Spelling and Grammar

Licence or License: What’s the Difference?

Licence and license are pronounced the same (laɪ.səns, according the Cambridge Dictionary) but there is a subtle difference in the way these two words are spelled. Which one is correct?

The answer depends on where you live.

In American English, license is both a noun and a verb and licence is never used. In the UK, Canada, and the rest of the English-speaking world, licence is a noun and license is a verb.

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Licence as a Noun

A licence (license in the US) is an official document that indicates you have permission to do or own something. It’s a piece of paper you carry with you or hang in your place of business as proof that you’re authorized to do something like drive a car or serve alcohol in your restaurant.

Blonde woman driving a BMW convertible


Here are a couple of sentences that use the word licence as a noun. Remember, if you’re in the US, you would use license instead.

Example #1: The police offer asked to see Kim’s driver’s licence.

Example #2: Doug needs to get a liquor licence before he can serve beer or wine in his restaurant.

In both of these examples, a licence is a document or credential indicating the person is allowed to do something. Kim is legally allowed to drive. Doug can serve alcohol in his restaurant.

License as a Verb

When a person has been formally granted permission to do something, they are licensed to perform that task.


Here are two examples where license is used as a verb.

Example #1: James Bond is licensed to kill.

Example #2: Dr. Gupta is licensed to practice medicine in the state of Florida.

In both of these examples, a person has been granted permission to do something. The fictional character James Bond is a spy and the British government has authorized him to use lethal force when necessary. Dr. Gupta is a physician, and the state of Florida has granted her permission to practice medicine.

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.