One of the chal­lenges of Cana­di­an Eng­lish is that it incor­po­rates British Eng­lish while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly incor­po­rat­ing Amer­i­can Eng­lish. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­fus­ing when it comes to choos­ing which words to use.

Take the words “licence” and “license”, for exam­ple.


In both the UK and the US, “licence” is a noun, as in, “I just got my driver’s licence.” How­ev­er, in the Unit­ed States, it can be used as a verb, as in, “The DMV licenced me to dri­ve.”


License, on the oth­er hand, is a strict­ly British usage. In the UK, Eng­lish speak­ers use “license” as a verb, in the same way that Amer­i­cans use “licence” as a verb.

So, where do Cana­di­ans come in? Do we side with Amer­i­cans as we do with “tire” and “curb”, or do we side with the British as we do with “colour” and “metre”?

Well, in this case, in Cana­da, we use “licence” as a noun and “license” as a verb, just like the Brits.

Now, keep in mind, as with some oth­er words, this usage is chang­ing. Just as how the Amer­i­can spelling of “col­or” and pro­nun­ci­a­tion of “zee” are start­ing to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty in Cana­da, so is the Amer­i­can usage of “licence“. In time, Cana­di­ans may end up favour­ing the sim­pler approach.

But for now, in Cana­da, use “licence” as a noun and “license” as a verb. An easy way to remem­ber it is that your driver’s licence is a card, and “licence” and “card” both con­tain a “c”.

Bonus tip: same goes for prac­tice and prac­tise. In Cana­da, “prac­tice” is where you go and “prac­tise” is what you do when you get there.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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