Practice vs. Practise

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If you’ve ever wondered why it’s spelled practice in some contexts and practise in others, it mainly comes down to British versus American spelling.

In British English, which is also called International English, practise is a verb and practice is a noun. American English tends to avoid practise altogether, using practice as both the noun and verb form.

How do you use the noun practice?

As a noun, practice means a “habit or custom” (as in a religious practice).

It can also mean “repeated exercise to acquire a skill” (e.g., practice makes perfect), or “the pursuit of a profession” (e.g., she just retired from her medical practice).

This noun sense of practice is used by both British and American English.

How do you use the verb practice/practise?

In American English, practice is also used as the verb. It means “to do something repeatedly in order to master it” or “to pursue as an occupation or art.” So a churchgoer can practice their religion, just as a student might practice the violin.

In British English, the verb form of the word is rendered as practise. So in the above examples, our churchgoer practises their religion, while our student practises their instrument. This convention is true of British, Canadian, and Australian English.

What other words end in –ice and –ise?

While Britain and American can’t quite agree on how to use practice vs. practise, they can at least agree on advice and advise.

In both International and American English, advise is the verb (e.g., she advised him against smoking), while advice is the noun (e.g., he ignored her advice and smoked anyway).

WATCH: Advice vs. Advise

But the above convention is not true of all –ice words. Service is a word where both its verb and noun forms end in -ice. In the sentence “He serviced her car,” service is a verb. Meanwhile, in “she tipped well for the service,” service is also a noun. These words are used this same way throughout the English-speaking world.

Similarly, there are also several words that end in -ise for both the verb and noun forms of the word. Promise, surprise, merchandise, and franchise all fall into this category for both International and American English.

Why do these endings vary?

The British often use –ise for verbs (organise, civilise, realise), but that doesn’t mean the -ize ending (organize, civilize, realize) is unique to American English. Preference is divided in the UK, with the Oxford English Dictionary favoring -ize. Examples of organize date all the way back to 1425.

The use –ise or -ize depends in part on a word’s origin. The ending of -ize corresponds to words of Greek origin, while -ise follows the French roots of some words. Practice/practise is derived from the Old French words pratiser and practicer (“to practice”).

Curious about more differences between American and International English? Flip through this: A Glimpse Into The Differences Between US, UK, And Aussie English.

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