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Theater vs. Theatre

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3:08 min read
  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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Should we go watch a movie in a theatre or a theater?

English learners and speakers sometimes find it confusing when there are two spellings of a single word on their minds and they can’t choose which ones are right. Theatre (or theater) is one such confusing word with two spellings that are common but which one is right? If you are fighting with your subconscious about what are the acceptable spellings of theatre, keep reading further.


The word theatre originated from late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron, from theasthai which means ‘behold’.

Theatre as noun:

Theatre is used as a noun in English language where it means a building or outdoor area in which plays and other dramatic performances are given; a cinema.

There's a good play on at the theatre.

The activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays is also known as theatre.

What made you want to go into the theatre?

Theatre is also a play or other activity or presentation considered in terms of its dramatic quality.

Julius Caesar is an intense, moving, and inspiring theatre.

A room or hall for lectures with seats in tiers is sometimes called theatre too.

The professor called everyone to the theatre.

A room where surgery or operation is performed is also called a theatre.

Respiratory function is carefully controlled and monitored throughout the patient's stay in theatre.

Theatre is also used to denote weapons intermediate between tactical and strategic.

He was working on theatre defense missiles.

Theater vs. Theatre

Theatre vs. Theater:

Theater and theatre are different spellings of the same word described above. The main thing that most English speakers and learners need to know is that theater is the preferred spelling in American English, and theatre is preferred virtually everywhere else. The American preference for theater is a late-20th-century development (though the spelling itself is a centuries-old variant), so it is understandable that some people still resist it, and its newness means that exceptions are very easily found, but in this century the preference is entrenched. Some Americans do make distinctions—for instance, that a theater is a venue while theatre is an art form, or that a theater is a movie theater while a theatre is a drama venue.


He rails against naturalistic theater as trite and trivial. [Marin Independent-Journal]

First, historians of theater and drama have described an increasingly out professional class of theater practitioners.  [Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater, Robin Bernstein]

The theater scene is buzzing this week, with a head-spinning array of recommended shows running on local stages. [Buffalo News]

Similarly, the field of theater studies to date has largely ignored her dramatic output. [Mama Dada: Gertrude Stein’s Theater, Sarah Bay-Cheng]

Perhaps it’s forehead-slappingly obvious to say so, but theatre struggles to do likewise. [Guardian]

In the spring of 1968 Ruben moved to Canada with the intention of serving as the Toronto Star‘s backup theatre critic. [Establishing our Boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism, Anton Wagner]

Budding theatre stars in Chester are invited to take part in a number of classic West End themed workshops. [Chester First (link now dead)]

She … applauds parents for taking their children to the theatre when there are so many other entertainment options. [Herald Sun]

When to use which spellings?

Remember that if you belong to America you should use theater instead of theatre as these are the spellings found in American English but if you live in England specifically or Europe generally you should use theatre. If however, you reside in an English speaking country other than Europe or America, the spellings you choose are of your choice or preference but stick to whatever you choose throughout your writing.




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  • Peter Dickinson
    Peter Dickinson
    Movie theatres, even in America, are theatres as in AMC Theatres. If you go to see a play on Broadway the American spelling of theater is adopted in the US. Outside the US, English speaking countries use theatre but beyond North America the word theatre is not associated with cinema other than the adjectival use of theatrical in "theatrical release". American usage is a strange but understandable divergence from the normal 'er' and 'ou' differences found in the US version of English spelling and most of the rest of the English speaking world. It is just a little bit weird and native English speakers, wherever they are, just accept the difference and often don't even notice. All English speakers have their local way of spelling colour or color and metre or meter but theatre or theater is a bit different. 
    LikeReply4 years ago
  • Thomas Peasley
    Thomas Peasley
    If we truly speak "English" then theatre would be correct.
    LikeReply 14 years ago
  • Jason Michael
    Jason Michael
    I was born in the USA, and live in the USA, and yet I spell theatre, instead of theater.
    LikeReply 16 years ago


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