Easily confused words: Sick and Ill

When someone isn’t feeling well it’s quite probable that they will declare that they are sick or ill. Although both can be used to describe feeling unwell, these two words can have slightly different meanings. Do you know the different between sick and ill?


‘Sick’ can be used when someone is physically sick and vomits. For example:
“She has eaten bad food and she has just been sick.”

It is also common for someone suffering from nausea to be labeled ‘sick’. There are many examples of this including ‘seasick’, ‘carsick’ and ‘airsick’. Someone might say for example:
“I don’t like going long distances in the car because I get carsick.”

In some cases, ‘sick’ can be used when someone is bored of something. An example of this would be:
“I am sick of eating salad. I’ve eaten it every day this week.”

sick vs. ill someone sick on the sofa


We use ‘ill’ when discussing feeling unwell in general. In the UK, we tend to use ‘ill’ when referring to actual physical ailments.

Diseases and ailments that require medical treatment or hospitalization are more often referred to as an ‘illness’. For example:
“Sarah is ill in hospital with a chest infection”.

In summary, for minor illnesses or vague illnesses you can use ‘sick’, while for more serious illnesses you would probably use ‘ill’. If you follow this rule, then it will be easier for you to accurately describe how you or someone else is feeling.

Do you want to know the difference between homework vs housework and overtime vs overworked? Find out here!