English borrows words from many sources. In many cases, multiple English words share the same origin, even if they are difference parts of speech. This is the case for the words proof and prove. Even though they are usually different parts of speech in English, they both originate from the Latin word probare.
Despite these similar origins, prove and proof should not be used the same way in modern English. They are different parts of speech. I will discuss these differences below.
What is the Difference Between Proof and Prove?
In this article, I will compare proof vs. prove. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence. Then, I will show you a helpful mnemonic you can use to help you choose proof or prove in your own writing.
When to Use Proof
What does proof mean? The word proof can become several parts of speech. Usually, proof is a noun with three main senses.
Sometimes, it is a synonym for evidence, like in these sentences,
- You must submit proof of residence to apply for a driver’s license.
- I need proof before I can let you proceed.
Other times, it means a test copy of something, especially a coin or a photograph. See this sentence for an example,
- Please submit the proofs to the managing editor so the issue can go to press.
Finally, in mathematics and formal logic, proof can also mean a deductive argument. Here is an example,
- The mathematical proof of Bertrand’s postulate is something that I do not understand.
Rarely, proof can be a verb, as well. In such cases, it is usually a shortened form of proofread, which means to check a document for accuracy.
Proof can also be an adjective, where it refers either to a material’s impermeability to a specific substance, like in the compound waterproof, or the alcoholic content of a beverage, like the phrase high-proof liquor.
When to Use Prove
What does prove mean? Prove is much simpler. It is a verb, where it usually means to verify something as true or to demonstrate one’s competence.
I have included some examples below,
- Gregor will have to prove himself before he can join Father in the great hunt.
- These fingerprints prove that the burglary was committed by the suspect’s child.
- In science, we do not prove things; we disprove them.
Trick to Remember the Difference
If this is a bit too much to remember right now, here is a helpful trick to remember prove vs. proof.
In the majority of cases, prove is a verb, while proof is a noun. There are rare exceptions to this rule, but they should be avoided in formal writing. Use proofread instead of proof when you mean to check something for accuracy.
Thus, in professional and academic contexts, you can use the shared V between prove and verb to remind yourself that prove is always a verb.
Is it proof or prove? Despite the common origin of these two words, they have different meanings and uses in modern English.
- Proof has several uses; it can be a noun, an adjective, and rarely, a shortened form of the verb proofread.
- Prove is a verb that either means to demonstrate one’s competence or to verify something.
In formal writing, you should avoid using proof as a verb. Proofread would be a better choice for these circumstances, clearing the way for you to use prove as a verb. Since these words are both spelled with V, this should be an easy rule to remember.
- Use proof as a noun or adjective.
- Use prove as a verb.
If choosing prove or proof gives you any trouble in the future, you can always revisit this article.