‘Subtract / subtraction’ vs. ‘substract / substraction’ 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.

I have heard a lot of people using the word “substract”, respectively its derived form “substraction”. Long story short, the correct forms are “subtract” and “subtraction” (without “s”).

The reason why so many English learners make the mistake is probably that there is a corresponding word in many languages that does contain an “s”, e.g. soustraire in French or sustraer in Spanish. Another reason might be that learners confuse its sound with “abstract”, a relatively common word that contains the letter group “bstract”, not just “btract”, or with similar words like “substrate”.

It is also worth noting that the form “substract” did exist in English until about the 18th century (due to French influence), but it is now considered completely obsolete.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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