I have heard a television news figure say what sounds like verse when it seems he means to say versus. Is this an alternate pronunciation, or is it a different word? If it's a different word, what is the spelling?

I suspect it's a mistake, but it is MSNBC news talk show host, Chris Hayes, who generally seems to speak in standard English in a way that indicates he is highly educated, who I've repeatedly heard use this word.

For instance, he might say what sounds like, "Consider policy A 'verse' policy B."

There is a very similar question here on ELU asking about using verse as a verb to mean challenge, which I believe is related but not the same as my question.

  • 4
    Three possibilities. Either you've misheard, or Hayes isn't a particularly "careful" speaker, or he's unaware of standard English. I think most likely the first - but if you provide an audio link showing exactly how he enunciates the word, I've no doubt it'll be the second. The third possibility is vanishingly unlikely except from people with limited language skills. Nov 17, 2013 at 4:00
  • @FunbleFingers As with this case, english.stackexchange.com/questions/117986/…, I believe you may be overly optimistic. However, in this case (regarding option 3) I'm not sure you're wrong. ; ) I'll try to dig up an audio link.
    – sarah
    Nov 25, 2013 at 8:43
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    Irrelevant, really, but I've heard my young son and many of his friends use "verse" as a verb, repeatedly: "I am going to verse him in chess"; "I versed him in Pokemon and won!" Nov 26, 2013 at 15:28
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    I would guess that the final "ez" sound of "versus" is being partially elided in rapid speech, and if the ear is not "tuned" to hearing such partial elisions it may miss the sound entirely, while others will hear it with no difficulty. In some cases such elisions are common to particular accents, and an ear used to the accent may not notice anything while someone unfamiliar with the accent may detect all sorts of such anomalies.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 9, 2014 at 22:31
  • It's an /s/ at the end of versus, not a /z/. That makes two /s/'s in a row, which is difficult to pronounce, to say the least. It's like the two /s/'s at the end of sixths -- the /θ/ gets deleted (3 fricatives in a row!), leaving only a long /s:/ after the /k/. Jun 12, 2023 at 18:02

5 Answers 5


I've frequently heard people, including highly educated people, say "verse" instead of "versus" as a sort of informal, shortened version of "versus." In particular in my experience it is an alternate pronunciation of the abbreviation "vs." So if I had to write out that pronunciation, I would use the abbreviation, not the word "verse," as "verse" is an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning.

  • 2
    I agree with this. People, myself included, will occassionally pronounce "A vs B" as /A verse B/.
    – DyingIsFun
    Jul 20, 2016 at 3:30

I actually have witnessed over the last 30 years the evolution of the use of the word versus used in conversation to have become pronounced verse, as if the speaker believes that because it’s often written as vs they pronounce it verse not being aware of the word versus and that vs was used forever as an abbreviation, like say in a boxing poster. Even educated intelligent people like Chris Hayes just come from a younger generation who learned it wrong through the now prominent mispronunciation. The evolution of a colloquialism becoming a legitimate part of the English language


Yes, it's common to hear /vəɹs/ "verse" for "vs.". I'd speculate that what is going on is, people are reanalyzing "/vərsəz/" as the 3rd-person form of a verb (so that "Ed vs. Joe" is heard as "Ed verses Joe"), so when they say something like "I'll vs. you in Mario Kart" they treat it as the verb their head has created, so they delete the -es, as you would, and say "I'll verse you in Mario Kart".


It's 2022 and I've noticed this a lot, initially with Americans in YouTube videos but now some Brits too. I think they just don't realise that the word is "versus", not "verse".

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    – Community Bot
    Oct 11, 2022 at 10:40

No, verse is a completely different word than versus. Versus is used when comparing A to B (as in "A versus B"), while verse is like a verse in the Bible or Koran, somewhat similar in meaning to stanza.

See also:


  • Welcome to ELU! We always appreciate source references. :-) Dec 22, 2013 at 7:58
  • This is just knowledge from the top of my head, but you can verify it with the links I will post shortly.
    – user60295
    Dec 22, 2013 at 15:24

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