Grammar Curb or Kerb: Which Spelling Is Correct? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Curb or Kerb: Which Spelling Is Correct?

Most of us know that we’re not supposed to drive or park on a street curb. We might also head to the fridge or the pantry to curb our appetite. But what should we do if we come across a kerb—in writing or in real life?

Today we’ll look at the words curb and kerb, including what they mean and how they are used.

The Meaning of the Word Curb

Curb has two different meanings, and most speakers of American English will likely be familiar with each one.

As a noun, a curb is a raised barrier that sits between road and pavement. You would see it in a sentence such as:

I failed my driving test because I ran into a curb during a right turn.

That’s easy enough. As a verb (action word), curb means to keep something under control. You might see it in a sentence such as:

To curb her daughter’s increasing spending, Samantha reduced her allowance.

The implication here is that a new allowance amount was needed to better keep spending under control. That brings us to our next minor point, which is that curb can sometimes be used as a noun in a similar limiting sense.


Jerry wanted to put a curb on the authority of his assistant manager.

Although this is relatively uncommon, it is valid. Whether used as a noun or verb, the word curb involves either the action of limiting something or a physical barrier that limits movement in a literal (street curb) or figurative (interpersonal curb) way.

Our next question now concerns what to do with another word closely related to curb.

What Is a Kerb?

You aren’t likely to come across the word very often in the U.S., but you may sometimes see kerb in communications from the United Kingdom, where it is the preferred spelling of the same word we use (curb) to describe an edge between pavement and road.

Kerb and curb are pronounced the same way on either side of the pond as well. So if you’re in the U.S. and you happen to see a notice that says Don’t park on the kerb, you’ll still know exactly how to comply.

If you hear someone with a British accent tell you not to park on the kerb, you will likely satisfy the request with little thought to the spelling the speaker had in mind.

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