Licence or License – Meaning & Spelling

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

English can be super tough to learn and master, especially when it comes to words with similar spellings and meanings. Take the distinction between “licence” and “license” as a prime example. I see people get these mixed up all the time.

Sure, these words are related, but they’re used differently based on regional language conventions and grammatical context. So, here’s everything you need to learn about the difference between licence and license.

Is It Licence or License?

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So, this is going to be a little confusing because the line between the two is quite thin. If you live in the United States or are writing for an American audience, “license” is both a noun and a verb.

If you live anywhere that speaks English or are writing for a UK, Australian, Canadian, etc. audience, then “licence” is the noun, and “license” is the verb.

American English License vs Licence
American English license and licence usage trend.

So, just remember that the verb, no matter what, is always “license.”

  • Verb: You are not licensed to operate that tractor. (Works anywhere)
  • Noun: I hate my driver’s license photo; I wish they’d let me retake it. (American)
  • Noun: I despise the way I look in my driver’s licence photo. (All other English-speaking regions)

The Difference Between Licencing vs. Licensing

The exact same grammar rules apply here, too. In British English (also Canadian and other English-speaking countries that aren’t the US), “licencing” is what you should use as the present participle form of the noun “licence.”

But, when writing in American English, “licensing” is what you would use as the present participle of the verb and noun “license.”

Is It License or Licence in the UK?

British English License vs Licence
British English license and licence usage trend.

In the United Kingdom, “licence” is the noun, and “license” with an S is the verb. Here’s a quick example: You would apply for a driving “licence” (noun) and need to be “licensed” (verb) to drive a vehicle.

Is It Licence or License in Australia?

In the country of Australia, which also follows British English rules and conventions, “licence” is used as a noun, and “license” is used as a verb.

Is It Licence or License Canada?

Up here in Canada, where I’m from, the distinction between “licence” and “license” can vary and is sometimes muddled because half of Canadians prefer to use American spellings of things.

But Canadian English is influenced by both British and American English, so some Canadians might use the British convention of “licence” as a noun and “license” as a verb. But others might like using the American convention of “license” for both the noun and the verb meaning.

Personally, I think we should make it uniform across the board to avoid all confusion and just adopt the American spelling.

Licence Examples in a Sentence

  • My sister applied for a new driving licence after losing her purse and wallet.
  • The new restaurant in town requires an alcohol licence to serve alcoholic beverages.
  • The fishing licence my dad bought permits him to fish in certain areas.
  • The company was granted an export licence to ship goods overseas.
  • My friend from Texas had a gun licence at just 16 years old!

License Examples in a Sentence

Licence or License Meaning Spelling
  • The state requires all drivers to be licensed and fully insured when operating a vehicle.
  • My brother’s software company offers a site license for businesses with multiple users.
  • Our new family doctor is licensed to practice medicine in three states.
  • I just heard that our city will license new vendors to operate a food truck downtown on the waterfront!

Is It Licence or License for You?

So, when it gets down to the gritty of it, it’s all about regional preferences, once again. “License” with an S is used in the States; that’s how I always remember the correct spelling. And if you’re ever unsure, just use the American approach, which uses “license” with an S for both the noun and the verb.

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered:

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