Lil' but Mighty English Blog

Relieve? or Relief? – Which One Is It?

Relieve. Relief. Most students tend to use these two words interchangeably. Are they acceptable spellings of the same word?

Hi, I’m Ms Lee, a teacher at Lil’ but Mighty, and the answer to this question is no, relieve and relief are not acceptable spellings of the same word. What is their difference then? Consider the following example to help you identify their difference.

e.g. Taking medication helps to relieve the pain in my foot.

e.g. Taking medication provides relief from the pain in my foot.

Have you noticed how the words are used differently? If yes, you would agree with me to say that relieve is used as a verb while relief is a noun. In the first example, you can see how taking medication leads to the action of relieving or reducing the pain in my foot. In the second example, “relief” is referred to as a thing (in this case the feeling) that I get from taking medication.

A great tip on how to use these words differently is to pay attention to the word that comes before and/or after relieve or relief. As relieve is a verb, you often need to have a noun after it to show that the action was done to somebody or something.

e.g. Jackson wanted to relieve the stress he felt by taking a walk.

Here, Jackson is doing the action “to relieve” to the noun “stress” such that he feels better. Another clue is also the use of “to” that must always be followed by an infinitive, which is a verb in its base form.

As for “relief”, you can look out for articles like “the” and “a”, pronouns like “his/her”, or prepositions like “with”, “in” and “of” which hint to you that a noun/noun phrase should follow after them. Let’s look at a common example.

e.g. Jackson heaved a sigh of relief after taking a nice long walk.

Notice how the “sigh” is followed by the preposition “of” before the word “relief”. The phrase “a sigh of relief” is a noun phrase which refers to the happiness that Jackson now feels aPer taking a walk. Try the following questions to see if you have nailed the use of these different word forms!

Q1. The dog tried to ( relieve / relief ) its pain by licking its wound.

Q2. She Lance smiled in with ( relieve / relief ) upon hearing the good news. 

Did you manage to answer them correctly? Let’s check your answers!

Q1. The dog tried to ( relieve / relief ) its pain by licking its wound.

Here, the first clue is “to” which hints for the need to use the verb form of the word. Secondly, the noun phrase “its pain” that follows after shows us that the dog was acting on its pain and reflects the need for a verb here.

Q2. Lance smiled with ( relieve / relief ) upon hearing the good news.

In this question, the use of the preposition “with” signals the need for a noun to follow aPer it and we therefore use “relief” for this sentence. The use of “relief” here is also a noun, a thing for the reason why Lance is smiling.

Fun fact: The word “believe” and “belief” follow a similar pattern too! “Believe” is the verb form of the word and used as a verb while “belief” is the noun form of the word. Remember to spell and use them correctly in the exams with the tips here!

Now that you know the difference between “relieve” and “relief”, some of you may still be wondering about the use of “relieved”. Is it a verb or a noun? Let’s look at the following example of “relieved” which students use regularly in their writing.

e.g. Nitchi was relieved to know that he had passed his test.

Now let’s compare it to this one:

e.g. Nitchi relieved the stress he was experiencing by taking deep breaths.

Figured out how “relieved” can be classified under the word classes yet? The answer is that relieved can be used as both an adjective and the past tense verb form of “relieve”!

In the first example, “relieved” is an adjective that describes the feeling of being happy because something unpleasant has stopped or has not happened. Notice how “relieved” can be replaced with “happy” that shows you its use as an adjective for Nitchi’s feelings.

In the second example, notice how “relieved” is an acBon done by Nitchi to reduce the stress he had felt. Like “relieve”, the verb form of the word is commonly followed by a subject, which in this case is “the stress”.

To summarise, “relieve” is used as a verb while “relief” is used as and a noun. We also discover how “relieved” can refer to the past tense form of “relieve” or be used as an adjective, depending on the way it is used in the sentence.

Let’s take a final test to see if you have nailed how to use “relieve”, “relief” and “relieved” accurately. Pause at each question to read and attempt before I reveal the answer to you!

Q1. You can ( 1. relieve / 2. relief / 3. relieved ) the symptoms of your fever by taking medication.

The answer is number 1, “relieve”! We are using a verb over here as you can see the noun “the symptoms” after it and it means to make the symptoms less serious. Since the verb comes after “can”, we will need to use the infinitive or base form. Therefore the answer will be 1!

Q2. The students were ( 1. relieve / 2. relief / 3. relieved ) to hear that the test had been postponed.

The answer is 3! Notice that we do not see a noun after “relieved” and based on the question, the word “relieved” will express how the students felt about the test being postponed. Therefore, the answer will be the adjective “relieved”.

Q3. A wave of ( 1. relieve / 2. relief / 3. relieved ) washed over Gurpreet when she found her wallet in her bag.

I hope you saw “a wave of” and got this one right! “A wave of relief” is a noun phrase to express how Gurpreet felt after she found her wallet.

Have any questions that you still can’t seem to solve with the use of “relieve” or “relief”? Feel free to ask them in the comment section below or to simply you can even share your own uses of sentences using these words.

Happy practising! (:

Compre Treasure Chest

Ms. Hui Jun

As a teacher, Ms Hui Jun is driven to create a safe conducive space for learning in her classroom. To achieve this, she makes an effort to build rapport with her students so that they are unafraid to ask questions when in doubt. With an aim for her students to grow from every lesson, she encourages them to reflect on their learning and find ways to connect them to real life application. With this, she hopes to stretch the young minds of all her pupils and to equip them with the language skills necessary in our world today.

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