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Counsel vs. Council

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There are many words that sound the same or nearly the same, but have different meanings. In English, these words are called homophones. Counsel and council are two often misused near homophones. To make matters worse, their contexts are often related. If you aren’t sure whether you mean to use council or counsel continue reading for an exploration of these words.

In this article, I will compare council vs. counsel. I will use each word in a sentence, illustrating its proper meaning and context. I will also explain a useful trick to help you decide whether council or counsel is correct, based on the context of your sentence.

Origin:

The word counsel originated from Middle English: via Old French counseil (noun), conseiller (verb), from Latin consilium ‘consultation, advice’, related to consulere. The word council originated from Old English (in the sense ‘ecclesiastical assembly’): from Anglo-Norman French cuncile, from Latin concilium ‘convocation, assembly’, from con- ‘together’ + calare ‘summon’.

Counsel as noun:

The word counsel is used as a noun where it means advice, especially that given formally.

With wise counsel a couple can buy a home that will be appreciating in value.

A barrister or other legal adviser conducting a case is also called a counsel.

The counsel for the defence.

Counsel as verb:

Counsel as a verb means to give advice to (someone).

Careers officers should counsel young people in making their career decisions.

Council as noun:

Council as noun means an advisory, deliberative, or administrative body of people formally constituted and meeting regularly.

An official human rights council.

Examples:

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said it was withdrawing from an advisory council being formed by the military leaders.  [NY Times]

I should therefore counsel young poets, in allowing for spirit, to value language as incantation and magic. [Paul Hoover Poetry]

A New Jersey town council is trying to rein in roosters’ libidos in a bid to keep the noise down. [Daily Mail]

But I would counsel against taking any major decisions so soon after your dad has died. [Guardian]

Counsel or council:

Council and counsel are all nouns, but only counsel can also be used as a verb. A council is a group of people appointed to make decisions. Counsel is another word for advice. As a verb, counsel also means to give advice. Here is a helpful trick to remember counsel vs. council. If the word you are using is a verb, use counsel. Council and consul are never verbs.

If you are still confused, don’t hesitate to counsel this article as often as you need for a quick refresher.

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"Counsel vs. Council." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 19 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/counsel_vs._council>.

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