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At least as used in the United States, these two words are used in so many different ways that it is impossible to really tell the difference between them. At times, they can mean the same thing, at times not.
- Business can refer to an actual firm, trade cannot. You can say "the business that he runs" but not "the trade that he runs."
- Trade usually refers to imports and exports. If you use the word in the US, that is what is people will assume you mean.
- For commerce in general, Americans usually use the word "business." We say "business is picking up in the service sector."
But some of these things, at least, are used differently in England, at least, so depending on where you are, this answer may not be accurate.
Business is a term used for all the activities performed by a business enterprise. This includes three basic activities of buying, manufacturing and selling. In addition a business may carry out additional activities such as product design, advertising and financing. Based on this basic meaning, the word business may also be used in several related ways such as a firm or enterprise in business activities, the overall state or performance of such firm (for example, "how is business?"), and group of firms or their activities connected with a common product (for example, automobile business).
In contrast, trade refers only to the buying and selling activities, which form a part of business activities. The word trader is often used to describe business firms, such as wholesalers that are primarily engaged in buying and selling activities. Also the word trading is used more often to describe buying and selling activities involving large quantities between traders rather than selling to retail customer. Usually import and imports and exports involve buying and selling of large quantities between traders, and therefore it is more common to use term trading for such activities.
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