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Vive la différence... -ce / -se

Posted by TheFallen on December 13, 2001

As a very recent arrival to this forum, I'm inspired to truth-test something that I am sure I remember being taught in school, and that I have argued in favour of passionately over the years. I am more than aware of a potential transatlantic difference of opinion here, but as far as I am concerned, my hazily remembered rule goes like this:-

If it's -ce, it's a noun, and if it's -se, it's a verb.

Examples... I am licensed, so I have a licence. I practise medicine at my medical practice.

Caveats... there are no *English* words such as "defense" or "offense", although these do apparently exist in American English - we Brits use "defence" and "offence", only replacing the "c" with an "s" when we're using the verb-based adjectives "defensive" and "offensive".

I am sure I remember being told at school that, if ever in a state of confusion, to remember the words advice and advise, where it's clear which is the noun and which the verb, due to pronunciation differences.

You may blame yourselves for my asking this question... it was inspired by earlier postings which I'll quote.

"Now you can see why we British thought you Americans were not yet ready to be abandoned to your own devises."

"Devices."

"My OED and I are entirely happy with 'devises'."

Despite also being a Brit, and despite my utter reverence for the OED, I'd never have gone along with "devises". Is my potentially failing memory right on this?