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Licence and License (The Difference)

The Quick Answer
In the US, use license for noun and verb. In the UK, use licence for the noun, but use license for the verb. For example:
  • Do you have a license? () ()
  • I need to license this truck. () ()

Licence and License

If you're following US writing conventions, life is easy. Use license. (In the US, licence does not exist.)

For those following UK conventions, there is often confusion over the words licence and license. In order to understand which to use, you must know the difference between a noun and a verb. This is because licence is a noun, but license is a verb. However, there are tricks to get around this.

licence license
Infographic showing the difference between licence and license.

Examples of Licence and License

Here are some examples of sentences with licence and license:
  • This restaurant is licensed to sell alcohol. () ()
  • (licensed - from the verb)
Tip for Brits
Try substituting the verb to allow with the verb to license to confirm it's a verb.

"This restaurant is allowed to sell alcohol."

As this sounds okay, licensed is correct.
  • May I see your driving licence please? () ()
  • (licence - noun)
Tip for Brits
Try substituting the noun papers with the noun licence to confirm it's a noun.

"May I see your driving papers please?"

As this sounds okay, licence is correct.
  • I am unable to give you a license because of your history. () ()
  • This is not worth losing your licence over. () ()
Interactive Test
 
 
Top Tip

A Little Trick to Spot Licence

Try using the word card (or papers) instead of licence. If the sentence still makes sense, then licence is almost certainly correct.  
(This trick works because licence is a noun, just like the words card and papers.)

A Little Trick to Spot License

Try using the verb to allow (in its various forms, e.g., allowing, allowed, allows) instead of license. If the sentence still makes sense, then license is almost certainly correct. However, if you find yourself using allowance, then you should be using licence because both are nouns. (This trick works because to license is a verb, just like to allow.)

No Confusion

There should be no confusion with licensing or licensed. The endings ing and ed mean these are always from the verb; i.e., there are no such words as licencing or licenced in British or American English.

License in America

In American English, license is both noun and verb.