Differences Between British and American English

If you’re learning to speak English in the British form, you may have noticed that there are differences in the way that Americans speak the language. You’d notice the same thing if you were learning American English and listened to a conversation between two British people. Although it’s the same language, there are differences in terms of vocabulary, use of nouns and verbs, and spelling. In this article, you’ll learn how to spot some of these differences.

Vocabulary

Some of the differences in vocabulary between the two forms of English can be confusing. Even native English speakers may not understand words used in the opposite form of the language that they speak. For example, what Americans would refer to as an “elevator”, the British would call a “lift”. Both groups of people are referring to the same object, but a different word is being used by each group to describe that object.

You may want to become familiar with some of the more common words that are used in everyday language. In American English, the place for storing your bread is called a bread box. The British call this object a bread bin. What’s called a bus in American English is called a coach in British English. Another American English term is pants, while the British version is trousers.

Nouns and Verbs

Collective nouns are used differently in each form of the language. An example of a collective noun would be “team” or “committee”. In British English, collective nouns can be used with singular or plural verb forms. An example of the singular form might be, “The team was in agreement.” The plural form could be, “The team were always arguing with each other.”

In American English, collective nouns usually use a singular verb form. An example could be, “The band was terrific last night.” Plural pronouns can be used also – “The band played their best show last night.”

Spelling

If you’ve ever read something written by an American author, you may have noticed that certain words are spelled differently by British authors. Words that end in the letters “or” in American English are spelled with “our” in British English. An example would be the word “color”, used by Americans. The same word spelled by a British person would be “colour”. Another difference is in American words that end with the letters “ze”. The same words in British English use the letters “se”. An example would be “analyze” (American) and “analyse” (British).

These are just some of the differences between American and British English. If you’re having trouble understanding these differences, there are tools available online to help translate one form of English to the other. Hopefully this article gives you a start in understanding some of the basic differences between American and British English.