Practice or Practise?

By Maeve Maddox

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Mike Stone asks about the difference between practice and practise, defence and defense.

Are they UK/US differences or is it something to with their use as nouns/verbs. I’ve never been able to find a good simple explanation.

Differences between some -ce, -se words do reflect a difference between British and American spelling.

British: defence, offence, pretence,
American: defense, offense, pretense

As for practice, practise, making a distinction in spelling between the noun and the verb is British usage:

practise [prăk’tĭs] (verb) – The doctor plans to practise medicine in Yorkshire.
practice [prăk’tĭs] (noun) – He hopes to build up quite a good practice.

In American usage, both the noun and verb forms are spelled the same:

The doctor practiced medicine in his home town.

In the case of advise and advice, however, both British and American usage agree:

advise [ ăd-vīz’ ] verb – He advised the students to take typing.
advice [ ăd-vīs’ ] noun She was glad that she followed his advice.

NOTE: I must have lived in the UK too long: pretence looks better to me than pretense!

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17 Responses to “Practice or Practise?”

  • Dan

    Pray, what’s the deal with license/licence?

  • Jake

    I prefer British English to America English when it comes to the written form; I always have. However, when it comes to the spoken versions, I have mixed feelings. There are certain American words and pronounciations that I feel are superior to their British counterparts. Although, when it comes to slang, Brits have Americans beat hands down. I write and speak both; having developed a dialect that consists of an eclectic mix of American & British English with a sprinkling of of small-town Texan and NE England mackem.

  • CB

    Dan – as far as I am aware, licence is BrE and license is AmE.

  • Dan

    I think in BrE, license is the verb and licence is the noun. Not sure of the AmE equivalent.

  • Maeve

    Licence/license warrants a post of its own. Stay tuned.

  • Gary

    I can confirm that in British English licence is the verb and license is the noun.

  • Ron Sizely

    Dan is correct, Gary is wrong

  • Abhed

    Everyone is wrong. Indian accent is a lot better than any of those Br and Am accents. LOL

  • Cecily

    Regarding licence/license in BrE, Ron and Dan are correct.

    The rule is the same as for practice/practise, device/devise and advice/advice: -ce for the noun and -se for the verb.

    It’s relatively easy with device/devise and advice/advice because the different spellings are pronounced differently, however, you can use that to remember the rule if you get confused about licence/license and practice/practise.

  • congokid

    “There are certain American words and pronounciations that I feel are superior to their British counterparts. Although, when it comes to slang, Brits have Americans beat hands down”

    Who knew it was a competition!

    I’ve been hanging around forums for too long. When ‘would of’, ‘definately’ and misplaced ‘it’s’ start to look normal, it’s time to worry…

  • Anna

    You said:

    practise [prăk’tĭs] (verb) – The doctor plans to practise medicine in Yorkshire.

    Actually, this would be practice. A correct sentence would be “I like to practise my piano playing.” But “I am going to piano practice later”. In medicine, he is not practising, I would hope he’d done all of that at school and is now doing it for real!

  • Malcolm

    I’m sorry, Anna, but the original sentence was right.

    The verb “to practise” does not just mean “to train” but also “to do something habitually or frequently”, “to observe or pursue (something such as a religion” or “to work at (a profession)”. The Collins English Dictionary (Millennium Edition) actually gives “he practises medicine” as an example of this last definition.

    In British English, the spelling of the verb is always “practise” regardless of which of the above meanings is applied.

  • venqax

    It’s practice. Practice. In all situations and contexts. Just like defense, license, program…Why do you guys have to complicate things? :O)

  • Giles

    Or perhaps you should ask… why do Americans think they can simplify things that actually warrant some complexity?

    Nouns are not the same as verbs, no matter how much badly conceived American wank people speak these days.

    Life and learning are complicated. We should celebrate it!

    Oh, and Jake up the top from 2009, that’ll be ‘pronunciation’.

  • Paul

    Many long years ago our English teacher here in New Zealand, Mr Clague drummed the distiction between c and s forms into our heads and I’ve always remembered it. Here’s to you Mr Clague!

  • Pip

    British English
    Which is correct, c or s, in the following sentence, where as has been pointed out by Anna, one would hope that the practise was all over and the professional was now working in their practice.
    “The students are delighted to have the opportunity to observe the working environment of a practising (or practicing) artist/lawyer/doctor.”

  • HRH Princess Rachel

    My website is still in the making the to health issue’s.

    I’m British schooled in America and I’ve struggled with the being told that I spoke funny. I find British English is more practical , and American’s decided to liberate the English language (Queen’s English), when they liberated the Colonies. It was just an observation when being directed away from how my mum taught me, when my American dad ( cousin to Her Majesty) was off in Vietnam and other countries with the Air Force.

    I’m more comfortable with British English, until the American English creeps in messing up the 🔧’s. It is frustrating when you’re a Norfolk born and lived majority of my life in the UK, but lived in the Arkansas which is a cross between broad Norfolk and a touch of the South -East of the States.. However, I can hear and understand the Norfolk accent that is confusing to some and finding Arkansan’s with that deep South bar my daughter, hard to understand like her Poppy.

    When I schooled over there , it grew in me to understand some of it, but after thirty plus year’s of living in the UK, where I learned to speak and had a Norfolk accent first seven year’s. It is like the word BISCUIT. It has a different meaning to us. I always knew it to mean the British English definition as in tea and biscuits, but to an American it is like a scone. I prefer the word SCONE’S for American word for BISCUIT. Their language can be confusing. They think we’re the one’s with funny pronunciations.

    However, there are many whom love our accent… My family hear my Norfolk accent and I can hear my mother’s British accent, but her sister and other’s think she is American. There are few American’s that hear her British accent ,and what of my dad’s accent that I have is there is faint ,but enough to have my dad with me though they’re in America.

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