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A wrench (or spanner) is a tool used to provide grip and mechanical advantage in applying torque to turn objects—usually rotary fasteners, such as nuts and bolts—or keep them from turning. In British English, spanner is the standard term. The most common shapes are called open-ended spanner and ring spanner. The term wrench refers to various types of adjustable spanner.

In American English, wrench is the standard term. The very most common shapes are called open-end wrench and box-end wrench. In American English, spanner refers to a specialized wrench with a series of pins or tabs around the circumference. (These pins or tabs fit into the holes or notches cut into the object to be turned.) In American commerce, such a wrench may be called a spanner wrench to distinguish it from the British sense of spanner.

Ratchet (often called socket wrench) most commonly refers to a hand tool in which a metal handle is attached to a ratcheting mechanism which attaches to a socket, which in turn fits on a type of bolt or nut. Pulled or pushed in one direction, the ratchet loosens or tightens the bolt or nut attached to the socket. Turned the other direction, the ratchet does not turn the socket but allows the ratchet handle to be re-positioned for another turn while staying attached to the bolt or nut. This ratcheting action allows the fastener to be rapidly tightened or loosened in small increments without disconnecting the socket plus socket wrench from the fastener. A switch is built into the ratchet head that allows the user to apply the ratcheting action in either direction, as needed, to tighten or loosen a fastener. The sockets are attached to the ratchet through a square fitting (called the "drive") that contains a spring-loaded ball detent mechanism to keep the sockets or extensions in place. The drive on the ratchet, which comes in standard sizes of 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", and 1" (a de facto international standard with "no" metric equivalents), allows a wide variety of socket types and sizes to attach to a given ratchet. Some ratchets have quick release buttons on their top for quick socket release. The ratchet handle supplies the mechanical advantage needed by the user to provide the torque needed to loosen or tighten the fastener. For cases of where low torque is required palm ratchets or ratchet spinners may be used. For greater torque, a breaker bar or torque wrench can be used instead of the socket wrench.