licence or license?

What Is the Difference between "licence" and "license"?

homeconfused wordslicence or license?
the quick answer

The Quick Answer

In the US, use license for noun and verb. In the UK, use licence for the noun, but license for the verb. For example:
  • Do you have a license? () ()
  • I need to license this truck. () ()

Licence and License

For those following UK conventions, there is often confusion over the words licence and license. In order to understand which to use, you must know the difference between a noun and a verb. This is because licence is a noun, but license is a verb. However, there are tricks to get around this. (See Hot Tip right.)

  • This restaurant is licensed to sell alcohol.
  • (licensed - from the verb)

    (Tip: Try substituting the verb to allow with the verb to license to confirm it's a verb.
    "This restaurant is allowed to sell alcohol" This sounds ok; therefore, licensed is correct)
  • May I see your driving licence please?
  • (licence - noun)

    (Tip: Try substituting the noun papers with the noun licence to confirm it's a noun.
    "May I see your driving papers please? This sounds ok; therefore, licence is correct)

"licensed" (correct version - from the verb to license)
(sign outside a public house)

  • I am unable to give you a license because of your history.
  • ("I am unable to give you an allow/allowing/allowed..." This is nonsense; license is wrong.)
    ("I am unable to give you a card/allowance/papers..." This is sounds ok; should be licence)
  • This is not worth losing your licence over.

A Quick Test

hot grammar tip

Hot Tip


Try using the word card (or papers) instead of licence. If the sentence still makes sense, then licence is almost certainly correct.  
(This trick works because licence is a noun, just like the words card and papers.)


Try using the verb to allow (in its various forms, e.g., allowing, allowed, allows) instead of license. If the sentence still makes sense, then license is almost certainly correct. However, if you find yourself using allowance, then you should be using licence because both are nouns. (This trick works because to license is a verb, just like to allow.)


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 or American English.


In American English, license is both noun and verb.

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