Advice vs. Advise: How to Choose the Right Word

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The words "advice" and "advise" have related meanings but are different parts of speech. The noun "advice" most often means guidance or a recommendation regarding a course of action ("your friend gave you bad advice"), though it has a few other meanings as well. The verb "advise" means to caution, recommend, or counsel ("let me advise you of your rights").

How to Use "Advice"

"Advice" is pronounced "ad-vīs," with the stress on the second syllable, which rhymes with "mice." "Advice" means counsel, direction, or information—sometimes requested and sometimes given without permission. More rarely, "advice" is also a formal notice that a financial transaction has taken place.

Advice can be personal ("Mom gave me some advice about how to handle guys like you"), professional ("I went to my boss for advice on how to handle this type of customer"), or general ("I need advice about where to go for dinner"). When the word is used formally in the form of a legal notice, it is almost always in written format ("remittance advice," for example).

How to Use "Advise"

"Advise," pronounced "ad-'vīz," is a verb and is similar in general meaning to "advice." In fact, it is technically correct to say "I advise you to take my advice." The word can mean suggest ("I advise you to take the longer route"), recommend ("he advised me to stay away from Bill"), or inform ("I'd like to advise you of the leaky faucet in that bathroom"). It can also mean be made aware of or apprise ("you will be advised of our decision in due time").

Examples

While you may ask for or receive advice, only another person can advise you. These examples clarify the proper use of each term.

  • The best advice I can give you is to exercise, eat right, and avoid smoking. (The term "advice," a noun, is here used as a synonym for "recommendation.")
  • The lawyer said he would advise us when it's time to appear in court. (The term "advise," a verb, is here used as a synonym for "tell" or "let us know.")
  • I always ask my best friend for advice before choosing an outfit for a dance. (The noun "advice" is here used as a synonym for "suggestions" or "recommendations.")
  • Will you give me some advice about how to get into a good college? (The noun "advice" is here used as a synonym for "recommendations."

How to Remember the Difference

It's helpful to remember that "advice" is always a noun, while "advise" is always a verb. It may also help you to think about another similar pair of words: "device" and "devise." A "device," like "advice," is a thing rather than an action: You can actually use both a "device" and "advice." "Devise" and "advise," on the other hand, are always actions.

"Free Advice"

The expression "free advice" means a suggestion or an opinion that wasn't asked for but is given nonetheless. Typically, parents, teachers, and friends give "free advice" when they believe someone they care about is making a bad decision. For example, "Here's a bit of free advice: Stop drinking beer and start drinking water at least two hours before leaving a party."

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