Difference between Sick and Ill | Ill vs Sick

What is the Difference between Sick and Ill

The words ‘sick’ and ‘ill’ are used interchangeably. While we can easily use these terms in place of each other, they do have minor differences with respect to context and usage.

Table of Contents:

The words ‘ill’ and ‘sick’ are both used to describe an individual that is afflicted with a disease or a medical condition. However, the major difference lies in their usage – Only speakers of American English use ‘sick’, while the rest of the English accents use ‘ill’. More differences do exist between sick and ill and are summarised as follows:

Table Summarising the Difference between Sick and Ill

Sick Ill
Usage Primarily used as an adjective Can be used as an adjective, adverb and a noun.
Meaning Physical or mental illness.

It can also refer to feeling nauseous.

‘Ill’ can also refer to physical or mental illness.

It can also refer to something being poor in quality.

‘Ill’ also refers to a problem or misfortune.

The Meanings of Sick and Ill

As already discussed, the words ‘sick’ and ‘ill’ generally imply the same meaning – a physical or mental disease. However, ‘ill’ can be used as an adjective, adverb and a noun. Hence, the meanings may also differ accordingly. An important aspect to keep in mind is that ‘sick’ and ‘ill’ cannot be used to refer to injuries. Hence, you cannot say ‘The sick / ill were hospitalised immediately after the car crash.’

  • Sick meaning (adjective):
    • Physical or mental illness
    • Feeling nauseous
  • Ill meaning:
    • (Adjective)
      • Physical or mental illness
      • Substandard quality
    • (Adverb)
      • Imperfect, badly, wrong
      • Barely, only
    • (Noun) 
      • Problem

Examples for Ill and Sick:

We shall explore some examples for both these words:

  • Sick meaning (adjective):
    • Physical or mental illness – Nursing very sick children is a crucial task.
    • Feeling nauseous – She started to feel sick after riding the roller coaster.
  • Ill meaning:
    • (Adjective)
      • Physical or mental illness – People who have fallen ill with Covid-19 can suffer long-term symptoms.
      • Substandard / poor in quality – The aircrash was a direct result of ill judgment by the pilots
    • (Adverb)
      • Imperfect, badly, wrong – The war-torn streets were ill-lit.
      • Barely, only – He could ill afford the cost of his car.
    • (Noun)
      • Problem – Economic ills plagued Germany post World War 2.

Sick vs. Ill – Conclusion

Grammar is one of the building blocks of language, and it is important to students of language for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can help them improve their vocabulary and general sentence structure. Secondly, it can help them better understand the nuances and conventions of the English language. Finally, it can be an invaluable tool when students have to use English professionally. Learning grammar is no easy task, but doing it one step at a time is a very effective way to learn. In this article, we have explored the difference between ‘sick’ and ‘ill’, their meanings, usages as well as various examples to elaborate on those.

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