Roll vs. Role – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 17, 2017/ Uncategorized

roll versus role

What is the Difference Between Roll and Role?  

Roll and role are two English homophones. This means they have the same pronunciation but different definitions. Despite sharing the same sound, they have no overlap in meaning.

Roll can be either a verb or a noun, and its main definition involves making revolutions or moving on wheels.

  • The car’s brakes weren’t working properly, and it began to roll uncontrollably down the hill.

Role has to do with what functions a person performs, usually at some type of organization or in a performance.

  • Your role at this company is very important. You’ll be in charge of all major communications.

Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these words are used.

Using Roll in a Sentence

When to use roll: Roll can act as a noun or a verb. It usually deals with the rotation of an object, or with wheels specifically. It can also refer to a circular piece of bread.

For example,

  • This hamburger is special because of the homemade roll it is served on. (noun)
  • Even a small pebble rolling down a mountain can cause an avalanche in the right conditions. (verb)

There are many different expressions and idioms that use roll.

For example:

  • to roll off the tongue: to be easy to say
    • Alejandra is such a beautiful name. It really rolls off the tongue.
  • on a role: to have good momentum
    • We finally won one game, and now we can’t stop winning. We’re on a roll!
  • to be rolling in dough: to be very rich
    • He never has to worry about the cost of things. He’s rolling in dough.
  • to roll back time: to remember or feel like you are in a past time
    • Going back to visit her old high school made her feel like she had rolled back time.
  • a roll in the hay: to have sexual intercourse
    • She was offended by his coarse offer of a roll in the hay.
  • let’s roll: let’s go
    • We’re late. Let’s roll!
  • rock and roll: a genre of music
    • The Rolling Stones are a popular rock and roll band.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss: Moving around too often means you’ll never gain wealth or deep satisfaction, or alternately, moving around often means you’ll never grow boring.
    • I like to travel a lot. They say that a rolling stone gathers no moss!
  • to roll back: to make deductions from
    • They realized their initial policies were too extensive, so they planned to roll them back.

These expressions have roll appearing as both a noun and a verb.

Using Role in a Sentence

When to use role: Role acts as a noun, and it can refer to the part one plays in the theater, a movie, or television show. Alternatively, it can refer to the part one plays at work or another organization.

For example:

  • That actor always gets the best movie roles.
  • She was nervous about her promotion. Her new role was very different than her old one.

There is one important expression with two variations that uses role:

  • to play/have a role in something: to cause something to happen in an event
    • Few people know that Harriet Tubman played an important role in the Civil War as a spy.

Using either play or have in this expression is acceptable, and causes no change in meaning.

Remembering Roll vs. Role

There’s an easy way to keep track of these two words using their spelling.

Roll ends in ll just like the word ball. Balls roll easily, which can help you make a connection between the spelling of roll and the meaning.

Outside Examples

  • As the Senate hurtles toward a potential vote next week to roll back the Affordable Care Act, Republican lawmakers still don’t know what legislation they will consider or what impact it could have on health coverage for tens of millions of Americans. –LA Times
  • The sandwich will be available nationally for $5.49, and features thinly sliced porchetta with melted provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion, banana peppers, red wine vinaigrette and garlic aioli on a toasted sub roll. –USA Today
  • A Poughkeepsie woman pleaded guilty Monday for her role in the death of her fiance during a kayak paddle on the Hudson River, officials said. –New York Daily News
  • The French are furious over a new historical movie that, they say, diminishes their country’s role in a World War II evacuation. –New York Post

Quiz: Role vs. Roll

Instructions: Select the correct word to fill in the blankm either role or roll.

  • At first we were stuck and had no ideas. Now we have tons of ideas, and they keep coming. We’re on a _________.
  • The actress was disappointed that she got a smaller ____________ in the play.
  • I’m worried that I’ll forget to hold on to my baby carriage and it will ___________ down the hill.

Article Summary

Should I use roll or role? These two homophones sound the same when spoken, but they are never interchangeable.

  • A roll is either a type of bread, or the noun or verb related to rotation.
  • A role is a noun that describes the function a person has within an area.

Using the information above can help to ensure that you don’t mix up these two different words.

Quiz Answers 

  • roll
  • role
  • roll