Conscience vs. Conscious: What’s the Difference?

There are a lot of commonly confused words in English, and these two are no exception. People regularly mix up conscience for conscious or vice versa.

And no wonder; it’s pretty easy to do. These words are both tough to spell, generally losing people after c-o-n-s-?

Spelling aside, however, both words have similar pronunciations—not identical but similar—and both words have to do with our minds.

With all of these similarities, it’s no wonder they get mixed up, but today I want to clear up any confusing you have about these words and give you a few tricks to remember the difference between them. After reading this post, you won’t ever make the conscience vs. conscious mistake again.

When to Use Conscience

conscience vs consciousnessConscience is a noun and is defined as an awareness of morality in regard to one’s behavior. For example,

  • My conscience told me not to take the money.
  • Whenever I don’t know what to do, I let me conscience be my guide.
  • The burglar must have had a turn of conscience because he returned all of the stolen goods.

When you hear the phrase “guilty conscience,” this is the spelling that people mean.

Idioms Using Conscience

There are a few different idioms involving conscience.

To do something “in good conscience” means that you did an honest, fair act by anyone’s standards.

To have something “on your conscience” means that something is causing you to feel guilty or uneasy.

When to Use Conscious

conscious vs consciousnessConscious is an adjective and means characterized by or having an awareness of one’s environment; mentally perceptive or alert.

You might hear this term used frequently if you work in a doctor’s office.

  • Is the patient conscious?
  • We are unaware of any conscious life on other planets.
  • I made a conscious decision not to attend the event.

Conscious generally means being aware of one’s self and one’s own actions.

A “conscious act” is one that you are aware of and intentionally or deliberately executed, such as not attending an event.

The corresponding noun to conscious is consciousness.

Pronunciation of Conscience and Conscious

As I mentioned above, these two words have similar pronunciations, but they are not identical.

Conscience is pronounced kŏn’shəns. It differs from conscious only in the sound that the “n” makes near the end of the word.

Conscious is pronounced kŏn’shəs. You can also closely imitate its sound it you squeeze the two words con and chess together “Con Chess.”

Remember the Difference

A good mnemonic to remember these is that you must be conscious to listen to your conscience.

You can also remember the difference between these words by look at the letters inside of them.

To have a conscience is to have a sense of morality and many elements of science ask moral questions. Science is in the word conscience.

To be conscious is to be aware of your surroundings. Both of these words have “ou’s” in them.

Summary

While these words have many similarities and both deal with levels of self-awareness, they each have their own specific use. Mixing up conscious vs. conscience in your writing is an unnecessary cause for embarrassment that is easy to avoid.

Conscience deals with the awareness of one’s own morality.

Conscious deals with the awareness of one’s surroundings.