Difference Between Adherence and Compliance

Main Difference – Adherence vs Compliance

Adherence and compliance are two nouns that often confuse many English learners. Both refer to the act of conforming or abiding by something. However, there is a difference between these two nouns based on their meaning as well as in usage. Adherence is the act of doing what is required by a rule, belief, etc. Compliance is the act or process of doing what you have been asked or ordered to do. This is the main difference between adherence and compliance.

This article explains, 

1. What Does Adherence Mean? – Definition, Grammar, Meaning and Usage

2. What Does Compliance Mean? – Definition, Grammar, Meaning and Usage

3. Difference Between Adherence and ComplianceDifference Between Adherence and Compliance - Adherence vs Compliance Comparison Summary

Adherence – Definition, Meaning and Usage

Adherence is a noun that is formed from the verb adhere. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adherence as “the act of doing what is required by a rule, belief, etc.” For example, imagine that you are a part of a sports team and that team has several rules and regulations. You follow these rules and regulations ardently. Here, your behavior indicates a strict adherence to rules. It is important to notice that adherence is a voluntary and active action. When you adhere to something, you decide to support something, be it a person, belief or rule. Adherence doesn’t imply a command, or request that would require you to support something.

The Oxford dictionary defines adherence as the “attachment or commitment to a person, cause, or belief”.  This indicates that adherence can also refer to a strong and faithful attachment to a person as well. 

The following sentences will help you to understand the meaning and usage of this word more clearly.

Adherence to convention requires that the hosts open the dancing the floor.

Rigid adherence to rules resulted in a disaster.

André won the adherence of the royal family.

One reason for their separation was his rigid adherence to traditions and customs.

Main Difference - Adherence vs Compliance

Strict adherence to law requires strict discipline.

Compliance – Definition, Meaning and Usage

Compliance is the noun form of the verb comply. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compliance as “the act or process of doing what you have been asked or ordered to do: the act or process of complying” and the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the action or fact of complying with a wish or command.” Therefore, compliance refers to a passive activity. In other words, you often comply with something because you are made to do it; you may not voluntarily choose to do something or act in a certain way.

Given below are some words that contain the word compliance.

The company agreed to change their plan in compliance with the new safety policy.

There has been a high rate of compliance with the new law.

The budget was not in compliance with the accounting requirements.

Note that the noun compliance is often followed by the preposition with. The verb comply is also followed by the same preposition.Difference Between Adherence and Compliance

Difference Between Adherence and Compliance


Adherence is the act of doing what is required by a rule, belief, etc.

Compliance is the act or process of doing what you have been asked or ordered to do.

Alternative Meaning

Adherence also refers to steady or faithful attachment.

Compliance also refers to conformity in fulfilling official requirements.


Adherence is the noun form of adhere.

Compliance is the noun form of comply.


Adherence is usually followed by the preposition to.

Compliance is usually followed by the preposition with.

Active vs Passive

Adherence is active since it refers to a voluntary action.

Compliance is passive since it requires complying with someone else’s demands or requests.

Image Courtesy:

“Compliance” ( ) via 

“Law” (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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