Licence or License?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Licence" and "License"?

"Licence" and "license" are easy to confuse if you're following UK writing conventions. If you're following US conventions, you can ignore "licence."
  • In the UK, use "licence" when you mean "official papers," but use "license" when you mean "to allow."
    • I have a licence. I am licensed to drive. ()
    • (In the UK, "licence" means "official papers," and "license" means "to allow." So, "licensed" means "allowed.")
  • In the US, use "license" for "official papers" and "to allow."
    • I have a license. I am licensed to drive. ()
    • (In the US, "license" means "official papers" and "to allow." So, "licensed" means "allowed." In other word, "licence" (with a c) does not exist in American English.)
More examples with "licence" and "license":
  • 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.

Ready for the Test?

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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? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? List of easily confused words

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