Verbs in -ize and -ise

By Maeve Maddox

Graham writes:

I suppose being a Brit., I should to use -ise instead of -ize? For example, realise/realize. I prefer to use -ize in most cases. Any rules say I can’t?

I am pleased to report that British usage and American usage agree on the spelling of the verb realize.

Look up “realise” in the OED and you will be taken to the entry for realize.

The spelling “realise” is, however, a recognized alternate spelling of realize.

H. W. Fowler makes it clear that most English verbs that end in -ize or -ise and are pronounced [iz] go back to a Greek ending that contains a z. He points out that although British printers of his time follow the French practice of converting the z to an s in such verbs, the OED and other respected authorities prefer to keep the z.

Both Yanks and Brits are allowed to use the -ize ending in most instances, for example:
baptize
authorize
canonize
recognize
agonize
characterize
stigmatize
methodize
patronize
womanize
popularize
philosophize
civilize

Nevertheless, English being what it is, there remains a small group of verbs that call for the -ise ending on both sides of the Atlantic. These are verbs that, according to Fowler,

do not get their -se even remotely from the Greek -izo, & must be spelt with -s-”

Here are the most common -ise verbs:
advertise
apprise
chastise
circumcise
comprise
compromise
demise
despise
devise
disfranchise
disguise
enfranchise
enterprise
excise
exercise
improvise
incise
premise
supervise
surmise
surprise

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9 Responses to “Verbs in -ize and -ise”

  • Michael

    Long time reader, first time poster and all that, but I have to disagree here anout the ‘ize’ being acceptible English for non-north American based English speakers.

    ‘Ize’ is American/Canadian. ‘Ise’ is everyone else.

    A good rule of thumb I think would be, in your story, if someone is driving a car, does it have a trunk or a boot? If the firstm then use ;ize’, if the latter then ‘ise.

  • Dan

    You will struggle to find a British-written article (for a British audience) containing the word “realize” with a Z. The BBC, for example, uses an S.

    While the OED acknowledges that both spellings are accepted, usage that I’ve come across exclusively uses the S.

  • Maeve

    Dan,
    A good example of the ultimate power of the people when it comes to usage.

  • Emma

    I’ve just discovered that Word 2007 (for Mac at least) allows both “realise” and “realize” if you’ve told it that you want to use UK spelling, (and, indeed you can use both in the same document). However, using both in a section that’s set to US spelling results in grumbles about realise.

    Guess it should be an option in the spell checker to set one as default in UK English, as, to me (and as a lecturer) it looks odd when someone uses both in the same article.

  • Peter

    Dan: Yes; “perhaps partly as a reaction against the American custom” says askoxford.com

  • david

    I have a dream to write well english my first luanguage is portugues . I am very crazy about english.I want speak well writing well and reading as well.

  • Roger Whitehead

    Cambridge University Press prefers -ise in its dictionaries.

    I think it counts as a respected authority, having been in operation about 100 years longer than OUP. 😎

    Roger

  • Peter

    Yeah…I’m pretty sure Cambridge just spell things that way so you’ll know they’re not Oxford 🙂

  • mabel

    what about the word JEOPARDIZE/-ISE ?

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