Council vs. Counsel: Wise Up to Using the Right Word

The words council and counsel are examples of homophones. They are pronounced the same, but are spelled differently and do not mean the same thing. Get the facts that you need to know to make a wise decision between council vs. counsel when selecting one of these terms to use in your writing.

council vs counsel examples council vs counsel examples

What Is the Meaning of Counsel?

The word counsel can be used as a noun or a verb. When used as a noun, counsel can refer to advice provided to someone, such as a recommendation to follow a specific course of action. The word counsel also refers to an attorney who provides advice regarding legal matters or representation in a legal proceeding.

  • A company that has its own legal department has in-house legal counsel.
  • A non-employee attorney can serve as outside counsel for a client organization.
  • A person who has expertise in a topic can provide counsel to others.

When used as a verb, the word counsel refers not to the advice itself or to an attorney, but rather to the act of advising. Alternate forms include counseled (past tense) and counseling (present participle) in American English. In British English, the alternate forms have two l's (counselled and counselling).

  • A manager might need to counsel employees who are having performance issues.
  • An ergonomics consultant can provide counseling to a company on how to best structure work areas.
  • A novice might feel more confident in performing a task after being counseled by an expert.

Examples of Counsel in a Sentence

For more insights, consider the example sentences below. Notice that these sentences refer to advice, the act of advising or an attorney. That's why counsel is the correct word to use.

  • Our company's in-house counsel has to review all new policies before they are finalized.
  • The best leaders tend to seek counsel from experts before making important decisions.
  • Our family therapist provided counsel on how to communicate more effectively with one another.
  • I sought counsel from a local master gardener before planting my first vegetable garden.
  • When Stan graduates from law school, he hopes to work as in-house corporate counsel for a Fortune 500 company.

What Is the Definition of Council?

The word council is a collective noun. The word council refers to a group of people who work together to discuss and/or collaborate on issues. Many are tasked with resolving problems, making decisions or establishing rules and regulations. The members of some councils are elected officials, while others have members who are invited or volunteer to participate.

  • Municipalities have city councils as part of their governmental structure.
  • Some churches have parish councils that provide guidance and oversight.
  • Some government agencies partner with industry councils to gain insight from practitioners.

Examples of Council in a Sentence

For a more thorough understanding of the word council, review the sample sentences below. Notice that each one refers to a group of people that would work together. That's why council is the correct word to use.

  • My college professor is running for a seat on the city council.
  • I was invited to be a member of the alumni council for my college.
  • The church council voted to allocate a portion of next year's budget to a mission trip.
  • My sister is thinking about running for president of the student council.
  • I volunteered to serve on my company's employee safety council.

Council vs. Counsel: Sentences With Both Words

There may even be times when both counsel and council should be used in the same sentence. Any time a group of people functioning as a council seeks or receives advice from a lawyer, consultant or other expert, this could be the case.

  • The city council members consulted with legal counsel regarding the new zoning regulations.
  • The alumni council hired a fundraising firm to counsel them on how to implement a new endowment.
  • As a member of the citizen's safety council, I am sometimes called upon to counsel public safety officials on resident concerns.
  • I'd like to seek counsel from past advisory council members before agreeing to participate with the group.
  • My law partner serves as counsel for Mr. Smith, who was just elected to serve as president of the town council.

What About Consul?

The word consul is also easily mixed up with council and counsel. While council and counsel are pronounced the same (koun'səl), consul has a slightly different pronunciation ( kŏn'səl). It also has a completely different meaning. This noun should be used only to refer to a specific type of foreign service role.

  • A consul is a government official who works in foreign service. The individual is tasked to live and work in a specific country for the purpose of helping to advance the economic interests of the country that appointed him or her.
  • Consuls are not diplomats, but they do provide support to the embassy of their home country. They are also involved with visa applications and assist home country citizens with things like emergency travel documents and passport renewals.

Remember that this word applies only to certain foreign service government employees so that you don't confuse it with either counsel or council.


A Word to the Wise

Now that you are wise to how to use council vs. counsel vs. consul, you're on your way to building a strong vocabulary that can't be derailed by commonly confused words. Boost your language usage skills even more by learning the difference between even more homophone pairs. Then, explore other words with one letter different from each other like canon vs. cannon. You'll never have to worry about misusing words again.