‘Practise’ vs. ‘practice’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

Why does practice (but not practise) make perfect? The answer depends on the English dialect you intend to write the word in. If you write in United States English, you needn’t worry about the word “practise” at allUS Americans always spell the word with a -c-, and if you use an American spell checker and type in “practise”, you will likely see a squiggly red line underneath it.

If you write in British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, or Irish English, you must distinguish between “practice” and “practise”:

practice = a noun, as in “I need more practice”
practise = a verb, as in “he practises law”

Think about what the word expresses; is it an action (a verb), or is it a thing (a noun)? If it is a thing someone has, wants, needs or that does something, it is spelled with a -c-:

correct Practice makes perfect. (correct in all English varieties)
wrong Practise makes perfect. (wrong in all English varieties)

When somebody or something practises, i.e. it is something they do, it is spelled with an -s-:

correct I practise every day. (correct UK English)
wrong I practice every day. (wrong UK English, correct in the US)

It is worth noting that the spelling only depends on the part of speech (whether it is a noun or a verb), not on the intended meaning. Hence, in non-US English, you can “practise Christianity” but not “practice Christianity”, as well as “go to a doctor’s practice” but not “doctor’s practise”.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.