Advise or advice?

What’s the difference between advise and advice? Do you know? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does, because apart from the obvious fact that one has the ending -ise and the other -ice, there’s a highly significant distinction: one’s a verb and one’s a noun. These grammatical and spelling differences involve a related semantic one too: that is, advice and advise have different meanings.

Many writers seem to confuse the two, and use the noun spelling when they need the verb form and vice versa. This sort of mistake is liable to irritate other people and may prevent you from getting your message across in the most effective way.

Quick quiz

Firstly, why not test yourself with the mini-quiz below? Which of the eight sentences (all taken from newspapers, scientific journals, and other edited writing in the Oxford English Corpus) use advice and advise correctly?

  1. My representative did not advice me following the death of my mother.
  2. He suggested crops to grow, and offered business advice.
  3. The Corporate Documents and Bank Advices were issued on 16 November.
  4. Crime alert letters were sent home advising parents to be vigilant.
  5. The travel agents adviced him to travel via Kuala Lumpur.
  6. He also gave some helpful advise on fire prevention in the home.
  7. He advices his customers on how to make their homes beautiful.
  8. What would you advise his wife to do?

You’ll find the answers at the end of this article.

How did you do? The confusion of advise and advice is a common written error, so if your performance in the quiz was disappointing, you’re not alone. If you’d like a brief refresher course, read on for some handy tips on how to choose the right word every time. You’ll also find a summary of similar verb and noun pairs, such as devise/device and practise/practice.

Taking and giving advice

The central difference between advice and advise is that the spelling advice, with -ice at the end, is the standard English spelling for the noun, but never for the verb. Advice has two meanings:

  • guidance or recommendations offered to someone about the best course of action to take in a particular situation: she gave good advice about treating everyone with respecther help surprised him, but he took her advice.
  • (in business and legal use) a formal record of a financial agreement or other transactioncheques and remittance advices were raised in alphabetical order.

Advice is mainly used with the first meaning, and in this meaning it is a mass noun (that is, it has no plural). The business/legal meaning, however, is acount noun: it has a plural form, advices.

Tip 1: there are just two possible forms for the noun: advice andadvices.

Tip 2: when you pronounce advice, the ending rhymes with ice.

Advising caution

The verb to advise is spelled with the ending -iseAdvise has three meanings:

  • to tell someone what you think they should do in a particular situation: Iadvised her to go home and get some sleephe advises caution when it comes to buying property abroad.
  • (of an expert or other knowledgeable person) to give a person guidance and information on a particular matter: the World Health Organization sent an expert to advise on sanitation; your doctor will advise the best course of treatment to deal with the problem.
  • to inform someone about a fact or situation in a formal or official way: we regret to advise you that your application was unsuccessfulthe lawyeradvised the court that his client wished to give evidence.

Tip 1: before writing or typing, ask yourself: what role does advice oradvise play in my sentence? If it’s a noun, choose advice; if it’s a verb, always opt for advise (and remember that, just like any other regular verb ending in -eadvise has the forms advisesadvised, and advising).

Tip 2: when you pronounce advise, the ending rhymes with wise.

Tip 3: because the words adviseradvisable, and advisory are related to the verb, they’re also spelled with an ‘s’ and not a ‘c’.

Common verb and noun pairs ending in -ice or -ise

As the following table shows, there are only two other common pairs of verbs and nouns in today’s English which follow the same pattern as advise/advice. If you’re a speaker of US English, then that count is reduced to one (devise/device), as practice is the correct spelling for both the noun and the verb in that case. You will also see that, in Law, devise is a special spelling of the noun device, meaning ‘a clause in a will leaving something to someone’.

Given that my researches have shown that people are prone to misspell other pairs of common verbs and nouns that end in -ise or -ice, I’ve listed some of these below as well.

Verb Example Noun Example
ise -ice
advise Jenny advised him to go home. advice My advice is to see your doctor.
practise (British English)——practice(US English) I need to practise my Spanish.———I need to practice my Spanish. practice (US & British English)  Public speaking is a skill that requires practice.
devise Patients assisted indevising their own care plans. device (general English)———–devise(in Law) Cameras are very complexdevices.—————–Did the school pass under thedevise of the Estate in the Duke’s will?
-ise -ise
promise The builders promisedto get the job done by today. promise He was lured away bypromises of a better life.
surprise I am not surprised by this revelation. surprise There could be some unpleasant surprises in store.
exercise She began exercisingregularly. exercise Swimming is an ideal form ofexercise for improving health.
merchandise We’ve see many changes in the way music is merchandised. merchandise The shops offered a huge range of merchandise.
franchise The government plans to franchise bus routes to private operators. franchise Fast-food franchises dot the roadside.
-ice -ice
service Ensure that your car is regularly serviced. service They aim to provide a high quality of service.
prejudice The statement mightprejudice the jury. prejudice The community continues to fall victim to bigotry andprejudice.
sacrifice The band hassacrificed quality for the sake of variety. sacrifice Sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

A final tip

Returning to our main theme, how to differentiate between advise and advice, here’s a rhyming tip that you might find helpful:

I advise you to be wise.

Thanks, that’s nice advice!

 

Mini-quiz answers

Incorrect uses of advice/advise are shown in red. 

  1. My representative did not advice me following the death of my mother.
  2. He suggested crops to grow, and offered business advice.
  3. The Corporate Documents and Bank Advices were issued on 16 November.
  4. Crime alert letters were sent home advising parents to be vigilant.
  5. The travel agents adviced him to travel via Kuala Lumpur.
  6. He also gave some helpful advise on fire prevention in the home.
  7. He advices his customers on how to make their homes beautiful.
  8. What would you advise his wife to do?

 

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