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Pill, Drug, and Medicine


Pill, Drug and Medicine
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Hello! Welcome to Ask a Teacher! This week we answer a question from Zafer in Turkey.

Question:

Would you please explain the difference between pill, drug and medicine? Thanks in advance.

Zafer, Turkey

Answer:

Dear Zafer,

Thank you for writing to us. These three words are most often used when we talk about health.

Medicine

In this Oct. 9, 2020, file photo, a health worker, right, administers the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine currently on phase III clinical trials to Cem Gun, an emergency medicine physician at the Acibadem Hospital in Istanbul.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File
In this Oct. 9, 2020, file photo, a health worker, right, administers the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine currently on phase III clinical trials to Cem Gun, an emergency medicine physician at the Acibadem Hospital in Istanbul.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File

Let us begin with the word “medicine.” One meaning is “a substance or drug used to treat disease or pain.” But it is also a general term that describes the science or study of treating or curing disease. Here is an example of that use:

Alex went to the university to study medicine.

Medication

Medication is another word you can use for medicine. They mean the same thing.

An antiviral drug is the only government-approved medication for COVID-19.

Both words are countable and non-countable nouns

Pill

A woman holds an aspirin pill in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's preliminary updated advice released on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, older adults without heart disease shouldn't
A woman holds an aspirin pill in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's preliminary updated advice released on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, older adults without heart disease shouldn't

A pill is a small, rounded object that contains medicine. It is swallowed. Pill is a less general term than drug, medicine or medication. We can use it this way to talk about both vitamins and medications:

Grandpa takes a lot of pills in the morning to stay healthy.

Drug

Finally, we look at the word drug. A drug can be a substance in medicine. But drugs are also made, sold and bought for recreational use. Alcohol and marijuana are examples.

Some drugs and medicines require a doctor’s approval for use. Those are called “prescription drugs.”

I hope this helps you to understand how to use these words, Zafer.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

prescriptionn. a written message from a doctor that officially tells someone to use a medicine, therapy, etc.

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