Licence vs. license

In American English, license is both a noun and a verb, and licence isn’t used. For example, one who is licensed to drive has a driver’s license. In all the other main varieties of English, licence is the noun, and license is the verb. So, for instance, one who is licensed to perform dental surgery has a dental surgeon’s licence.



A judge on Monday threw out a legal challenge to Illusions magic bar’s entertainment license. [Baltimore Sun]

During the 90-minute operation, the camera scanned 1,758 license tags. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

Egypt said the American-backed pro-democracy groups were not licensed and were illegally funded. [Los Angeles Times]

Noun (outside the U.S.)

A pub where a man was shot in the legs last weekend has had its licence suspended by Knowsley Council. [BBC]

Fleet separation means that only those who fish can own a licence.  [Globe and Mail]

Fears that young drivers in Marton and Taihape will drive without licences because of a lack of testing facilities in their towns are unfounded.  [Manawatu Standard]

Verb (outside the U.S.)

Greenlight Music can license 1m songs at launch from the EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner catalogues.  [Financial Times]

The content is licensed through a copyright management solution called CreativeCommons.  [Mail & Guardian Online]

Mr McGowan said his party’s liquor licensing reform policy also would cut the licence fee from $3100 to $500.  [Sydney Morning Herald]

9 thoughts on “Licence vs. license”

  1. This misses an important point. In British English, licence is a noun, license is a verb, so you can say “I have been licensed to drive a car and here is my driving licence”.

    • Thank you, and you’re absolutely right! We’re going to fix this right away, because it’s a pretty big oversight. 

  2. LOL, learning “American English” is silly. The language is entirely European in origin. When learning proper English, one should avoid articles with any mention of America, if not simply to avoid confusion.

  3. That’s good advice, Bertke. I doubt the Americans even care about proper use of English. American English! Ha!!!


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