Word of the Day: Sick vs Ill ♦Toothache vs A Toothache ♦ Ache vs Hurt

Every time time I need to write something related to Medicine I cannot but think my father is smiling at me from up above. He wanted me to be a doctor  but  even though I might have done  it, just to please him, the truth is that I would have made an awful physician as  , unfortunately, my knees still go weak whenever I see blood or someone happens to mention the gory details of an accident or operation. Well, that’s me!, the proud daughter of the best doctor ever, who cannot even stand the sight of a needle!

So, daddy, here it is, another post in your memory!!

Sick vs Ill

Ill is often used to mean ‘unwell‘ in British English. In American English ill is unusual except in a formal style. Note that we use ill after a verb.

She is ill.
♥In Attributive position (before a noun), many British people prefer to use sick. Sick is also the normal informal American word for unwell.

The President is sick.
Be sick can mean ‘vomit‘.

[spoiler title=’I was ___ three times during the night’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]sick[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’The problems faced by mentally ___people need to be dealt with’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]ill[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’She is never sea-__’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]sick[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’ His mother is seriously ___ in hospital’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]ill[/spoiler]


Toothache vs  A Toothache

♥ Illnesses are usually uncountable in English, including those ending in -s : measles, flu…

But some more common minor ailments such as: a cold, a headache, a sore throat, a nose bleed, a cough, a rash… are countable, ie, they take the indefinite article (a,an)

♥While in British English, toothache, earache, stomach-ache and backache are uncountable. ( I have earache) in American English , they are generally countable if they refer to particular attacks of pain.


I have toothache (BrE)  //  I have a toothache (Am E)

(Source Practical English Usage – Micheal Swan)

Ache vs Hurt

♥ What ‘s the difference between My leg hurts and My leg aches?

If your leg aches you have a continuous, dull (not intense) pain.

If your leg hurts, it is often stronger and sudden. Ex. Ouch! My leg hurts!

On the other hand, ache is used both as a noun and as a verb whereas hurt is only used as a noun.

[spoiler title=’I have a(n) ___ in my stomach’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]ache[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’The pain in the small of his back was worse and there was a dull __ in his arms’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]ache[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’I ___my hand on that broken glass’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]hurt[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’He ___ my feelings by ignoring me’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]hurt[/spoiler]


And, now that we are on the subject, how do you fancy answering some questions about this issue? If you need to revise the vocabulary , click here

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2 thoughts on “Word of the Day: Sick vs Ill ♦Toothache vs A Toothache ♦ Ache vs Hurt

  1. Thanks once again for your posts. I’m going to show it to my students , and I hope your father has smiled with it.

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