I've often wondered why my Ohio license is called a "driver license". It is awkward to say it like that.

Wouldn't something like driver's license be more appropriate?

Or driving license (like hunting license)?

results from the almighty google

(Note: image above shows driver, driver's, and drivers variations.)

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    Questions with pictures, automatic +1, but what's with the babies? – Callithumpian Jun 28 '11 at 20:29
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    @callithumpian I don't know--that's just what came up in Google when I searched for driver license. Maybe people think they're cute so they share them – Michael Haren Jun 28 '11 at 20:35
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    Hahaha! Nice one, didn't see it until @Callithumpian pointed it out!\ – Thursagen Jun 28 '11 at 20:35
  • @Callithumpian: to say nothing of the vulgar gesture being made by the Ontario tyke... – PSU Jun 28 '11 at 21:48
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    Interesting that no one all those years ago pointed out that "driver" in "driver license" is a perfectly grammatical attributive noun. – Wlerin Sep 28 '14 at 10:09

New Oxford American has this:

driver's license |ˈdraɪvərz ˈˈlaɪsns| noun a document permitting a person to drive a motor vehicle. driving licence noun British term for driver's license .

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    I don't think I've ever heard "driving license" here in the US. – jackgill Jun 28 '11 at 20:39
  • and yet my license (and most of those in the image) say "driver license"... – Michael Haren Jun 28 '11 at 20:53
  • In New South Wales, Australia - it's "Driver Licence". – WOPR Jun 29 '11 at 0:03
  • In India subcontinent it's called "Driving Licence" – user80674 Jun 19 '14 at 19:46
  • NSW Australia here too: yep, to my surprise, my licence card has "Driver Licence" on it, even though I've never heard anyone say anything but "Driver's Licence". – MGOwen Nov 24 '14 at 5:04

Actually, try reading it like this:

Licence of Driver.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, although we would be more comfortable saying "driver's" or "driving"

"Driver" is just describing what kind of a license it is, not whose. Other examples would be "bar-tender license" not "bar-tender's license"

  • But when you talk about a restaurant license, you talk about a, well, restaurant license, not a restaurant's license. Whereas if you're talking about a driver's license, you almost always use the possessive. So this can't be the difference. – Marthaª Jun 28 '11 at 20:59
  • Agreed. I had to look at mine (Connecticut, USA) to discover what it said; I've always used "driver's" conversationally, and it took me by surprise. When I thought it through, this is the answer I came up with also. – PSU Jun 28 '11 at 21:51

The answer is that the name of the document is prescribed by law. The name is just whatever was chosen when the legislation was written.

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    ok, so if a legislator asked what he or she should write, what would you advise? – Michael Haren Jun 28 '11 at 23:36
  • I would advise driver's license because it makes the most sense grammatically. It literally means "license of (some unspecified) driver." Phrases that use the possessive similarly that come to mind are swimmer's ear and plumber's grease. Driving license also makes sense, but sounds more British to me. – jackgill Jun 28 '11 at 23:54
  • @Michael Haren: Fortunately, an unlikely situation to arise, given the spread of requirements for licences to drive motor vehicles. – Marcin Jun 29 '11 at 8:15

Using of driver/ driver's or driving license depends very much on what we are trying to say:

For example I would say: a. I lost my driving license. b. It was about a driver license. c. I renewed my driver's license. (Provided that it is clear that I am talking about my driver's driving license.)

But again, in daily conversations, they are used almost interchangeably thus causing such confusions.

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    What region are you from? I live in New England, and everyone I know would use the phrase "driver's license" in all of those situations. I don't think I have ever heard anyone say "driving license" or "driver license." – Trent Bing Sep 28 '14 at 7:42

protected by tchrist Sep 28 '14 at 8:01

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