Advisor vs. Adviser, Advice vs. Advise

Advisor vs. Adviser, Advice vs. Advise

advice

When you advise someone, you give advice. One is a verb, the other is a noun. And where does advice come from? Good advice is offered by advisers/advisors. The spelling is the only difference between those two words, and usually adviser and advisor mean the same thing. Spelling it with an e is more common, but either spelling is correct. The spellchecker in my computer marks advisor as incorrect.

The words advice and advise can be confused. As I just said, one is a verb, the other is a noun. Fortunately, they’re spelled slightly differently and pronounced slightly differently.

  • Advice, spelled with a ‘c’, has an ‘s’ sound.
  • Advise, spelled with an ‘s’, has a ‘z’ sound.
  • When the word is spelled with a c, it’s advice, a noun – a recommendation of what to do.
  • When the word is spelled with an s, it’s advise, a verb – to give a recommendation of what to do.

Too bad they’re not both spelled phonetically. It would be nice if we could be talking about advise vs advize. But we can’t. There is no such word as advize. Or advicer.

These words can be somewhat formal: “How would you advise me?” is less casual than “What do you think I should do?” And the word adviser is even more formal, especially with the less common spelling of advisor. Heads of state have advisers to help them make decisions. In the medieval Islamic world, they were called viziers, and theoretically the Ottoman sultan governed only through the Grand Vizier.

Of course, heads of state are not the only ones who need advice. Advice can be minor, as in “If you want my advice, pick up a crab behind the head,” and not always major, as in “My advice is to never fight a land war in Asia.” But if someone advises you that your shoelace is untied, you wouldn’t call them your adviser.

Definitions of Advise, Advice and Adviser

advice – a recommendation, a wise suggestion of what to do. Good advice will help you as long as you listen to it and follow it.

advise – to give advice, to counsel, to suggest or recommend a proper course of action.

adviser/advisor – someone who gives advice, counsel, or guidance, often in an official capacity.

Right/Wrong Examples of the Use of Advise and Advice

Right: I would advise people not to step on bees with their bare feet. (Advise is a verb. Saying “I would advise” is more deferential than “I advise” because it does not directly tell someone what they should do.)

Wrong: I adviced him to bet on the old gray nag in the second race. (There is no such verb as adviced, and old horses usually don’t win races.)

Right: My advice is not to step on a bee with your bare feet. (Correct, advice is a noun and can be given away.)

Wrong: If you want my advise, don’t you step on bees at all. (Advise is not a noun, so you can’t give it to someone. Otherwise, good advice.)

Right: His advisers cautioned him to wear shoes. (An adviser tries to give helpful recommendations.)

Wrong: I hired one of those so-called fashion advicers but they were too fancy for me. (It’s adviser not advicer.)

Where Did These Words Come From?

When I started writing this article, I was sure I knew the origins of these words. I was sure there was an ancient Latin word advisere, from the Latin roots ad “to, toward” and visere “to see.” The prefix ad appears in adhere “stick to” and admire “gaze, look at.” But maybe I was wrong. First of all, the Latin word for “to see” is videre, not visere. But I was ready to explain that an adviser helps you see more clearly, and so on.

More likely, these words come from the French. The word vis usually meant face, but it also meant opinion. Phrases such as “ço m’est à vis” or “il m’est avis que” mean “In my view…” or “It seems to me that…” By the late 14th century in England, avis gained the meaning of opinion worth listening to, counsel worth following.

But around the 16th century, English scholars must have said, “Those French people are spelling it wrong. It must have come from the Latin word advisere and needs a d.” Norwegians must have made the same assumption, or else borrowed the English assumption, because the Norwegian word for “to advise” is advisere.

By the way, though an vizier was an adviser, that word has a different origin: the Arabic wazir “one who carries [the burdens of government].”

We can thank the editors and printers of early modern England for giving different spellings to advise and advice and to other easily-confused noun/verb pairs, using s for verbs and c for nouns. Some of these distinctions have been lost in American English: in practice/practise and license/licence, we use the first spelling for both verbs and nouns.

Is There a Difference between Adviser and Advisor?

Both spellings mean the same thing, though adviser is more common. But there is a technical difference when talking about financial advisors.

First, let me point out that trademark laws inspire new spellings and phrases. You can’t trademark a common word. If you mix alcoholic drinks behind a bar, I guess that makes you a bartender, and if you’re doing the work of a bartender, the International Bartenders Association won’t keep you from calling yourself one, even if you’re not a member of their association. But if they invented an uncommon term, such Certified Liquor Technician, they could trademark that title, and allow only their members to use it.

For example, in America, the National Association of REALTORS® has trademarked the word Realtor. Usually such a word would end with ‘er’ not ‘or,’ though this spelling was used in Congress as early as 1919, and mocked in Sinclair Lewis’s novel Babbit in 1922. But using the less-common spelling, and especially capitalizing it, makes it more proprietary. After all, any licensed people who sell buildings or land, or who help people buy buildings or land, can call themselves real estate agents. In Britain, they are called estate agents. But only members of the National Association of REALTORS® can call themselves realtors. By all means, don’t call yourself a realter – that word means “to alter again.” Wait, that might work in the home remodeling industry. In fact, an expert at home remodeling can become a Certified Graduate Remodelor (CGR) but only after meeting the requirements set by the Remodelors Council. Note the ‘o’ again.

In the United States, the “Investment Advisers Act of 1940” regulates investment advisers. Note the spelling. So if you advise people about how to keep a budget or to get out of debt, you might want to call yourself an advisor to make it clearer that you’re not selling advice about stocks and bonds. If you’re a stock broker – you’re helping people to buy stocks but not telling them what to buy – you might call yourself an “advisor.” But if you’re a Registered Investment Adviser and really do provide investment advice, it doesn’t matter how you spell it or what you call it: you would be subject to that 1940 law (if you’re working in the United States – I haven’t actually read the law).

The Relationship of Advise, Advice, and Adviser

You can often turn a verb about doing something into a noun about a person who does it, by adding -er to the end of the verb. For example, the verb “to farm” is an activity done by a farmer. A farmer farms. He or she practices farming.

We can do that with the verb advise by adding er or or, Advising is done by an adviser. Advisers advise. Advisers give advice.

It may seem like advice is a noun that has a verb form, but it’s really the other way around. The verb advise came first, Advice is the result of advising. That’s why there are advisers but not advicers.

Like -er, the word endings -or or even -ar can also be used to make a noun that means “someone who does something”, who practices a verb. A director directs, an editor edits, and an educator educates. A beggar begs, a liar lies, and a burglar burgles (well, he does). Sometimes the original verb has become obscured by time. In classical Latin, a doctor was a teacher, someone who practiced the verb docere, to teach. But these three endings are not always related to verbs. They can also be used for someone associated with something – a prisoner lives in a prison, a jeweler works with jewelry, a registrar keeps a registry.

Advice vs Advise Quiz

For each sentence, select which word should be used:

  • 1. The Secretary of War gave his [advice/advise]: it would not be smart to deploy their full army to one area.

    advise
    advice
  • 2. Teachers will [advice/advise] you that doing your homework will improve your grades.

    advise
    advice
  • 3. I do not [advice/advise] letting children play in the woods without taking a bath afterwards.

    advise
    advice
  • 4. When his [advice/advise] caused his client to lose half his savings, the investment adviser lost his client.

    advise
    advice

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Original post: Advisor vs. Adviser, Advice vs. Advise

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