CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between cooperate and co-operate

To use a hyphen or not to use a hyphen, that is the question…!

cooperate (verb)—to work together towards a mutual end; to assist someone

The girls would get nowhere if they didn’t cooperate with each other.

‘Timmy, you’ll get a smack if you don’t cooperate!’

But which is the correct spelling—cooperate or co-operate? Relax, it depends on which form of English you have adopted as your own. Though it may appear that the hyphenated co-operate is the spelling of choice in British English, while American English prefers cooperate, you will readily find both these spellings used widely in England and America, regardless of which form of English is used. Both are correct and accepted worldwide.

While the spelling co-operate helps establish the pronunciation of the word, there is no word in the English language which is pronounced ‘coo-perate’, so the spelling cooperate should not be an issue for any reader.

It all boils down to personal choice. Co-operate might seem antiquated to you. I personally use cooperate. Just remember, pick your spelling and stick with it. Above all else, be consistent!

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