Key Differences between British and American EnglishPooja Desai
Today, English is the global language and hence learning it is important in today’s era. But, like most languages, English has also evolved over a period of time and is still evolving.
If you are an English learner, you must have observed that some words have two spellings and both are correct, like color and colour?
How is that?
The difference is in the English dialects.
An old saying is that– “American and Britain are two nations divided by a common language.”
Isn’t it true?
English is spoken in both nations, but what makes American and British English different?
This blog highlights the key differences between American and British English.
The English language is over 100 years old and with time the language also evolved. It added new words from other languages like French, Latin, Greek, and German. But the origin of the English language is traced to the United Kingdom. Britain was a superpower and took over many countries that are now called Canada, America, etc. and that’s the main reason that these countries became English-speaking nations. But over the years when these countries gained Independence, many developments happened which also bought about subtle changes in the English language. That’s the reason why we see differences between American and British English.
There are a plethora of minor spelling differences between British and American English. American Lexicographer Noah Webster reformed English spellings by spelling words the way they sound.
British English words ending in ‘our’ end in ‘or’ in American English:
Words in British English ending with ‘ise’ are always spelled with ‘ize’ in American English:
Words in British English ending with ‘yse’ are always spelled with ‘yze’ in American English:
In British spelling ‘l’ is doubled in words ending ‘el’ but in American English, it is a single ‘l’:
However, there are some words that sound the same in American and British English but have different spellings.
American and British English also have some vocabulary differences. These differences sometimes give rise to confusion in communication but most often you can usually guess the meaning through the context of a sentence. A few examples of the differences in daily vocabulary words are as below:
This is the first difference that you can notice between the two dialects. The letter ‘r’ at the end of a word, is pronounced in American English but in British English, it is not pronounced.
Example: after, computer, director, etc.
Also, the letter ‘t’ would sound like ‘d’ in American English but in British English, they are clearly pronounced most of the time.
Example: In American English ‘butter’ will sound more like ‘budder’ and ‘international will sound like ‘innernational’
Some of the common differences in pronunciation are –
Apart from the spelling, vocabulary, and pronunciation, there are certain grammatical differences between American and British English. If you are not a native speaker of English, then you might have not even noticed these differences, but they do exist.
Some of the common grammar differences are:
- Collective Nouns – In American English, collective nouns are taken as singular (e.g., The team is celebrating). On the contrary, collective nouns can be either singular or plural in British English, but mostly the plural form is often used (e.g., The team are celebrating).
- Past forms – There are small differences in the past form of verbs in both. Like in American English the past tense of ‘learn’ is ‘learned’ but in British English, they use ‘learned’ and ‘learnt’. Americans prefer using the -ed ending while the British prefer the -t – ending. Also, Americans tend to use ‘gotten’ as the past participle of ‘get’ but British use ‘got’
Example: He’s gotten much better in math. (American)
He’s got much better in math. (British)
- Prepositions – In British English, the preposition ‘at’ is used for time and place. However, in American English, ‘on’ is used in relation to time and ‘in’ for a place.
Example: I’m going to a party on the weekend. (American)
I’m going to a party at the weekend. (British)
What are you doing on Halloween? (American)
What are you doing at Halloween? (British)
Well, above are a few differences between the two dialects but the differences outweigh the similarities. Often the differences are amplified but if you comprehend one style then the other is no big deal. Sometimes you may also see an amalgamation of both the dialects as some differences may be confusing for the native speakers also.
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