‘Theatre' vs 'Theater': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 19, 2023

Wondering which spelling of the word to use – ‘theatre’ or ‘theater’? And what is the difference between the two? We’ll cover that in this article, plus teach you how to use the correct spelling of the word in a sentence.

The quick answer is that ‘theatre’ is the British English spelling of the word, and ‘theater’ is the American English spelling of the word.

They both mean the same thing – a venue used to enjoy dramatic performances, plays, or films.

‘Theatre’ vs. ‘Theater’ – What’s the Difference?

As we just revealed, the only difference between these two words is that ‘theatre’ is the UK spelling of the word and ‘theater’ is more common with American audiences.

They both mean the same thing.

‘Theater’ and ‘Theatre’ – How Is It Spelled?

Technically, both spellings of the word are correct. The more common spelling in America is ‘theater’, and the more common spelling in the UK is ‘theatre.’

There are a few words with British counterparts in the English language, including learned and learnt and gray and grey.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Theatre’ and ‘Theater’

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of these words is a building or area for showing motion pictures or dramatic performances.

It’s also used to refer to dramatic plays or drama itself.

You might also see it as part of the phrase ‘movie theater.’ A movie theater is a place you go to watch recently released movies. It’s also called a cinema.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Theatre’ and ‘Theater’

Not quite sure how to pronounce these words? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce both words, use the phonetic spelling: THEE-UH-TUH

How to Use ‘Theatre’ and ‘Theater’ in a Sentence

Now that you know what the words mean and how to pronounce them, let’s see some examples of how to use them in a sentence.

  • I accidentally told you to meet me at the theater at three o’clock instead of four. I’m so sorry!
  • I’ve never really been into theater, but my sister was in a play in high school.
  • Would you go back to the movie theater with me? I think I dropped my wallet there last night.
  • I’ve always loved drama club. My mom used to act in high school in her theater club.
  • I need that t-shirt for theater after school. Can you please wash it for me?
  • Let’s get to the theater early. I want to make sure we get good seats.

Remember, these words can be used interchangeably if your audience happens to change. The meaning will remain unchanged.

Final Thoughts on ‘Theatre’ and ‘Theater’

To recap, you learned that both words mean the same thing, but that ‘theatre’ is the preferred spelling in the UK, while ‘theater’ is the preferred spelling in the U.S. Therefore, they can be used interchangeably if your audience suddenly changes.

If you ever get stuck, you can always come back for a quick refresher. We’ve also got a whole library of content on other confusing words and phrases you might come across while learning the language. Go check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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