Eight differences between British and American English

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Fiona OatesEnglisch
13. März 2018
229
2 Minuten
Are we really speaking the same language?

Two nations divided by a common language, a quote widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, comes to mind when contemplating the differences between American and British English.

Outlined in this article you will find the 8 most significant differences between American and British English.

1. Accent

There are many regional accents throughout the USA and the UK, but generally speaking the biggest difference lies in the pronunciation of the letter “r”. Americans usually pronounce every “r” in a word, while the British tend to only pronounce the “r” when it’s the first letter of a word.
This was never as clear to as on my first day of teaching back in 2006 when I said the word ‘car’ and not one of my Spanish peaking students understood it until I wrote it on the board. They had all simply heard ‘kaa’ which is much more similar to the noise a bird makes, and not a vehicle that you use for personal travel.

2. Spelling

The most common differences in spelling are shown below.

American English
  • color
  • behavior
  • theater
  • meter
  • organize
  • traveled

British English
  • colour
  • behaviour
  • theatre
  • metre
  • organise
  • travelled


3. Vocabulary

There are of course some words that are just different in American English and British English, as follows.

American English
  • apartment
  • college
  • vacation
  • chips
  • (french) fries
  • the movies
  • soda / pop / coke / soft drink
  • sneakers / tennis shoes
  • sweater
  • mailbox
  • band-aid
  • drugstore
  • soccer
  • cookie

British English
  • flat
  • university
  • holiday
  • crisps
  • chips
  • the cinema
  • soft drink / fizzy drink
  • trainers
  • jumper
  • postbox
  • plaster
  • chemist’s
  • football
  • biscuit

4. Prepositions

The differences below are as a general rule and you can find that people from both sides of the pond use them interchangeably.

American English
  • I’m going to a party on the weekend.
  • What are you doing on Christmas?
  • Monday through Friday.
  • It’s different from/than the others.

British English
  • I’m going to a party at the weekend.
  • What are you doing at Christmas?
  • Monday to Friday.
  • It’s different from/to the others.

5. Past Simple vs Present Perfect

Americans tend to use the past simple when describing something that happened recently, while people in the UK are more likely to use the present perfect.

American English
  • I ate too much.
  • I went to the store.
  • Monday through Friday.
  • Did you get the newspaper?

British English
  • I’ve eaten too much.
  • I’ve been to the shop.
  • Monday to Friday.
  • Have you got the newspaper?

6. The past participle of get

In the UK, “gotten” as the past participle of “get” isn't used as much as “got.” However, in the US people do use “gotten” as the past participle.

American English
  • get/got/gotten
  • I haven’t gotten any news about him.

British English
  • get/got/got
  • I’ve not got any news about him.

7. Collective nouns: singular or plural?

In British English, a collective noun (like committee, government, team, family, etc.) can be either singular or plural. Collective nouns in the US are always singular.

American English
  • The government is doing everything it can during this crisis.
  • My team is winning.

British English
  • The government are doing everything they can during this crisis.
  • My team are winning.

#8. Regular or irregular verbs?

This is a subtle difference that can be easily overlooked in speech, but is much more apparent in written form. Many verbs that are irregular in the past tense in Britain (leapt, dreamt, burnt, learnt) have been made regular in America (leaped, dreamed, burned, learned).

So which form should you be using? Well that’s a matter of personal choice and current location I suppose However, as rule it’s better to have a wide knowledge of all types of English, but to stick to one vocabulary set or spelling system and be consistent with it.

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Hello! I am a CELTA certified English teacher with 12 years teaching experience. **I give varied, stimulating and interesting classes based on your needs. If you need to pass an exam, perfect a presentation or review and practice your grammar and learn new vocabulary, then I am the teacher for you! **In the first class we will go over your language learning history and your goals, both short term and long term. **From this assessment we will formulate our plan of action. This will be based on the time you have to dedicate to English, your current level and where you want to be, and how fast you need to get there. **We will achieve these goals through a variety of different and stimulating lessons based on current language acquisition theories and using didactic materials designed for your level. ** I will give you recommendations for things to do outside of class to improve your level, as the more engaged you are with the language, the faster you learn. **I will give you regular feedback on your errors and we will work on the grammar points that you need to go over, in order to speak fluently and correctly. **I speak Spanish very well, so I know what it's like to learn a language from scratch as an adult. I also know what Spanish speakers most common errors are and how to correct them. Take a lesson now and I'll share some of these tricks with you! **I feel that in order to learn, we must be relaxed and in a receptive state of mind and so I like to help my students to do both, and of course humour, being able to laugh is essential when you're learning a language. Take a trial lesson now and let's put together a learning plan for you. See you in class!
Flag
Englisch
globe
Vereinigtes Königreich
time
375
Englisch
Muttersprachler
,
Spanisch
C1
Hello! I am a CELTA certified English teacher with 12 years teaching experience. **I give varied, stimulating and interesting classes based on your needs. If you need to pass an exam, perfect a presentation or review and practice your grammar and learn new vocabulary, then I am the teacher for you! **In the first class we will go over your language learning history and your goals, both short term and long term. **From this assessment we will formulate our plan of action. This will be based on the time you have to dedicate to English, your current level and where you want to be, and how fast you need to get there. **We will achieve these goals through a variety of different and stimulating lessons based on current language acquisition theories and using didactic materials designed for your level. ** I will give you recommendations for things to do outside of class to improve your level, as the more engaged you are with the language, the faster you learn. **I will give you regular feedback on your errors and we will work on the grammar points that you need to go over, in order to speak fluently and correctly. **I speak Spanish very well, so I know what it's like to learn a language from scratch as an adult. I also know what Spanish speakers most common errors are and how to correct them. Take a lesson now and I'll share some of these tricks with you! **I feel that in order to learn, we must be relaxed and in a receptive state of mind and so I like to help my students to do both, and of course humour, being able to laugh is essential when you're learning a language. Take a trial lesson now and let's put together a learning plan for you. See you in class!

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