Word Choice: Curb vs. Kerb

Curb vs. Kerb

The words ‘curb’ and ‘kerb’ sound the same. However, they’re spelled differently and mean different things. And to make things more confusing, ‘curb’ is used differently in American English.

All of this means it’s easy to get ‘curb’ and ‘kerb’ confused. To ensure your writing is always error free, then, check out our guide to using these terms correctly in Australian English.

Curb (Limit or Restrain)

As a verb, ‘curb’ means ‘limit or restrain something unwanted’. For example, we could use it to describe cracking down on something:

Police have increased patrols to curb vandalism.

‘Curb’ can also be a noun that refers to a limit or restraint placed on something. For instance, we could say:

You need to put a curb on your bad behaviour.

So in Australian English, the word ‘curb’ always refers to limiting or restraining something. This applies as both a noun and a verb.

Kerb (Pavement Edge)

The word ‘kerb’ is always a noun and refers to the raised edge of a pavement or path. For instance, we might say:

I nearly tripped on the kerb while crossing the road.

This spelling is standard in Australian English (and in most English dialects outside North America). However, it is never used in American English.

The Word ‘Curb’ in American English

American English uses the spelling ‘curb’ for both limitations and the edge of a pavement (or ‘sidewalk’ if we’re going full American here).

In the US, then, people would write:

I nearly tripped on the curb while crossing the road.

You’ll often see ‘curb’ used like this online. However, this would be incorrect in Australian English, where the correct spelling is ‘kerb’.

Curb or Kerb?

If you’re using Australian English, or writing for an Australian audience, make sure to distinguish between ‘curb’ and ‘kerb’.

The key is that the raised edge of a pavement or path is known as a ‘kerb’ in Australia. ‘Curb’, meanwhile, is a verb meaning ‘limit or restrain’. In American English, meanwhile, the spelling ‘curb’ is correct in both cases. Remember:

Curb = Limit or restrain

Kerb = Raised edge of path or pavement

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