The words “curb” and “kerb” sound the same. However, only “curb” is used in American English. So what does “kerb” mean? When would you use it? And how can you make sure your writing is always error free? Let’s take a look!
Curb in American English
In American English, the word “curb” has two key meanings. The first is related to limiting something. This can be as a verb meaning “place a limit on”:
Police have increased patrols to curb vandalism.
Or it can be as a noun, where it refers to the restraint or limit itself:
You need to put a curb on your bad behavior.
Its second main use is as a noun meaning “raised street edge”:
I nearly tripped on the curb while crossing the road.
In all these cases, American English uses the spelling “curb.” But this isn’t always the case outside North America, as dialects like British English also use the spelling “kerb.” Let’s see how this works in practice.
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British English: I nearly tripped on the kerb while crossing the road.
American English: I nearly tripped on the curb while crossing the road.
This also applies in other English dialects, such as Australian English. But this only applies for the “raised street edge” definition! When referring to a limitation or restraint, all English dialects use the spelling “curb.”
Summary: Curb or Kerb?
In American English, you can use the spelling “curb” for both a restraint and a raised street edge. However, outside North America there is a distinction between “curb” and “kerb” as follows:
Curb can be a verb meaning “restrain” or a noun that refers to a restraint.
Kerb is a noun and refers to the raised edge along the side of a street.
You won’t need “kerb” if you’re only writing for a US audience. But if you’re using British or Australian English, make sure to remember this difference. And if you’d like an expert to check the spelling in any document, we have proofreaders available to help 24/7!