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.
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”.
Have you got a car?
He hasn’t got any friends.
She’s got a beautiful new home.
Do you have a car?
He doesn’t have any friends.
She has a beautiful new home.
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
See more examples by clicking here.
See more examples by clicking here.
MEANING (AMERICAN ENGLISH)
MEANING (BRITISH ENGLISH)
Eraser for pencil markings
Porcelein bathroom fixture (thing)
The bathroom itself (place)
No need for discussion, case closed
Open to discussion
Comfortable, feels like home
Weather is too hot
Pleasant summer weather
Used when getting impatient or exasperated
Used when ordering in a restaurant
Half past (e.g. 8:30 is half past eight)
Half (e.g. 8:30 is half-eight)
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)
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|