Licence vs License: Difference and Comparison

The English language includes many words with different spellings in British and American English. ‘License’ is one such word.

Key Takeaways

  1. In British English, “licence” is a noun that denotes a permit or authorization granted by an authority to engage in a specific activity, such as driving or operating a business.
  2. In American English, “license” serves as both a noun and a verb, with the noun meaning a permit or authorization and the verb meaning to grant such a permit or authorization.
  3. The difference between “licence” and “license” is based on the English variant being used, with “licence” being the noun form in British English and “license” serving as both the noun and verb form in American English.

Licence vs. License

Licence is a document to perform any activity legally. In the United Kingdom English writing convention, if we need to refer to this document as a noun, then Licence spelling will be used, but in the case of the verb, it will be spelled as license. While in the United States, English writing convention, in both cases, either noun or verb, the spelling will be the same, and it is license.

License vs License

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According to the United Kingdom’s writing convention (British English), the word is spelled in two ways. When used as a noun, the word’s spelling is ‘licence.’ When used as a verb, the spelling is ‘license.’

According to the US writing convention (American English), the spelling ‘license’ is used for everything. There is no different spelling for the word when used as a verb or noun.

The word is spelled as ‘license’ in both US and UK conventions when used as a verb. Remembering this makes it easier to use both spellings correctly.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonLicenceLicense
UsageUsed in a sentence as a nounUsed as a noun as well as a verb
ConventionUK conventionUS convention
MeaningA legally valid document that grants permission to do a particular activityThe act of granting permission to do a particular activity
SpeakerUsed by Non-American English speakersUsed by English speakers in America as well as English speakers outside America (when used in verb form)
Example“The restaurant owner has applied for a licence to sell alcohol.”“This restaurant is not licensed to sell alcohol. “


What is Licence?

The word ‘licence’ is used by English speakers who follow the United Kingdom’s writing convention. Generally, all English speakers outside of America follow this way of writing and speaking.

Licence is always used in a sentence in the form of a noun. It refers to a valid and legal document that grants permission to carry out a particular activity (such as driving, selling alcohol, entering a new country, etc.)

Many words in the English language are spelled differently by American and Non-American English speakers.

Generally, when following Non-American English conventions, the spelling of these words changes concerning the form they are used in (noun or verb).

The same goes for words such as advice, which is ‘advice’ when used as a noun, and ‘advise’ for the verb.

An easy way to check whether licence is used correctly in a sentence is by replacing the word with ‘paper’ or ‘card.’ If the sentence still makes sense, then it is correct.

Examples of sentences that use ‘licence’ are

  1. “I renewed my ‘licence’ a month ago.”
  2. “Does this restaurant have a ‘licence’ to sell liquor?”
  3. “He gained full ‘licence’ to return in the summer of 1453.”
  4. “He hath not given any man ‘licence’ to sin.”

What is License?

The word ‘license’ is used by people following the UK convention and the US convention. While Non-American English speakers write the word only as a verb, American English speakers use it as both a noun and a verb.

When used as a verb (in both US and UK), license means granting permission to someone to carry out a certain activity.

When used in the US as a noun, license refers to a valid legal document that grants permission to carry out a certain activity.

‘License,’ in the form of a verb, can be used concerning the tense as ‘licensed’ or ‘licensing.’ There is no verb for the spelling ‘licence,’ meaning that the spellings ‘licenced’ and ‘licencing’ does not exist.

To check whether license has been used correctly as a verb, replace it with the word ‘allow’ (allowed or allowing). If the sentence still makes sense, then it is correct.

Examples of sentences that use ‘license’ are

  1. “Do you have a driver’s ‘license’?” (noun)
  2. “This restaurant is ‘licensed’ to sell alcohol and liquor.” (verb)
  3. “It is not worth losing your ‘license’ over.” (noun)
  4. “The governor appointed a ‘licensing’ board consisting of four members.” (verb)

Main Differences Between Licence and License

  1. Licence is used as a noun by Non-American English speakers, while License is used as a verb by both American and Non-American English speakers.
  2. Licence refers to a valid legal document granting permission to do a particular activity, while license refers to granting permission to do something.
  3. The spelling ‘license’ is used worldwide, while the ‘licence’ is not used in the US.
  4. To install a television in your home, a TV ‘licence’ is required. The TVLA ‘license’ allows you to continue the installation process.
  5. A person must apply for a provisional driver’s ‘licence’ before driving. DVLA is the organization that licenses you to drive a vehicle.
Difference Between Licence and License

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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22 thoughts on “Licence vs License: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The comprehensive comparison between ‘licence’ and ‘license’ is certainly thought-provoking. It emphasizes the significance of understanding language nuances in a global context.

    1. Absolutely. Such linguistic discussions contribute to a deeper understanding of the diversity inherent in language usage.

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  2. It is worth mentioning that the word ‘licence’ in American English is typically considered a misspelling of the word ‘license.’ The first spelling should be used if the document indicates permission to participate in a specific activity. At the same time, the second spelling should be utilized when the word is used as a verb or noun.

  3. This analysis offers a compelling insight into the divergent spellings and usage of ‘licence’ and ‘license’ in the English language. It underscores the dynamic nature of language across different regions.

  4. Avatar of Pauline Murray
    Pauline Murray

    The clarity provided in distinguishing ‘licence’ and ‘license’ in British and American English is commendable. Understanding these differences will undoubtedly enhance language usage for many individuals.

  5. The information presented here is quite enlightening. Understanding the nuances between the British and American English spellings will help a lot of people.

  6. It is fascinating to see how language conventions can vary based on geographical regions. The differences in spelling between British and American English are quite intriguing.

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    2. Yes, the contrast between ‘licence’ and ‘license’ in the English language is intriguing. It underscores the cultural and historical influences that shape language.

  7. I find it fascinating how the usage of ‘licence’ and ‘license’ can vary between American and British English. It is a true testament to the diversity of language.

  8. Avatar of Hunter Natalie
    Hunter Natalie

    It’s quite commendable to see such a detailed analysis of the differences between ‘licence’ and ‘license’ in British and American English. This is indeed a valuable contribution to the linguistic discourse.

    1. The exploration of language variations is always fascinating, and this article has certainly shed light on an intriguing aspect of the English language.

    2. Absolutely, the comparative study of ‘licence’ and ‘license’ is a testament to the rich tapestry of the English language across the world.

  9. The article does a great job of elucidating the peculiarities of the spellings and usages pertaining to ‘licence’ and ‘license’ in British and American English. The informative content is a valuable resource for language aficionados.

  10. The article’s meticulous breakdown of the differences between ‘licence’ and ‘license’ is indeed illuminating. The educational value it imparts is truly remarkable.

    1. Admirably so, the scholarly approach to elucidating the subtleties between ‘licence’ and ‘license’ accentuates the intricacies of language usage in a global context.

    2. Absolutely, the scholarly analysis presented here serves as a testament to the profound influence of regional language conventions on linguistic diversity.

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