Difference Between Mandatory and Compulsory

The main difference between mandatory and compulsory lies in their usage. Mandatory indicates a quality of binding to the particular thing while compulsory indicates a necessity of something.

Both mandatory and compulsory are two words that mean something essential. Therefore, these two words are often used as synonyms. Nevertheless, they have different meanings in relation to their usage.

Key Areas Covered

1. What Does Mandatory Mean
     – Definition, Meaning Usage, Examples
2. What Does Compulsory Mean
     – Definition, Meaning, Usage, Examples
3. Difference Between Mandatory and Compulsory
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Compulsory, Mandatory, Necessity, Words, Usage

Difference Between Mandatory and Compulsory- Comparison Summary

What Does Mandatory Mean

The adjective ‘mandatory’ is derived from the noun ‘mandate’ which means an official command or an authority given by the electorate for a government. In other words, mandatory signifies something which is made obligatory or required by law or rule.

Therefore, something mandatory has the ability to bind the doer to that particular work or the condition referred.

Consider the given example sentences;

  • Some countries have made capital punishment mandatory for a serious felony.
  • The government made primary school mandatory for every child in the country.
  • It is mandatory to receive health insurance when you apply for overseas jobs.

Main Difference -  Mandatory vs  Compulsory

As exemplified from the given sentences, the doer is bound by certain regulations to fulfil the given condition or commanded by authority.

What Does Compulsory Mean

Compulsory also mean something essential and thus, required by law. Nevertheless, unlike mandatory, compulsory does not indicate a quality of binding the doer. Rather it is generally used in the sense of something which is ‘essential’.

Difference Between Mandatory and Compulsory

Figure 02: Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory while driving.

Furthermore, the word compulsory often refers to things or requirements that are made necessary through rules and regulations. Refer the given example sentences:

  • The second part of the test usually consists of three compulsory essay type questions
  • My school made it compulsory for everyone to wear the school uniform.
  • Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory while driving.

Hence, anything that is compulsory has to be essentially done without postponement.

Difference Between Mandatory and Compulsory


Mandatory means something made necessary usually by law or some other rule. Therefore it implies a quality if binding to the doer while compulsory means a necessity made by rules and regulations.


The intensity of the impact conveyed by the word mandatory is higher in comparison to that of the word compulsory.


Mandatory is used most often to describe legal or something referred by the law while compulsory suggests a society-wide requirement.


Both mandatory and compulsory indicate something which is essential or obligatory. Therefore, these two words are also used as synonyms. Nevertheless, with concern to their proper usage, these two words share several differences between them. The main difference between mandatory and compulsory is that mandatory conveys a sense of binding to the action while compulsory conveys a sense of a necessity of the particular thing or action.


1. “How to Use Mandatory, Compulsory and Obligatory.” Malcolm’s English Pages, 5 Mar. 2013, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Female driver buckling seatbelt” By State Farm – (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Mandatory Voting” by Democracy Chronicles (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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