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Licence vs License

16 March 2022

It’s easy to make spelling mistakes. All writers make them. Sometimes, however, words have more than one accepted spelling.

This is the case with licence and license. They are two variants of the same word, but they refer to different parts of speech.

When to Use License

What does license mean? License is a verb. It is defined as to permit or to endorse. Here are some examples,

The ability to fire a weapon does not license you to kill another person.

The government licenses some business to operate, but not others.

In American English, license is also a noun. It refers to a permit or certification. Common licenses include a license to drive, a license to hunt, or a license to sell alcoholic beverages. Here are some example sentences.

Flynn was disappointed that his favorite bar was losing its liquor license.

Marie was excited to turn 16 and finally get her driver’s license.

The Greek government said Friday it raised €246 million ($275.64 million) from a marathon three-day auction of private television broadcast licenses that was denounced by its opposition and the media industry as a power grab by the country’s ruling political party. – The Wall Street Journal

Hank stopped at the store to buy a fishing license.

When to Use Licence

What does licence mean? Licence is not commonly used in American English, but it is the only spelling for the noun in British English.

Here are the rules for British English writers,

  • Licence is used as a noun.
  • License is used a verb.

For example,

Flynn was disappointed that his favourite bar was losing its liquor license.

I finally passed the driving test, I’ve got my driving licence now!

Trick to Remember the Difference

Here is a helpful trick to remember license vs. licence.

If you are using the word as a verb, choose licenseLicense the preferred spelling of the verb form of this word in both American and British English.

As a noun, you will need to pay attention to your intended audience. Licence is used in British English as a noun, but American English writers prefer to use the same spelling of license for the noun as well.

You can remember to reserve licence for British audiences since it is spelled with a c, like pencePence, a term more commonly used in British circles, is equal to 1/100 of a British pound, and since pence and licence both contain the letter c, it should be easy to remember that both are British spellings.

What about you? Do you have a pair of confusing words that you want to clarify? Why don’t you share them with me and the English Connection community in the comments section below!

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