Spelling Tips: Centre vs. Center
  • 3-minute read
  • 12th November 2021

Spelling Tips: Centre vs. Center

You may come across both “center” and “centre” in written English. But how do you know which one to use in your writing? The key question is which dialect you are using. Read on to find out how to use “center” and “centre” correctly.

What Does “Center” Mean?

“Center” can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, it can refer to the exact middle of something:

There was a cherry tree in the center of the garden.

It can also mean a place or building used for a certain activity:

He’s going to the shopping center later.

Have you been to the sports center?

Finally, it can be used to refer to a person or thing that is the focus of interest:

She hates being the center of attention.

The verb “to centre” means to place something in the middle of an area, or to focus or revolve around a principal topic:

I centered all the headings in this document.

Miguel’s thoughts mostly centered around food.

In American English, the spelling is always “center,” with an “-er” at the end.

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“Center” or “Centre”: American vs. British English

So, what does “centre” mean? Just the same as “center”! The only difference is that “centre,” with an “-re” at the end, is the correct spelling in British English (and similar dialects, such as Australian English):

The nurse works at the town’s medical center.

The conference centered on crime.

You should use “centre” in all cases in British and Australian English, except when you are referring to a proper noun of American origin, such as the World Trade Center.

When it comes to conjugating the verb “to centre/center,” tenses are formed slightly differently. “To center” is a regular verb, which means it follows this pattern:

“To centre,” however, follows the pattern of verbs ending in a silent “-e”:

  • Take the base form of the verb, drop the final “-e” and add “-ed” for the simple past and past participle, and “-ing” for the present participle. 

Have a look at these examples:

American English: He centered the painting on the wall.

British English: He centred the painting on the wall.

American English: I am centering my thoughts.

British English: I am centring my thoughts.

Summary: Centre or Center?

“Centre” and “center” are variants of the same word. The only distinction between them is dialect:

  • Center is the standard spelling in American English.
  • Centre is the standard spelling in British and Australian English.

Note that, due to the spelling difference, the two variants of the verb are conjugated slightly differently. We hope this post helps you to use “centre” and “center” correctly. If you need further help, our expert proofreaders can check your spelling and correct other mistakes in your writing. Upload a trial document for free to see what we can do!

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