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Practise or practice? Throw a cat at it

2010 March 3
by Helen Keevy

Practice and advice: one you generally need and the other you usually get without asking for it and in over-abundance. But this post is not about doing or getting anything, it’s about spelling.

When do you practise with an ‘s’ and when do you practice with a ‘c’? What’s the difference between advise and advice? License or licence?  It’s always been a bit of an occupational hazard for me.

The grammatical answer is: ‘c’ is for when it’s a noun and ‘s’ when it’s a verb. Sounds easy to remember, but I still constantly forget and have to reach for the dictionary – or click for it rather these days.

But I now have a quicker solution – I just throw a cat at it. If the cat fits, then I know I need the ‘c-for-cat’ version of the word. If the cat doesn’t then I stick with ‘s’.

So… He likes to practis/ce his Spanish in the shower. Substitute ‘practis/ce’ with ‘cat’ and I have a nonsensical sentence: He likes to cat his Spanish in the shower. That makes practise a verb, and I’ll stick an ‘s’ in it.

But if I throw ‘cat’ into He never misses the cheerleading practis/ce, I get the perfectly sound sentence: He never misses the cheerleading cat. Sure, it might not be plausible, but it could be a real sentence if cats were cheerleaders.

You’ll get plenty of practic/se if you join our choir. = You’ll get plenty of cats if you join our choir. ‘C’  it is.

I only listen to expert advic/se. = I only listen to expert cats. That’s a green light for ‘advice’ then. (OK, admittedly you need more than one cat to make this one work!)

He lost his driving licence/se = He lost his driving cat. Thumbs up for a ‘c’!

And of course, if the word has an –ing or an –ed on the end you know straightaway it’s not going to work tagged onto a cat, it must be a verb, and so it’s an ‘s’ you’re after.

E.g. I use my blog so that I keep practising my writing!

Hope you’ll find the cats useful.

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4 Responses
  1. March 3, 2010

    Thanks Love! Only problem is that my brain is so out of practise!! that thinking is the problem. I will however not forget the cat!!

  2. March 4, 2010

    A good tip—I always mix these up, myself.

    However, it is not fool-proof: The main noun form of “licens/ce” is actually “license”, with “licence” being a less common alternative. (Of course, English is known for being the language of exceptions…)

  3. March 4, 2010

    Thanks for pointing that out Michael. The joys of using a language of exceptions ;)

    I believe that is definitely true in US English, but in UK English they still differentiate between the noun and verb form of licens/ce as far as I know.

  4. March 10, 2010

    Hmm that’s quiet interessting but honestly i have a hard time figuring it… wonder what others have to say..

Comments are closed.