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Language Arts

Patience vs Patients



Do you know the difference between "patience" and "patients"? This article defines "patients" and "patience" and will help you to distinguish the difference between these two easily confused words. Keep reading for more on "patients" vs. "patients."

Please have some patience: I will be able to help you after I am done seeing these other patients.

The confusion between patience and patients comes about for several reasons:

  • they are homophones;
  • their first six letters are identical, making a good part of the word look just the same;
  • the t is not pronounced in patients, which may make it more difficult to remember its presence; and
  • the way English plurals are formed means that many words that end with an /s/ sound are plurals, so we may hear /s/ and assume “plural.”

So let’s see what we can do to help differentiate these words.

Patient Patience

The noun patience has two meanings: the quality of being patient or the capacity for being patient and a particular game of solitaire, played with real or virtual cards. It comes through Middle English pacient from the Latin patient-, the present participle of pati, meaning “to suffer.” Patience is pronounced /PAY shuhns/.

Where does patience come from? It’s one of a group of words that have an -ent form for the adjective and an -ence form for the noun. Here’s a list of some of them:

Noun

Adjective

absent

absence

complacent

complacence

independent

independence

innocent

innocence

patient

patience

present

presence

reminiscent

reminiscence

But notice the pair that begin with p. The words patient and present are both homonyms

First, the singular form of the plural noun patients and the noun form of the adjective patience are homonyms: patient. Second, the singular form of the plural noun presents and the noun form of the adjective presence are homonyms: presentHomonym means that they are both homographs and homophones. (For more about homonyms, homographs, and homophones, see the articles “Homonyms,” “Homographs,” and “Homophones.”)

Patients

Patients is a perfectly regular plural noun, formed by adding -s to the singular form patient. It means “people who are receiving or waiting to receive medical care or treatment.” In linguistics, it can also refer to noun phrases that name someone or something that is acted on. Patients follows the same etymology as patience and has the same pronunciation.

Distinguishing Patience and Patients

First, just bring to the forefront the association between -s as the plural ending and patients. There is at least one word in English for which - ce is the plural form, but it’s so rare that I’m guessing that many people would have trouble thinking of it. (It’s penny/pence.) This is a quick, easy way to keep the words separate in your mind.

Several mnemonics may help you to keep patience and patients from confusing you. First, When a vehicles gets injured, they get dents with an e-n-t-s. When people get injured, they become patients with an e-n-t-s. Patience, on the other hand, lasts for eternity, and that’s why it ends with an e.