Counsel and Council: What's the difference?

Counsel and council sound almost identical. Because of this commonality, a lot of English learners mix these words up. Sometimes, even intermediate level students get confused when asked about their differences. The bottom line is, what is the difference between counsel and council?

Evidently, the easiest way to make sure we are using the words correctly is to know their exact meanings. With all the words in the dictionary, knowing the definition of each word can be so challenging. But worry no more, because, in this article, you will find out the answers you need. Ready? Study along with us and let’s know the difference between counsel and council.

Counsel vs. Council

When you say counsel and council, you’ll hear only one vowel difference between them. However, when you search for their meaning in the dictionary, these two words are totally different.

Grammatically, we can use “Counsel” both as a noun and as a verb. It is a flexible word referring to similar concepts, but as different parts of speech.

“Council,” on the other hand, is only a noun. Council, for others, might sound similar to counsel, but it’s absolutely not. These two words have totally different meanings. Besides, you got to be careful because you might misspell these words because of its unusual similarity.

First, we can use “council” as a noun, and second, it refers to a unique concept than “counsel”. Let’s delve deeper and understand the use of counsel and council by checking these sentences.

When to use "counsel"?

By counsel, we mean one or more of the lawyers taking part in a legal case. As a noun, we define counsel as a lawyer. However, in a literary context, “counsel” means advice.

Moreover, we also use “counsel” as a verb. As an action word, it means to give advice, especially on social or personal problems.

For example:

1. The defense counsel supported his evidence during the court hearing.

N.B. We use the counsel here to talk refer to a legal advisor, a lawyer.

2. I should have listened to my father’s wise counsel and saved some money instead of spending it all.

N.B. The counsel in the sentence refers to “advice” (literary context)

3. The police have provided experts to counsel local people affected by the tragedy.

N.B. We use the word counsel here as a verb which defines the action of offering advice on a matter.

When to use "council"?

In English, the word council is not as flexible as counsel. We can use the council only as a noun, unlike counsel which can function as a noun or a verb. Explicitly, the council refers to defining a group of people usually elected to control an area, either a city or a town, etc. Besides, the “council” can also represent a group of people in a company who are qualified and elected to give advice or to decide.

For example:

Example 1: The city council keeps the streets clean.

N.B. The word “council” refers to the group of specialists elected to run a town.

Example 2: This concert is supported by a grant from the local arts council. —

N.B. The word “council” in this sentence defines a group of specialists who decide or offer advice within an organization/company.


Knowing the difference between “counsel” and “council” is just so easy decision. To avoid mixing these words again, we must know their definitions first. Although these sound quite similar, these two words have a completely different meaning.

In a nutshell, we use “counsel” both as a verb (referring to offering specialized advice) and as a noun (defining a qualified person who offers advice). On the other hand, we use “council” only as a noun, referring to a group of people who run a certain area in a country or a department in a company.

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