better can become a friend. Likewise, a friend you have lost touch with and who has changed too much can become an acquaintance once the connection between you is lost.

There is physical contact between friends. They can hug and kiss when they meet or when they say goodbye. They can take photos in which they huddle really close and they put their arms around each other. On the other hand, you act more distant when it comes to an acquaintance. You are not comfortable with touching each other and if you take pictures, you lean toward each other rather than hug. There is an intention to be polite toward that person, but there is no underlining feeling of love and caring for the other individual.

There are things you do with friends and things you do with acquaintances. Friends can take part in more intimate events, whereas acquaintances are usually kept at a distance. You would ask a friend to accompany you to the doctor’s office if you are scared to go alone. You would not want a person you do not have a strong connection with to be there.

Also, favors are usually done between friends. Some acquaintances can intervene and help you out, but the situation is different. Good friends help you out because they are genuinely interested in your well-being. They do not keep tabs on how much was done as long as it was within their power to help you. When calling on a favor from an acquaintance, the reason they step in is different. They want to keep their relationship with you and they do not want to offend you by saying no. There is also the issue of you having to pay back the favor at some point.

Friends and acquaintances also differ in the way in which they behave around your belongings. Acquaintances are more respectful and reserved. When visiting your house, an acquaintance might make all the right compliments, sit where he is invited to sit and eat whatever you are serving. A friend will feel right at home, will help himself to food and will even ask you for extra things to make his visit more comfortable. The important thing is that when a friends asks you, you are more than happy to comply because you want them to stay and feel comfortable. However, you are less emotionally invested in a visit from an acquaintance.

Comparison Chart

Friend Acquaintance
A person you care deeply about and with whom you share a connectionIs a person you have been introduced to
Can become an acquaintance if the relationship grows coldCan become a friend if you get to know each other better and discover shared interests
Has already formed an opinion about you and likes you as a human being, and vice-versaHas not yet formed an opinion about you as a human being, nor does he wish to, and vice-versa
Your relationship depends on common interests and feelings for each otherYour relationship depends on context (for example, working together)
Spending time together is comfortable and relaxingSpending time together is mandatory if you wish to keep the relationship going
The relationship has a level of emotional investmentThe relationship has a social value
Does favors for you because he is interested in your well-beingDoes favors for you because it is socially required, so as not to be rude and so that you can owe him a favor in your turn
Physical contact is commonPhysical contact is not that frequent
Is familiar around your belongingsIs polite and reserved around your things