The words “aid” and “aide” are separated by one letter in terms of spelling, sound the same, and have a meaning that intersects at one point, so it’s easy to understand why some people mix the two up. After all, an aide’s job is to aid, but not all aid comes from an aide. Does that sound confusing? Don’t worry – even people whose first language is English can mix the two up.
In today’s Grammar Corner, we teach you the difference between the words “aid” and “aide.” While one word acts as both a noun and verb, the other is a job title that often performs the said verb. Let’s get into it.
Aid vs. Aide
These two words are homophones, which means they sound the same but have different spelling and meaning. So, while you can get away with confusing the two when speaking, readers can detect your error when you add (or fail to add) that extra ‘e’. So, what’s the difference between “aid” and “aide”?
“Aid” is both a noun and a verb that often refers to providing material help (often through the form of monetary donations) or voluntary assistance. In terms of a noun, “aid” is the goods or assistance given by one party to another because the receiver is usually in need of it.
For example, when Haiti suffered the aftermath of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010, plenty of countries around the world donated aid in the form of money, relief goods, and volunteer assistance to rebuild Haiti. So, if you’ve donated to an organization, you can say that you’ve provided “aid” to the calamity victims. Or when a person wants to get into college but cannot afford it and does not want to be burdened with student loans, they can opt to apply for scholarships, which are also called “financial aid.”
The word “aid” can also be used as a verb. Instead of being the object given to those in need, it is the act of those helping the ones in need. While you can donate aid to Haiti, you can also say that you aided the victims.
The term isn’t just limited to volunteerism, donations, and goodwill, though. In sports, you can say one player “aided” another player to score a point. In medicine, people who are hard of hearing may have to wear a “hearing aid” to perform daily activities.
So, whether used as a noun or verb, the word “aid” refers to assistance or help. That’s why it gets confusing when we explain what it homonym, “aide,” means.
“Aide” is used solely as a noun – more specifically, it’s a job role. An aide is also known as an assistant. While there are other words used to describe this position, the term “aide” is often reserved for assistants of politicians and very important people. And this aide’s job? To provide aid to the person they work for.
To use “aide” in a sentence properly, you only need to use it as a noun that describes a person with this job role. For example, if your local mayor’s assistant wants to meet you to discuss certain matters, you can tell your friends, “I’m meeting with the mayor’s aide.” Or when a politician’s aide has revealed the politician’s corrupt side to the public, the press can announce that “the aide claimed the mayor was responsible for the project’s financial failure.”
Aid or Aide?
One could even say that “The aide aided the mayor’s charity to provide aid” and be grammatically correct. But if you’re saying it out loud, it’s a bit of a tongue twister. So, unless that’s the style you’re really going for, it’s best to use synonyms.
These two words are similar because “aid” and “aide” come from the Old French noun “aide” or the noun “aidier,” which means “to help.” Both words come with the implication that there will be something or someone helping another party, which is why the definitions of both are slightly tangible.
One simple way to remember which one is the noun/verb and which one is the job position is to look for the extra ‘e’. Since ‘e’ stands for employee, the additional ‘e’ aide has can remind you that this is an employee of a notable individual.
Let’s recap: aid and aide are homophones that sound exactly the same, are spelled differently, but have meanings that intersect due to their similar origins. While aid can refer to both the material assistance and the act of providing material or physical assistance, an aide is the person employed by VIPs to provide assistance. So, unless you’re talking about the assistant of someone important on the news, it’s more likely that you’re talking about the former, so drop the additional ‘e’.