Curb or Kerb?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Curb" and "Kerb"?

"Curb" and "kerb" are easy to confuse. In the US, the "curb" is the stone edging of the sidewalk. In the UK (and outside North America), where the sidewalk is called the pavement, the spelling is "kerb." This, however, is not the end of the story because "to curb" (meaning "to control" or "to limit") has the same spelling in American English and British English.

Here are some examples with the nouns "curb" and "kerb":
  • When walking on the sidewalk, keep away from the curb. correct tick (small American flag)
  • When walking on the pavement, keep away from the kerb. correct tick (small British flag)
Here are some examples with the verb "to curb":
  • We must curb our spending. correct tick (small American flag and small British flag)
  • We must kerb our spending. wrong cross (small American flag and small British flag)
  • ("Kerb" is never a verb.)
curb or kerb?


The verb "to curb" means "to control" or "to limit."

For example:
  • Try to curb your enthusiasm. correct tick
  • The US will curb its influence over the next decade. correct tick
Even though it is quite rare, there is a corresponding noun too. It means "something that limits or controls." For example:
  • There will be a curb on spending. correct tick
  • (Here, "curb" is a noun.)
In this US, "curb" is used for the stone edging of a sidewalk. In British English, the spelling for this word "kerb."
  • We can't all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by. correct tick (American actor Will Rogers)


Americans don't need to worry about the word "kerb." It doesn't exist in American English. However, for Brits, "kerb" is the stone edging of a pavement. For example:
  • She tripped over the curb. correct tick (small American flag) wrong cross (small British flag)
  • She tripped over the kerb. wrong cross (small American flag) correct tick (small British flag)

A Video Summary

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

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