Licence or License?

by Craig Shrives

Licence or License?

What is the difference between "licence" and "license"?
  • In the UK, use "licence" for the noun, but use "license" for the verb.
  • In the US, use "license" for everything (i.e., for the noun and the verb).
For example:
  • Do you have a license? () ()
  • Do you have a licence? () ()
  • I need to license this vehicle. () ()
licence license

More about "Licence" and "License"

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

Those following UK conventions must know the difference between a noun and a verb because "licence" is used for the noun, while "license" is used for the verb. If you're unsure how to spot a noun and a verb, don't worry because we have some workarounds.

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing 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. () ()
  • (Here, "licensed" is a 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? () ()
  • (Here, "licence" is a 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. () ()

No confusion with "licensing" or "licensed"

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 English or American English.

"License" in America

If you're an American, use "license." (In American English, license is both noun and verb.)

A Video Summary

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

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

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? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words