In some words that have to do with smelting and metal (銷蝕 , 銷毀 ) it is intuitive we have to use 銷. But in most cases they seem really hard to distinguish. According to pleco:

取消: cancel, call off, abolish

註銷: cancel, write off

抵消: offset, cancel out, counteract

撤銷: cancel, rescind, revoke

對消: offset, cancel each other out

吊銷: revoke, withdraw, cancel

消去: cancel, eliminate

銷帳: cancel (or remove) from an account, write off

It seems that “cancel out” always goes with 銷 not 消,but other words are really hard to predict. Is this something we just have to memorise, or is there any helpful logic or mnemonic?


Use 銷 when the object has man made physical form

Use 消 when the object has no man made physical form

We 吊銷牌照 and 銷毀武器

License and weapons have man made physical form

We 消滅 敵人 and 消除恐懼

Enemy and fear have no physical form, they are concepts

Simply put, look at the object and you can guess it should be 消 or 銷 in the compound

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