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.

‘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.”

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
hospitalisation 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.

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