Want to speak American English? or British English?

Initially, non-native English speakers would feel that certainty that the widely-accepted universal language is one and the same regardless of the speaker’s country of origin and culture he or she is used to. However, those who spend a lot of time interacting with American and British nationals would know better. They can tell the difference, which is definitely not limited to the speaking accent.

American English is being used primarily in the United States and Canada, while British English is the official language of people residing in the United Kingdom and even in Australia. There are three major differences between the two types of English: Pronunciation, Vocabulary, and Spelling.

Consistency in usage is key to avoid mistakes.

Pronunciation

In terms of using tenses and expressing possession, there are a lot of things to take note of when differentiating American from British English and the other way around.

While Americans normally go for the simple past tense when expressing what they have already done, Brits are fond of the past perfect tense except for the verb “get” in certain sentences wherein Americans make use of the past participle (the British use simple past tense for this instead).

The Brits would say:

I’ve lost my key.

I’ve just had lunch

I’ve already seen that film

Have you finished your homework yet?

He’s got much better at playing tennis.

Americans would say the same things like this:

I lost my key.

I just had lunch

I already saw that film.

Are you done with your homework?

He’s gotten much better at playing tennis.

 

As for sentences regarding one’s possession, British English uses “has/hasn’t got” and “have/haven’t got” while American English prefers “does/doesn’t have”, “do you have” and “don’t have”.

British:

Have you got a car?

He hasn’t got any friends.

She’s got a beautiful new home.

American:

Do you have a car?

He doesn’t have any friends.

She has a beautiful new home.

 

Vocabulary

This implies either using a common American English word that has a different interpretation in British English, or having one word each for American and British English that happen to be a pair of synonyms. It also connotes a difference in using certain prepositions and verbs.

Synonyms in American English and British English

AMERICAN ENGLISH

BRITISH ENGLISH

hood

bonnet

trunk

boot

truck

lorry

cookie

biscuit

apartment

flat

elevator

lift

See more examples by clicking here.

 

Same Word, Different Meanings

AMERICAN ENGLISH

BRITISH ENGLISH

hood

bonnet

trunk

boot

truck

lorry

cookie

biscuit

apartment

flat

elevator

lift

See more examples by clicking here.

Same Word, Different Meanings

WORD

MEANING (AMERICAN ENGLISH)

MEANING (BRITISH ENGLISH)

mean

bad humored

tight fisted

rubber

condom

Eraser for pencil markings

toilet

Porcelein bathroom fixture (thing)

The bathroom itself (place)

quite

very

somewhat

moot point

No need for discussion, case closed

Open to discussion

homely

Ugly person

Comfortable, feels like home

heatwave

Weather is too hot

Pleasant summer weather

please

Used when getting impatient or exasperated

Used when ordering in a restaurant

pants

bottoms

underpants

fag

homosexual

cigarette

subway

Underground railway

Pedestrian way

half (time-telling)

Half past (e.g. 8:30 is half past eight)

Half (e.g. 8:30 is half-eight)

 

Preposition Use

American English – on the weekend

British English – at the weekend

American English – on a team

British English – in a team

American English – please write me soon

British English – please write to me soon

 

Verb Usage (Past Simple/Past Participle)

VERB

BRITISH ENGLISH

AMERICAN ENGLISH

Burn

Burnt

Burned

Dream

Dreamt

Dreamed

Lean

Leant

Leaned

Learn

Learnt

Learned

Smell

Smelt

Smelled

Spell

Spelt

Spelled

Spill

Spilt

Spilled

Spoil

Spoilt

Spoiled

 

Spelling

Spelling of American English and British English vary from how the last two to four letters are spelled and the number of additional letters.

British English American English
Words ending in –re centre, fibre, litre, theatre center, fiber, liter, theater
Words ending in -our colour, flavour, humour, labour, neighbour color, flavor, humor, labor, neighbor
Words ending in -ize or -ise apologise, organise, recognise apologize, organize, recognize
Words ending in -yse analyse, breathalyse, paralyse analyze, breathalyze, paralyze
Words ending in a vowel plus l travelled, travelling, traveller, fuelled, fuelling traveled, traveling, traveler, fueled, fueling
Words spelled with double vowels leukaemia, manoeuvre, oestrogen, paediatric leukemia, maneuver, estrogen, pediatric
Nouns ending with –ence defence, licence, offence, pretence defense, license, offense, pretense
Nouns ending with –ogue analogue, catalogue, dialogue analog, catalog, dialog

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