Patients or Patience?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Patients" and "Patience"?

"Patients" and "Patience" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms). However, their meanings are very different. Of note, "patient" is the adjective of "patience," and this is the root of the confusion between the two words.
  • Patients. Patients are people receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.
    • We have 15 patients in this ward.
  • Patience. Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
    • She has a lot of patience.
    • She is a patient person.
    • ("Patient" is the adjective from "patience." This adds to the confusion.)
patience or patients?

More about "Patients" and "Patience"

The words "patients" and "patience" are common words, and your readers will expect you to use the right one.


The word "patients" is the plural of the singular "patient," which is a noun that means a person receiving or schedule to receive medical treatment.

Example sentences with "patients":
  • We should be concerned not only about the health of individual patients, but also the health of our entire society.
  • Patients know in a heartbeat if they're getting a clumsy exam.


The abstract noun "patience" means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. If someone demonstrates or has "patience," they are described as being "patient." In this sense, "patient" is an adjective so it is never written as "patients."

Example sentences with "patience":
  • Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting.
  • Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

"Patients" Is Always a Noun

As a noun, a "patient" receives medical treatment. As an adjective, "patient" means tolerant. In other words, it is the adjective of the noun "patience." This is the root of the confusion between the words "patients" and "patience."

If you see the word "patients," it always means more than one person receiving treatment. "Patients" has nothing to do with "patience."

All versions in one sentence!

If you can understand this sentence, you have cracked "patient," "patients," and "patience":
  • Of her five patients, only one patient tests the patient nurse's patience.

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? cannot or can not? who's or whose? What are adjectives? List of easily confused words

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