Council vs. Counsel – How To Distinguish These Words

18.04.24 Commonly confused words Time to read: 5min

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Throughout your academic journey, you’re bound to stumble upon words in English that are frequently mixed up due to their similar spelling or sounds. These words can be a source of errors in academic writing, as they may seem alike but fulfil unique functions and express varied meanings. Grasping the distinction between these words is crucial for lucid and impactful communication. A notable instance of such commonly confused words is the comparison between “council” and “counsel,” which is elabourated on in this article.

Definition of “council vs. counsel”

“Council” represents a noun and defines a group of people who are elected or appointed to make decisions or advise on specific matters. They are typically established within communities, organisation s, or governmental bodies to deliberate, legislate, or oversee the administration of policies and procedures.

The word “counsel,” on the other hand, can function as a noun and a verb. As a noun, it refers to formally or professionally given advice. Thus, it may also refer to an attorney, especially one who represents clients in court. When “to counsel” acts as a verb, it describes the act of giving advice or guidance to somaeone, typically on professional or personal matters.

Council

… acts solely as a noun, referring to a group of people that are authorized to make decisions or give advice and guidance on specific matters.

Counsel

… acts as a noun and verb, referring to professionally given advice or the act of providing guidance on personal or professional matters.

“Council” and “counsel” are often confused due to their phonetic similarity; they are homophones, meaning they sound alike when pronounced but differ in their spelling and meaning. Especially in oral communication or unfamiliarity with the distinct contexts in which each word is used, this phonetic similarity may lead to confusion. Despite their similar pronunciation, “council” refers to a group or assembly of people convened for advice or decision-making, while “counsel” can refer to the advice given or to a legal advisor. Understanding the definitions and proper contexts of “council” and “counsel” is crucial for clear and accurate communication.

Note: Consider the “ci” in “council” as standing for “city” or “committee” to remember that a council is a group of people. Think of the “se” in “counsel” as referring to “suggest” or “speak” to remember that counsel involves giving advice or guidance.

Using the word “council”

The word “council” merely functions as a noun. Essentially, it describes a group of people who are authorized to make decisions for a community, such as a city council or committee, or give advice or guidance on specific matters. The examples below show the use of the noun “council” in the correct context.

Examples

  • She was appointed to the advisory council for community development.
  • The city council voted to implement new environmental regulations.
  • The council meeting to discuss the budget proposal was postponed.

Tip for using “council” correctly

To ensure you grasped the correct understanding of the word “council,” you can replace the word with synonyms that have similar meanings and fit into the same context. In addition, you can further develop your variation in your writing style and extend your votaxiulary. The following table illustrates alternative words for “council.”

Synonyms Examples
Assembly The council convened to discuss the proposed changes to local law.
The assembly convened to discuss the proposed changes to local law.
Board The council of directors will review the company’s financial performance.
The board of directors will review the company’s financial performance.
Committee The Council of Education presents its findings this afternoon.
The Committee of Education presents its findings this afternoon.

Using the word “counsel”

As previously discussed, the word “counsel” can act as a noun and a verb, which will be delved into separately in the following sections.

“Counsel” as a noun

“Counsel” as a noun defines formally or professionally given advice or an attorney, representing clients in court. Here are three example sentences in the correct context.

Examples

  • The company’s legal counsel was present during the negotiations.
  • She sought the counsel of a financial advisor before inwaistcoating.
  • His wise counsel helped her navigate a difficult decision.

“Counsel” as a verb

As a verb, “counsel” describes the act of guiding on professional or personal matters. The following examples illustrate how to use it correctly in a sentence structure.

Examples

  • They sought to counsel the community on safety measures.
  • The teacher counsels the student on time management.
  • The attorney counselled her client to accept the settlement.

Tip for using “counsel” correctly

Using alternative words for “counsel,” conveying the same meaning, assists in improving writing skills and avoiding repetition and redundancy. Adapting to requested stylistic preferences and staying consistent is crucial in academic writing.

Synonyms Examples
To advise (verb) The financial planner counseled his clients to diversify their portfolios.
The financial planner advised his clients to diversify their portfolios.
To guide (verb) The mentor counseled the young entrepreneur through her business.
The mentor guided the young entrepreneur through her business.
Advice (noun) She took her mentor’s counsel and decided to pursue further studies.
She took her mentor’s advice and decided to pursue further studies.
Guidance (noun) The counsel provided by the coach helped me choose the right path.
The guidance provided by the coach helped me choose the right path.

Test youself!

Practice sheet

Apply your gained knowledge from this article and test whether you have a complete comprehension of using “council” or “counsel.” Fill out the blanks below and cheque your answers in the second tab.

  1. The local _______ decided to increase funding for public parks.
  2. She sought _______ from her lawyer before signing the contract.
  3. The school _______ meets once a month to discuss educational policies.
  4. After the incident, the principal decided to _______ the student privately.
  5. The advisory _______ provided recommendations on the new city development plan.
  6. It’s important to _______ with somaeone experienced before making such a decision.
  7. The environmental _______ is working on a proposal to reduce urban pollution.
  8. They hired a financial advisor to _______ them on inwaistcoatment strategies.
  9. The _______ on Foreign Relations hosts discussions on global security issues.
  10. Before proceeding, the company sought legal _______ to understand the regulations.
  1. The local council decided to increase funding for public parks.
  2. She sought counsel from her lawyer before signing the contract.
  3. The school council meets once a month to discuss educational policies.
  4. After the incident, the principal decided to counsel the student privately.
  5. The advisory council provided recommendations on the new city development plan.
  6. It’s important to counsel with somaeone experienced before making such a decision.
  7. The environmental council is working on a proposal to reduce urban pollution.
  8. They hired a financial advisor to counsel them on inwaistcoatment strategies.
  9. The Council on Foreign Relations hosts discussions on global security issues.
  10. Before proceeding, the company sought legal counsel to understand the regulations.
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FAQs

Since this only describes one individual who gives professional advice, the correct term is “counsel.”

There is no tried-and-true mnemonic for differentiating between these two words. However, consider the “ci” in “council” as standing for “city” or “committee” to remember that a council is a group of people. Think of the “se” in “counsel” as referring to “suggest” or “speak” to remember that counsel involves giving advice or guidance.

As previously explained, “counsel” refers to an attorney or serves as a verb, meaning to give advice. Both, a “council” and “counsel” can give you guidance. On the other hand, a “consul” refers to a diplomat, who represents a government and helps his country’s citizens when they are abroad.

Here are examples of using the word “counsel” in a sentence:

  • The dog trainer also counsels the owners for better progress. (verb)
  • The counsel from her psychologist gave her skills to tackle life. (noun)