Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Practice or practise?

with 7 comments

Medieval dentist extracting a tooth. London; c...
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In the UK, ‘practice’ is a noun and ‘practise’ is a verb.

Practice

The noun ‘practice’ is used as in the following examples:

The dental practice is within walking distance.

She has an accountancy practice in town.

I’ll put my plans into practice.

The orchestra is out of practice.

Practice makes perfect.

It’s good practice to look before you leap.

Practise

The verb ‘practise’ is used as in the following examples:

She practises the violin every day.

The tribe practises cannibalism.

She practises dentistry (in her dental practice).

Practised

And if you are very skilled at something, you are ‘practised’ at it. ‘Practised’ is an adjective.

The American way

No such nonsense goes on in the States: practice is used as a noun and a verb, and ‘practised’ is spelt ‘practiced’.

Find out about ‘licence’ and ‘license’

More commonly confused words and phrases

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7 Responses

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  1. From having friends who live in the UK, I find this difference in spelling pretty common. It’s amazing to think that we spell so many words different since we technically speak the same language.

    Angela

    10/04/2010 at 9:45 pm

    • Hi, Angela — welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment. Glad to see you here. You’re right about all the different spellings; it’s strange how the language has developed in a different way either side of the pond. Very often, we Brits have made it more difficult for ourselves I think! I’ve just been reading your blog and found it such an interesting insight into the experience of becoming deaf. You are so right to say that it is almost impossible to understand unless you actually experience it (as with so many things).

      Deborah

      11/04/2010 at 6:54 am

  2. I’ve always had a blind spot with this one, especially if I stop to think about it. If I trust my auto-pilot it generally comes out right…

    Ron

    18/04/2010 at 8:43 pm

    • Hi, Ron — how nice to see you here. Welcome! I have to think about this one too — as with ‘licence’ and ‘license’. The Americans have the right idea, I think.

      Deborah

      19/04/2010 at 6:26 am

      • American English missed out on a profound French influence on British English, not to mention the artificially-stretched vowels we’re now saddled with, which initially were pure affectation (still are in my book, being from Manchester), but are now accepted as standard.

        My point being that written American English, and spoken, especially in the North East, where there has been minimal Hispanic influence on the language, is probably as pure English as ours, just an earlier version. (Not, as many people assume, that Americans can’t spell!)

        Sadly, what many Americans can’t do is pronounce the language correctly. (‘erb for herb being the most grating to my ears – the h is NOT mute in English; it is in French but, of course, they’re not French.)

        If you haven’t already, Bill Bryson’s “Mother Tongue” is worth reading

        Ron

        19/04/2010 at 7:56 am

        • Thanks, Ron — that’s really interesting. I’ve been meaning to take a look at that Bryson book for some time — now you’ve galvanized me into action and I’ll definitely get hold of a copy.

          Deborah

          19/04/2010 at 8:23 am

  3. From the Guardian’s corrections and clarifications column:

    An unlicensed use of the word licence resulted in a flawed headline above a column on the Comment pages yesterday:

    Ignoring its imperial history licences the west to repeat it (7 April 2011).

    Deborah

    09/04/2011 at 6:24 pm


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