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.

Licence

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

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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