Editor’s Note: When you speak a language or write in a particular language, it is important that you do so correctly. English grammar is not easy but neither is it impossible to master. Our member Ansuya shares some tips with us.Share your tips on English grammar with us here. 

Many people are unable to discern when to use ADVICE or ADVISE (or other words like them, like licence and license). 

The basic principle to understand in making out the difference between the two words is that

ADVICE = NOUN (naming word)
ADVISE = VERB (doing word)

So, if you are writing or speaking, and have to choose between the two, look at your sentence and see if you need a verb or a noun. Here is how the two words are used in sentences. See if you can distinguish the doing word function (verb) from the naming word function (noun) based on the MEANING of the sentence:

When he gives me driving ADVICE, I listen because I trust his experience and knowledge.

I ADVISE you to heed all traffic signals when taking your driving test.

Now, the difference between these two words is a little easier for us to make out because they are pronounced differently.

ADVICE – has a soft “c” sound, like an “s”
ADVISE – the “s” sounds like a “z”

The same noun-verb principle applies to other words, like licence-license and practice-practise. However, these words are not pronounced differently, so you have to remember the noun-verb rule to figure out which one to use.

I got my new driver’s LICENCE today. (noun – a thing you can sense, i.e. see, smell, touch, feel, hear, taste). What vehicles are you LICENSED to drive? (verb – something that has been done)

You must get enough PRACTICE before you take your driving test.(noun) Let’s PRACTISE our driving together. (verb)

A further complication to keep in mind is that in American English, they have done away with this distinction and everything is spelled with an “s”. I am South African, and we were taught to speak and write the Queen’s English, and I assume it is the same in India. So, it becomes a matter of choice, and depends on where you are, when you are deciding what to do about this little tricky matter of usage.