When someone isn’t feeling well, in English we can say they are sick or they are ill. Do you know the difference between these two words? Let’s take a look.
In American English, sick means unwell, for example:
I can’t come to work today. I’m sick.
In British English, we usually only use sick to desribe somebody who feels bad and vomits or needs to vomit.
- Is there a bathroom? I feel sick.
- John has been sick all day.
- If you eat that food, you’ll be sick. (= you will vomit)
We also use sick in expressions such as sick leave and off sick to say that someone is not working because of a health problem:
- She’s not at work today. She’s on sick leave.
- Jake is off sick at the moment. He should be back in the office next week.
We can also use the word in a metaphorical sense in the phrase make somebody sick, to say that something gives an unpleasant feeling, especially anger:
He makes me sick the way he behaves!
In British English, when talking about someone who is unwell, it is more common to say ill than sick:
- I can’t come to work today. I’m ill.
- If you spend too much time in the cold, you will get ill.
- She’s critically ill in hospital.
In American English, ill is more formal than sick and is generally used only for more serious, long-term health problems.