Instill vs. Instil –What’s the Difference?

As time has elapsed and American culture has come into its own, American and British writers have adopted slightly different spelling conventions. There are far too many rules to address them all in this brief post, but one involves the doubling of consonants at the end of some words. Americans do it frequently, but the British do it less so.

Instill and instil illustrate this rule well. They are two variations of the same word, with one being more common in American English and one being standard in British English.

What is the Difference Between Instill and Instil?

In this article, I will compare instill vs. instil. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in context.

Plus, I will show you a helpful mnemonic that you can use to train yourself to choose instill or instil correctly each time.

When to Use Instill

Define instil and define instillWhat does instill mean? Instill is a verb that means to put something into something else, like an idea in someone’s mind, or eyedrops into someone’s eyes.

Here are a few examples of instill in a sentence,

  • “The best way to instill confidence in your team is be a dependable player,” said the basketball coach.
  • Edgar’s romantic travails instilled in him the idea that he was unfit to be loved.
  • The cure for what ailed Neveah was to have Alysha instill eyedrops into her eyes each morning until she got better.
  • These are the values we need to instill in our engineering students — before they absorb the corruption of our investment banks and big business. –The Washington Post

Instill is the preferred spelling of this verb in American English. The following chart is not scientifically precise, since it only looks at books published in English since 1800, but it shows that instill is used over 13 times as frequently in American works,

instill versus instil

When to Use Instil

instill in a sentenceWhat does instil mean? Instil is a spelling variant of the same word. While instill is preferred in American English, instil is preferred in British English, where it has all of the same meanings.

Since instil is the preferred spelling in British English, it is common to see it in British and Australian publications.

For example,

  • Okon conceded that his attempts to instil a proactive — and confident — style in the Mariners had been hampered by the errors that have cost them dearly. –The Daily Telegraph

You can see from the following chart that instil is strongly preferred in British English writing,

Definition of instil definition and definition of instill definition

Trick to Remember the Difference

Now, let’s go over an easy trick to remember instil vs. instill.

We are lucky that the choice between these two spelling variants is an easy one. For British audiences, instil is the better choice. For American audiences, choose instill instead.

There is an easy way to remember that instill is the American spelling of this word. Instill is spelled with a double L, just like the American city of Dallas, Texas.

Summary

Is it instill or instil? Instill and instil are two spelling variants of a verb which means to put something in something else, especially an idea into someone’s mind.

  • Instill is an American English spelling.
  • Instil in a British English spelling.

It’s easy to remember that instill is the American variant since it shares a double L with Dallas, a city in the American South.

English spelling conventions are difficult to understand at times, but now that you are armed with some new information, you should be well on your way to becoming a more thoughtful writer.

If you ever have trouble choosing instil or instill in the future, you can revisit this page for a reminder.

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