Program or Programme?

Our Story

Program or Programme?

What is the difference between "program" and "programme"?

For American English:
  • Use "program" for everything.
For British English:
  • Use "program" for anything to do with computers.
  • Use "program" when you need a verb.
  • Use "programme" for a noun meaning itinerary, TV or radio show, or a collection of work 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."

A Video Summary

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

The Difference between "Program" and "Programme"

Writers are often unsure whether to use "program" or "programme." Those following US writing conventions don't need to worry about this. They can use the word "program" for everything. However, those following UK writing conventions are not so fortunate. They do need to make a distinction between "program" and "programme." (This is because the English were influenced by the French word "programme," but Americans weren't.)

Use "Program" for Anything Relating to Computers

For anything to do with a computer, use "program." For example:
  • It's a useful computer program. () ()
  • (In this example, program is a noun.)
  • Do you know how to program the computer? () ()
  • (In this example, program is a verb.)

Use "Program" If It's a Verb

As in the second example above, the word "program" is the only one that can be used as a verb (i.e., "programme" is never used as a verb). For example:
  • Do you know how to program the alarm? () ()
  • (Usually, this will have something to do with computers.)
  • Please program the team-building exercises before the lunch. () ()
  • (Be aware that it's not always about computers.)
  • A box of crayons and a big sheet of paper provide a more expressive medium for kids than computerized paint programs. (Clifford Stoll) () ()
  • My virus checker keeps rejecting your programme. () ()

If You're British, Use "Programme" to Mean Agenda, TV Show, or Collection of Projects

In the UK, "programme" is used for an itinerary, a show (typically, on the TV or radio), or a collection of work projects. For example:
  • It looks like an entertaining programme tonight. () ()
  • Family Guy is one of my favourite programmes. () ()
  • (Family Guy is one of my favorite programs. ())
  • The person who leaked the secret programme is hiding in Hong Kong. () ()
  • (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) () ()

"Programmed" and "Programming"

In UK and US English, you should use "programmed" for the past tense and past participle of the verb "to program," and you should use "programming" for the present participle and gerund. However, in the US, you can also use "programed" and "programing," which are acceptable alternatives. These spellings were particularly popular in the 1950s and early 1960s. However, by the mid-1960s, "programmed" and "programming" were the dominant spellings. [evidence]

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? cannot or can not? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words