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Difference Between: Practice vs. Practise

Practice is a noun (a thing) that refers to ‘the time someone regularly spends on an activity because it’s a habit / custom or they want to get better at it’ – e.g. I go to band practice three times a week. Practise is a verb (an action) that means ‘to repeat an activity in order to master it or because it’s part of a routine / custom’ – e.g. I practise with the band three times a week.

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Practice or practise?

For speakers of American English, there is no need to think about this difference because the noun and the verb are the same word (practice with a /c/). For example, Americans can say:

  • Ryan is a terrible guitar player. He should practice more often! (verb)
  • Ryan hasn’t been to band practice for a month. (noun)

However, if you’re learning British English, it’s a bit more confusing! Practice and Practise are homophones so they sound the same (both are pronounced: ˈpræktɪs). We spell the noun with /c/ (practice) and the verb with /s/ (practise). Here are some examples of correct vs. incorrect usage of practice and practise in British English:

  • Doctor Jenkins practises medicine at the local hospital. (correct)
  • Doctor Jenkins practices medicine at the local hospital. (incorrect)
  • Ryan hasn’t gone to band practice for a month. (correct)
  • Ryan hasn’t gone to band practise for a month. (incorrect)

The easiest rule to remember the difference is: practice is a noun and practise is a verb.

Ask yourself: Is it the time you spend on an activity (noun) or is it a repeated action (verb)?

Practice and practise are words that even native speakers confuse! Let’s look at the different meanings and constructions of practice and practise in more detail. Remember, ‘practice makes perfect’!

In many situations, we can choose to use practice (noun) or practise (verb) to express the same thing. To do this, we need to change the sentence construction.

Different word, same meaning:

TimePractice (noun)Practise (verb)
PastI went to basketball practice last week.I practised basketball last week.
PresentI go to dance practice twice a week.I practise dance twice a week.
FutureI will do my piano practice later.I will practise piano later.
One way to make sure you never use practice as a verb is to think about the end of the word. When using verbs, we can change the ending to -ing or -ed. This means that we can only use practised or practising – e.g. I am practising for the exam now or The choir practised last night. We do not use practiced or practicing as a verb in British English. However, we can use practising as an adjective (describing word) – e.g. She is a practising Buddhist.

What does practice mean?

Practice (noun) means: ‘the time regularly spent on an activity’.

Synonyms: habit, preparation, custom, routine.

Set expressions: put into practice, best practice, common practice, practice makes perfect.

As we mentioned before, practice refers to the time we spend on an activity to get better at it or because it’s a set of rules or customs – e.g. It takes a lot of practice to be a good tennis player (time needed to improve) or The practice of prayer is an essential part of worship (a custom).

Additional meanings:

  1. A workplace in which the job requires a lot of training (a medical/dental/legal/veterinary practice) – e.g. Our legal practice employs five lawyers.
  2. The process of putting an idea into action – e.g. It was a good idea in theory, but not in practice.
  3. The application of a belief, tradition or custom – e.g. It is common practice to say ‘please’ when you ask for something.

Examples with practice (noun) in a sentence:

  • Sarah is a doctor at the local medical practice.
  • When it came to exam day, all his practice really paid off.
  • It is best practice at our firm to perform a DBS check on all new staff.
  • You’ll need plenty of practice if you want to play in an orchestra one day.
  • I’m going to study all weekend for my test. Practice makes perfect! 
In British English, there are other words that use /c/ for a noun and /s/ for a verb. For example, we say: She gave me some advice (noun), but He advised me not go (verb). More examples include device (noun) vs. devise (verb) and licence (noun) and license (verb).
Licence and License sound the same (laɪsəns). Device and devise have different pronunciations: device (dɪvaɪs) vs. devise (dɪvaɪz). The same is true of advice (ædvaɪs) and advise (ædvaɪz).

What does practise mean?

Practise (verb) means: ‘to repeat an action in order to master it or because it forms part of a custom, routine or process’.

Synonyms: rehearse, undertake, perfect, review, repeat.

Set expressions: Practise what you preach (to do what you say you are going to do).

As we mentioned above, practise usually means ‘to repeat an activity in order to to improve or master it’ – e.g. I practise basketball every day. Its other common meaning is ‘ to participate in an activity that forms part of a tradition, custom or process’ – e.g. The company staff practise wearing casual dress on Fridays.

Additional meanings: Practise can also mean ‘to work in a highly skilled profession’ – e.g. She practised medicine for 40 years before she retired. 

Examples with practise (verb) in a sentence:

  • Jane has been practising all week for her maths test.
  • How long have you been practising law?
  • I practise my piano scales every morning.
  • Did you see John on the local TV news practising his football skills?
  • You should stop lecturing others and practise what you preach! 

Quiz: Practice or practise?

Try these exercises to test your understanding of the differences between practice and practise. Remember, the only way to get better at something is ‘practice, practice, practice’!

  1. How many times did you _______ violin this week?
    a. practice
    b. practise
  2. I can’t _______ gymnastics since I broke my leg?
    a. practice
    b. practise
  3. I need a few more ________ sessions to improve my test score.
    a. practice
    b. practise
  4. The new office rules caused problems when put into _________.
    a. practice
    b. practise
  5. The lawyer has been _________ for twenty years.
    a. practicing
    b. practising
  6. How much more _________ do I need before I can take my driving test?
    a. practice
    b. practise
  7. They _______ prayer during every church service.
    a. practice
    b. practise
  8. How long did you ________ medicine before you decided to stop being a doctor?
    a. practice
    b. practise
  9. To perfect your guitar technique, you are going to need a little more________.
    a. practice
    b. practise
  10. The dentist worried about the number of patients leaving her_________.
    a. practice
    b. practise
  1. b)
  2. b)
  3. a)
  4. a)
  5. b)
  6. a)
  7. b)
  8. b)
  9. a)
  10. a)
Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Written by Sam Savage
— ESL Tutor

Sam Savage is a TEFL-qualified English tutor and writer from England. After gaining his TEFL qualification, he started teaching English in Spain in 2009. During this time, he also worked as an editor/translator for art organisations and publications in Madrid. He later returned home and graduated from the University of Gloucestershire with a MA in Critical and Creative Writing. In his free time, he enjoys all things cultural, especially writing fiction. Sam is also a published author.

Written by Sam Savage
— ESL Tutor