British English vs American English ⁠— Major Differences Explained

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Between "color" and "colour" which one is grammatically correct?

'He did a favor for me' "He did a favour for me" can you choose the correct one, please?

If you remember, countless times, you may have faced such confusion situation while learning the English language.

This is one of the most faced problems when you are learning the English language. It is tough for you to distinguish between American and British English.

Even if you are a native speaker, you would have faced this problem many times.

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Especially this becomes a headache when you regularly get exposed to books, literature from both of the languages every day.

British English vs American English

Carefully looking at the two forms of English gives you an illusion of similarity, but in reality, there are many differences in vocabulary, punctuation, pronunciation, grammar, spelling. To get better clarity, you need to understand the variations properly.

The dialects for each of the language are all different. "American English" means it includes all the dialects used in the United States, and "British English" includes all the dialects frequent in the United Kingdom.

So, let's have a look into their linguistic differences in terms of spelling, vocabulary, numbers, and measurement system.

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Spelling is a significant difference between the word usage of US English and UK English.

spelling difference between british and american english

You can notice it by merely looking at the words. All these differences are around five main differences, and they are:

American (US)British (UK)
-ize-ise
-ense-ence
-og-ogue
-er-re
-or-our

Many a time you will find American English, not including any double consonants at the end of a word—where the letter is "L" especially present.

For example, the word "Fuel."

In the USA it will be fueled, fueling, etc. when the letters -ed, -ing or -er are suffixed to the word "fuel," but in the case of British English, you will see the use of an extra "L" such as: fuelled, fuelling, fueller.

Grammatical differences: British English vs American English

Not much but still you will find a few grammatical variations between the two forms. It is most noticeable in the case of collective nouns and some past tense verbs.

grammar difference between british english and american english

In American English, collective nouns (used for referring to a group in English) always indicate to a singular entity. While in the case of British English, collective nouns can be both singular or plural according to the situations.

An example:

American English: The team is successful.

British English: They are a successful team,” or “It is a successful team,” both would be acceptable.

Another difference is with past tense verbs. Often you will see the suffix “-ed” with words like “learn” to make it past tense “learned” while British English use “-t” to make it “learnt.” Here, you should not get confused between which is right and which is not—both of the spellings are acceptable and understandable.

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differences Between the Use of Prepositions

preposition uses difference between british english and american english

Between the US (American) and UK (British) English sometime you may get confused due to the difference in the use of prepositions.

American English (US)British English (UK)
On the weekendAt the weekend
In the backAt the back
In schoolAt school
Get alongGet on

Numerical system and Calendar: UK vs US English

British English speakers prefer using "and" while writing numbers in their expanded forms and also while spelling them out. However, in US English, the "and" is not used in similar cases.

numeric uses difference between british english and american english

An example would be:

British English: Two Hundred and Fifty-Four

American English: Two Hundred Fifty-Four

When it comes to calendars, American English prefers writing and speaking the Month before the day while in British English the Day precedes the Month.

British English: 16 November

American English: November 16

Vocabulary differences: British English vs American English

One of the most noticeable differences you can find in any form of language is its vocabulary. It is the same in the case of US English and UK English.

vocabulary difference between british english and american english, british english vs american english

Various variations are there: starting from house to hospital, road to retail everywhere.

An American would reach his top-floor office using an elevator while a Brit would use the lift. A Brit would walk on the pavement while the American would use the sidewalk to walk to his office. This list will go if you start to point every word you come across frequently.

Many words for common items are different in British English than they are in American English. This can be confusing for people who learn English in one region and then encounter people or books from the other region using words that they do not recognize.

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Here are some common ones:

Food

To quench your thirst for a sweet treat, in the USA, you go to a nearby store and ask for a cookie which is called a biscuit in the UK.

Similarly, in the UK, when you ask for crispy, you will get thinly sliced potatoes in a bag, but Americans call it as chips.

However, wait…

… to which the Brits call as chips are what the Americans call fries.

There is a difference in the food preferences between the Americans and the UK children. An American child is fond of more candies while their UK friends like sweets.

Transportation

In transportation, you will face many terms and words that are entirely different from each other and also convey the meaning differently.

The car's back has many names—bonnet, boot, hood, and trunk—in the USA and the UK. They are region-specific and are not used interchangeably.

Fuel: what Brits call as petrol is that what Americans call as gas.

Parking: In the USA a "parking lot" is a "car park" in England.

Roads and crossings: A pavement in the UK is a sidewalk in the USA.

A zebra crossing is a crosswalk in the USA.

A highway in the USA is motorway in the UK.

In England, you will walk down the lane of a High Street but in America? You walk down Main Street too.

Clothing

Someone with an excellent suiting pant and you want to compliment him or her? Okay, but do not tell that you liked their pants—by pants Brits mean their underpants. Use the word trousers instead to admire them.

In the US if you are going for a run, you will wear running shoes while in the UK you will wear trainers.

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Life, leisure and day-to-day chaos

Living in the UK has got some different terms from the USA counterparts. So, you live in an apartment in the USA? Then, a Brit has to call it a flat.

If you are an outdoor game lover then here too you will find differences. Americans call it soccer but the British use the word Football.

To spend some happy moments in their leisure people in the USA go to a movie theatre while in the UK, you will visit a cinema.

When you need more relief, you seek for? Probably the? Huh! Joking man!
In the USA you will need to ask for the restroom or bathroom, but in the UK, you will have to seek for the toilet or loo.

To put wafers, and other garbage you will have trash cans while the other counterpart will have rubbish bin or dustbin for your rubbish.

Lights went off? In England, you may use a torch, but in America, you would use a flashlight to find your way through the dark.

Having a close look at their pronunciation, you will notice a difference between the US and the UK English correctly.

vowel uses - american english vs british english

Those differences between vowels of both types of English confuse new learners while pronouncing them. Various forms of such technical and complex explanations are there that makes a newbie confused.

Like the case of the word "mathematics," dance," "after" where the sound coming from the pronunciation of a British speaking individual and an American accented person is quite confusing. It is hard to point out and describe the difference.

It occurs due to the use of a particular phonetic sound (æ), a combination of "a" and "e." This type of sound while pronunciation is common practice in the USA, but in British English, it is not.

You need to listen to the speaker mindfully to catch the difference and to distinguish their forms.

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I understand that understanding two different forms of English and distinguishing the differences that a hundred percent is a daunting job, not impossible, though. Even native speakers feel the same way I have said.

Some will throw advice at you to watch movies and videos with English subtitles—be it a British reality show or an American Blockbuster! Believe me, they are not going to help you much, but you will be able to get an idea of how the pronunciations appear. They may come useful in the long run.

See, you should never feel bad if your vocabulary is weak or if you do not understand the subtitles and videos on day one. Your ears need pronunciations and the eyes seek for visualization of spellings in the long run—to bring perfection. Moreover, the result takes time, not a one-time play. Just go-and-ask if you do not understand a person with perfect English accent, ask your friend what the anchor is saying in that video if you do not understand that is fine but until you are learning and improving yourself every day.

Endnote!

Both forms of English have many similarities, but they differ where is—the accents while speaking. So, it is good to have an idea of their general differences.

Now, it is up to you how you use the available resources with you to learn the two types of English!

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