In the years leading up to World War 2, the Japanese empire became a formidable force to be reckoned with. The unfair treatment of the Japanese by the Allied powers played a formative role in Japan’s imperialism. 

The word ‘formidable’ is used for anything or anyone that inspires awe or is challenging to subdue. The word ‘formative’ is used for the things that had an impact on something’s formation.

Albeit the words have emerged from the same mother language-Latin, they apparently mean something very different. Read the article till the very end to learn more about their definitions, examples via sentences, and much more!

Formidable vs formative – definitions, uses, and example sentences

Definition of formidable

Formidable is pronounced in four syllables as ‘faw-mi-duh-bl’. It is an adjective and represents the quality of being awed or revered owing to a respectable trait. It can be used to qualify something as a real or virtual enemy that is deemed difficult to overcome or something that is intimidating and commanding respect. For instance, depression can be a formidable disease in the sense that it is a disease, a figurative enemy, which is difficult to battle. Whereas, a castle can be formidable owing to its sizeable estate and magnificence that may inspire awe and wonder. The synonyms of formidable include ‘redoubtable’ and ‘daunting’.

Example sentences of formidable

  • The Shahi Qila, a citadel in the city of Lahore constructed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, still stands today as a formidable sight to witness.

In the first sentence, the word ‘formidable’ is used in the sense of ‘awe inducing’ or ‘inspiring wonder’ owing to the fortress’s grandeur.

  • Commandoes are strenuously trained for years in harsh ways and cruel circumstances to make them the formidable warriors they turn out to be.

Here, the word ‘formidable’ is used for the commandoes in the sense of a foe that is hard to overcome.

  • It is remarkable that the Rashidun Caliphate was able to defeat and capture most of the formidable Sassanian empire and that too in a short span of twenty-four years.

In the last sentence, ‘formidable’ is used in the same sense as in the previous sentence that is, for an enemy that is considered mighty and improbable to subdue.

Definition of formative

The word formative is pronounced as ‘faw-muh-tuhv’. It is also an adjective and represents the ability to influence something’s formation or growth. It can be used to qualify something as having a hand in the growth or development of someone or something. For instance, school years and nutrition are the formative years of a child owing to the fact that they affect the child’s mental, social, and physical development. Similarly, war can have a formative role in the development of a nation as wars can have an impact on a country’s future. Synonyms of ‘formative’ include ‘influential’ and ‘determining’.

Example sentences of formative

  • Studies show the short span of four to five years after birth is the most formative time for a child’s mental and intellectual development.

In the first sentence, the word ‘formative’ is used to qualify the noun ‘time’. Thus, ‘formative time’ in this sentence refers to a time that has a significant impact on a child’s development.

  • The internship at the surgical ward proved to be a very formative experience for Ali as he is now more inclined to pursue a surgical fellowship.

Here, the adjective ‘formative’ qualifies the noun ‘experience’ meaning the experience had an impactful effect on the subject as he decided to become a surgeon.

  • The story and monument of Johannes Phillip, a patriotic author who wrote against the French and was shot for it, had a formative effect on young Hitler.

In the last sentence, ‘formative’ qualifies the noun ‘effect’ referencing the effect of the statue of a German patriot who was shot by the French. This means that the ‘effect’ was ‘significant in the growth’ of Adolf Hitler when he was young.


In a nutshell, formidable is used for foes, enemies, and things that make you go “Wow!” or “Whoa”. ‘Formative’, on the other hand, is used for things that form you or things that have a significant impression or impact on your future. So while the legacy of your university or the size of its campus may be formidable, its influence on you is formative! Remember, things that are ABLE to impress or dare you are ‘formidABLE’. Whereas, things that can influence the FORMAT of your personality are ‘FORMATive’.