When to Use Moral or Morale

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
It's hard to imagine that adding an 'e' to a word can completely change the meaning. Moral and morale have two different meanings and pronunciations. In this lesson, you will learn the meaning and the correct usage of moral and morale.

A Brief Peace In a Time of War

During the first Christmas of World War I (1914-1918), morale was still relatively high among German and British soldiers, the main combatants in the war. Some soldiers believed there was a code about gentlemanly conduct during war. There were reports that as Christmas came, some enemy soldiers put down their guns for a truce and exchanged small gifts. Some might have even played soccer. While no one knew that four more years of long, terrible war were coming, and that Christmas Day 1914 would be the last truce until 1918, for one day there was a brief peace.

The moral of the story: War does terrible things, but humans can do amazing things.

Moral can function as a noun, a thing, or as an adjective, a word used to describe something. Morale functions as a noun. Moral is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable: MORal (rhymes with oral); morale is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable: morale (rhymes with pal or shall).

The morale of WWI soldiers was boosted by books from home.


Moral As a Noun

When moral functions as a noun, it means the lesson learned at the end of a story.

  • The moral of Little Red Riding Hood is that children should listen to their parents. (life lesson)
  • Fairy tales are usually stories with a moral to teach children important life lessons. (a lesson about good or bad character)
  • Why does all your advice have to have a moral? Please don't judge me! (a lesson about good or bad choices)

Nearly all fairy tales have a moral behind them.
fairy tales

Moral As an Adjective

Moral can function as an adjective. Moral can mean the upstanding quality of a person's character, and the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. Moral can also mean acting the correct way based on accepted behavior.

  • Although the student thought he was a moral person, he decided to cheat on his math exam anyway. (knowing which characteristics are right and wrong)
  • Her moral fiber was unquestioned when she saw the large amount of money on the ground and returned it to it's rightful owner. (quality of her character)

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