“Bath” and “bathe” are similar in spelling and meaning, but there are critical differences in how they are used. “Bath” will always be used as a noun. If you are taking a bath, you are washing yourself with water, typically in a tub (although avid campers could certainly refer to a dip in a river as a bath). “Bathe” is a verb, which refers to the action of taking a bath.
Conversely, in British English, “bath” is a verb. A British English speaker might say, “I need to bath” instead of the American English version, “I need to bathe.” British English speakers would typically only use “bathe” when referring to swimming.
Related: British vs. US Spellings
If you’re feeling confused, don’t panic – you’ve come to the right place! Let’s look at how American English and British English differ regarding “bathe” and “bath” so that you can use them confidently.
American English uses bathe to describe washing, while British English uses bathe to describe swimming. For both dialects, bathe could also mean pouring liquid over something. Here are some examples of how each dialect might use bathe:
BRITISH EXAMPLE: Steven jumped into the rushing current headfirst, unable to contain his excitement as he bathed in the river.
AMERICAN EXAMPLE: Jennifer bathed her infant daughter in the sink, taking great care to support her head properly.
Remember that bath is always a noun in American English. It could also refer to the room where baths occur (in other words, “bathroom” becomes “bath”), the liquid that one takes a bath in (like an Epsom salt bath), or even the container used for a bath (like a tub). British English, on the other hand, can also use bath as a verb, which is the same way that we use “bathe.” Here are some examples:
AMERICAN EXAMPLE: Sarah always takes an Epsom salt bath at the end of a race to soothe her aching muscles.
AMERICAN EXAMPLE: I wish I could renovate my bath, but hiring a contractor is just too expensive right now.
AMERICAN EXAMPLE: “You have mud all over you. You need to take a bath immediately,” she scolded.
BRITISH EXAMPLE: Parents often struggle with getting their kids to bath before bedtime.