Theatre vs Theater | Definition, Spelling & Examples

UK vs US updated on  December 13, 2023 3 min read
Theatre and theater are two spellings of the noun used to refer to the art of theatrical production or the building where theatrical performances take place. The spelling depends on whether you’re using American or British English.

  • In British English, “theatre" is correct.
  • In American English, “theater” is standard.
It’s important to choose one type of English and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Theatre or theater in a sentence
The local theatre/theater put on a fantastic performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The theatre/theater is hosting a series of classical film screenings this month.
Studying the art of theatre/theater allows you to explore the history of storytelling.

Theatre or theater as a proper noun in names

The spelling difference between theatre and theater does not apply when it’s used as a proper noun in a name (e.g., “Boston Theater Company”).

Examples: Theatre or theater in a sentence
British English: Sam loves theatre. He wants to visit the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater.
American English: Sam loves theater. He wants to visit the York Theatre Royal.

Movie theatre or theater

The same spelling distinction applies to the compound noun movie theatre or movie theater.

  • In British English, “movie theatre" is correct.
  • In American English, “movie theater” is more common.
However, movie theatre is very rarely used. Instead, the building in which films or movies are shown is called a cinema in British English.

Examples: Movie theater in a sentence
I haven’t visited the movie theater in ages!
Let’s go to the movie theater this weekend to watch The Little Mermaid.
The movie theater was filled with anticipation as the audience awaited the premiere.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Parts of speech

Rhetoric

Gray vs grey

Action verbs

Metaphor

Judgment or judgement

Stative verbs

Simile

Favour or favor

Transitive verbs

Alliteration

Fulfil or fulfill

Verbs

Assonance

Labor or labour

Nouns

Malapropism


Frequently asked questions about theatre vs theater

Is it musical theatre or theater?

Theatre and theater are different spellings of the same noun. Its spelling depends on the type of English you use.

  • In British English, “theatre” is standard.
  • In American English, “theater” is correct.

This is also true for similar words, such as center or centre, meter or metre, liter or litre, saber or sabre, and fiber or fibre.

It's important to choose one and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it theater or theatre in AP style?

Theatre and theater are spelled differently in American and British English.

  • In British English, “theatre” is standard.
  • In American English, “theater” is used.

AP style follows American English guidelines, so theater is the correct way to spell the noun.

This is also true for similar words, such as center or centre, meter or metre, liter or litre, saber or sabre, and fiber or fibre.

Make sure to pick the spelling appropriate to the context you’re writing in and stick to it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

How do you pronounce theatre or theater?

Theatre and theater are two spellings of the same noun.

  • "Theatre" is standard in British English.
  • "Theater" is standard in American English.

They’re both pronounced [thee-uh-ter], despite the difference in spelling. However, the pronunciation may vary slightly depending on regional dialect. For example, in American English, the final syllable may be pronounced with a “d” sound instead of a “t” sound: [thee-uh-der].

It's important to choose one type of English and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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