Program or Programme?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Program" and "Programme"?

"Program" and "programme" are easy to confuse if you're following UK writing conventions. ("Programme" is not used in the US.)

For American English:
  • Use "program" for everything.
For British English:
  • Use "program" for anything to do with computers.
    • It is a useful program to delete old files. correct tick
    • I taught myself to program in JavaScript. correct tick
  • Use "program" when you need a verb.
    • I will program you in for 1 o'clock. correct tick
  • Use "programme" for an itinerary, TV show, radio show, or a collection of work projects.
    • There is a funny news programme on the radio later. correct tick
    • The government programme to remove the waste has three separate projects.
program or programme?

Americans, Just Use "Program"

Americans do not need to worry about the word "programme." Just use "program." The noun "programme" comes from the French, and only those following UK writing conventions need to make a distinction between "program" and "programme."

More about "Program" and "Programme"

Use "Program" for Computers

For anything to do with a computer, use "program." For example:
  • Do you know how to program the computer? correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (Here, "program" is a verb.)
  • A sheet of paper and a box of crayons provide a more expressive medium for kids than a computerized paint program. (Astronomer Clifford Stoll) correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • . correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag) (Here, "program" is a noun.)

Use "Program" for Verbs

"Program" can be a verb. "Programme" is never a verb. For example:
  • Do you know how to program the alarm? correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (Usually, this will have something to do with computers.)
  • Please program the team-building exercises before the lunch. correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (It's not always about computers though.)

Brits, Use "Programme" for Itinerary, Show, or Collection of Projects

In the UK, "programme" is used for an itinerary, a show (usually TV or radio), or a collection of work projects. For example:
  • It looks like an entertaining programme tonight. correct tick (small British flag) wrong cross (small American flag)
  • Family Guy is one of my favourite programmes. correct tick (small British flag) wrong cross (small American flag)
  • (Family Guy is one of my favorite programs. correct tick (small American flag))
  • The person who leaked the secret programme is in hiding. correct tick (small British flag) wrong cross (small American flag)
  • (Here, "programme" means a collection of work projects.)
  • I'm glad the President finally found an economic development program. I'm just sad that it's only in Baghdad. (Politician John Kerry) wrong cross (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)

"Programmed" and "Programming"

In the US and UK, use "programmed" and "programming."

Programmed. Use "programmed" for the past tense and past participle of "to program." For example:
  • He programmed the system you had programmed. correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (The first "programmed" is the simple past tense. The second is a past participle.)
Programming. Use "programming" for the present participle and the gerund of "to program." For example:
  • Programming the computer, he said that he enjoyed programming. correct tick (small British flag) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (The first "programming" is a present participle. The second is a gerund.)
NB: In the US, "programed" and "programing" are considered acceptable alternatives. These spellings were particularly popular in the 1950s and early 1960s. However, since the mid-1960s, "programmed" and "programming" have been the dominant spellings. [evidence]

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing this lesson on "program" and "programme."

A Video Summary

Watch a video showing 10 big differences between British English and American English.

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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? List of easily confused words

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