Grammar Theatre vs. Theater: Which Spelling Is Correct? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Theatre vs. Theater: Which Spelling Is Correct?

Suppose you have a date coming up and want to take your partner to a place where live actors will perform in a play. If you are writing your note in American English, should you invite that person to the theatre or the theater?

We’ll give you a quick answer to the theatre vs. theater question. We’ll also explain why there are two spellings in the first place.

Should I Write Theatre or Theater?

To start with, both theatre and theater are nouns that mean the same thing: a building or an area for presenting dramatic performances, stage entertainments, or movies. They are simply alternate spellings of the same word.

Neither spelling is technically more correct than the other. Both versions also are pronounced the same way. The main distinction between the two spellings is regional.

In the United States, the spelling theater is preferred.

In Commonwealth countries, the same word is typically spelled as theatre.

If you are in America and you write theatre, you might give your word a dash of flair with a foreign spelling, but you also might receive a corrective note from a reviewer.

Exceptions to the Spelling of Theater in the U.S.

Of course standard spellings have their exceptions, such as when a performance company intentionally uses the alternate spelling as part of a proper noun.


I hope to see you at The Golden Theatre on Main Street.

This treatment would be wholly acceptable. Some style guides also might indicate a preference for theatre, particularly if a website or publication has an international audience.

These usages are always possible but often more rare on our side of the Atlantic, however, so you’ll usually find yourself spelling theater in our conventional way.

Why Are American and British Words Spelled Differently?

Languages are living things. Every time someone speaks or writes a new version of a word—intentionally or accidentally—there is the chance it will catch on.

Many new words and phrases also spring up as local variations or even mispronunciations. As the distance between two areas increases, so does the chance that spellings or pronunciations will change. For example, neighboring villages may tend to share the same spelling and pronunciation of a word more often than different countries will.

Most variances between British and American English, such as theatre and theater, are fairly easy to work out. They might cause small typos or moments of confusion, but they usually won’t stop a reader from understanding the message or intent. By engaging discussions such as this one, you keep yourself open to factors that further shape you as a constantly improving communicator.

Need More Grammar Tips and Advice?

Our website offers you answers to a wide range of grammatical questions. We add new content weekly as well. You can also ask a question or suggest a topic below!

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

Leave a Comment or Question:

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *