Conscience vs. Conscious

How to use "conscience" and "conscious" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Your conscience is your sense of morality, the “voice in your head” that tells you that you shouldn’t, for example, throw rotten eggs at your English tutor’s car. The adjective form of conscience is conscientious, which means “showing great care and thoroughness”:

obey the dictates of your conscience
a conscientious worker

Conscious is an adjective meaning “awake” or “aware.” Its noun form is consciousness:

felt self-conscious in front of a crowd
regained consciousness

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.