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Differences in American and British English grammar - article By Kerry Maxwell and Lindsay Clandfield Type: Reference material

Print Email Share Comments (26) Rate An article by erry !a"#ell and $indsay Clandfield on recogni%ing grammatical differences bet#een American and British English& 'ntrod(ction ) *& +erb agreement #ith collecti,e no(ns ) 2& -se of dele"ical ,erbs ha,e and ta.e ) /& -se of a("iliaries and modals ) 0& -se of 1re1ositions ) 2& Past tense forms ) 6& 'm1lications for teaching Introduction S1ea.ers of American English generally (se the 1resent 1erfect tense (ha,e3has 4 1ast 1artici1le) far less than s1ea.ers of British English& 'n s1o.en American English it is ,ery common to (se the sim1le 1ast tense as an alternati,e in sit(ations #here the 1resent 1erfect #o(ld (s(ally ha,e been (sed in British English& 5he t#o sit(ations #here this is es1ecially li.ely are6 (i) 'n sentences #hich tal. abo(t an action in the 1ast that has an effect in the 1resent6 American English / British English

7enny feels ill& She ate too m(ch& 7enny feels ill& She8s eaten too m(ch& ' can8t find my .eys& Did yo( see them any#here9 ' can8t find my .eys& :a,e yo( seen them any#here9 (ii) 'n sentences #hich contain the #ords already; <(st or yet6 American English / British English

A6 B6 A6 B6 A6 B6

Are they going to the sho# tonight9 =o& 5hey already sa# it& Are they going to the sho# tonight9 =o& 5hey8,e already seen it& 's Samantha here9 =o; she <(st left&

A6 B6 A6 B6 A6 B6

's Samantha here9 =o; she8s <(st left& Can ' borro# yo(r boo.9 =o; ' didn8t read it yet& Can ' borro# yo(r boo.9 =o; ' ha,en8t read it yet&

1. Verb agreement with collective nouns 'n British English collecti,e no(ns; (i&e& no(ns referring to 1artic(lar gro(1s of 1eo1le or things); (e&g& staff ; go,ernment; class; team) can be follo#ed by a sing(lar or 1l(ral ,erb de1ending on #hether the gro(1 is tho(ght of as one idea; or as many indi,id(als; e&g&6 !y team is #inning& 5he other team are all sitting do#n& 'n American English collecti,e no(ns are al#ays follo#ed by a sing(lar ,erb; so an American #o(ld (s(ally say6 >hich team is losing9 #hereas in British English both 1l(ral and sing(lar forms of the ,erb are 1ossible; as in6 >hich team is3are losing9 2. Use of delexical verbs have and ta e 'n British English; the ,erb ha,e fre?(ently f(nctions as #hat is technically referred to as a dele"ical ,erb; i&e& it is (sed in conte"ts #here it has ,ery little meaning in itself b(t occ(rs #ith an ob<ect no(n #hich describes an action; e&g&6 '8d li.e to ha,e a bath& :a,e is fre?(ently (sed in this #ay #ith no(ns referring to common acti,ities s(ch as #ashing or resting; e&g&6 She8s ha,ing a little na1& '8ll <(st ha,e a ?(ic. sho#er before #e go o(t& 'n American English; the ,erb ta.e; rather than ha,e; is (sed in these conte"ts; e&g&6 7oe8s a sho#er&

'8d li.e to ta.e a bath& $et8s ta.e a short ,acation& >hy don8t yo( ta.e a rest no#9 !. Use of auxiliaries and modals 'n British English; the a("iliary do is often (sed as a s(bstit(te for a ,erb #hen re1lying to a ?(estion; e&g&6

A6 Are yo( coming #ith (s9 B6 ' might do& 'n American English; do is not (sed in this #ay; e&g&6 A6 Are yo( coming #ith (s9 B6 ' might& 'n British English needn8t is often (sed instead of don8t need to; e&g&6 5hey needn8t come to school today& 5hey don8t need to come to school today& 'n American English needn8t is ,ery (n(s(al and the (s(al form is don8t need to; i&e&6 5hey don8t need to come to school today& 'n British English; shall is sometimes (sed as an alternati,e to #ill to tal. abo(t the f(t(re; e&g&6 ' shall3#ill be there later& 'n American English; shall is (n(s(al and #ill is normally (sed& 'n British English shall ' 3 #e is often (sed to as. for ad,ice or an o1inion; e&g&6 Shall #e as. him to come #ith (s9 'n American English sho(ld is often (sed instead of shall; i&e&6 Sho(ld #e as. him to come #ith (s9 ". Use of #re#ositions

'n British English; at is (sed #ith many time e"1ressions; e&g&6 at Christmas3fi,e 8o8 cloc. at the #ee.end 'n American English; on is al#ays (sed #hen abo(t the #ee.end; not at; e&g&6 >ill they still be there on the #ee.end9 She8ll be coming home on #ee.ends& 'n British English; at is often (sed #hen abo(t (ni,ersities or other instit(tions; e&g&6 She st(died chemistry at (ni,ersity& 'n American English; in is often (sed; e&g&6 She st(died @rench in high school& 'n British English; to and from are (sed #ith the ad<ecti,e different; e&g&6 5his 1lace is different from3to anything '8,e seen before& 'n American English from and than are (sed #ith different; e&g&6 5his 1lace is different from3than anything '8,e seen before& 'n British English to is al#ays (sed after the ,erb #rite; e&g&6 ' 1romised to #rite to her e,ery day& 'n American English; to can be omitted after #rite; i&e&6 ' 1romised to #rite her e,ery day& $. %ast tense forms Belo# is a table sho#ing ,erbs #hich ha,e different sim1le 1ast and 1ast 1artici1le forms in American and British English& =ote that the irreg(lar 1ast forms b(rnt; dreamt and s1oilt are 1ossible in American English; b(t less common than the forms ending in -ed&

Infinitive b(rn b(st di,e dream get lean learn 1lead 1ro,e sa# smell s1ill s1oil stin.

&im#le #ast &im#le #ast %ast #artici#le 'Br( 'Am( 'Br( b(rned3 b(rnt b(st di,ed dreamed3 dreamt got leaned3 leant learned3 learnt 1leaded 1ro,ed sa#ed smelled3 smelt s1illed3 s1ilt s1oiled3 s1oilt stan. b(rned3 b(rnt b(sted do,e3 di,ed dreamed3 dreamt got leaned learned 1leaded3 1led 1ro,ed sa#ed smelled s1illed s1oiled3 s1oilt stan.3 st(n. b(rned3 b(rnt b(st di,ed dreamed3 dreamt got leaned3 leant learned3 learnt 1leaded 1ro,ed sa#n smelled3 smelt s1illed3 s1ilt s1oiled3 s1oilt st(n.

%ast #artici#le 'Am( b(rned3 b(rnt b(sted di,ed dreamed3 dreamt gotten leaned learned 1leaded3 1led 1ro,ed3 1ro,en sa#n3 sa#ed smelled s1illed s1oiled3 s1oilt st(n.

Infinitive #a.e

&im#le #ast &im#le #ast %ast #artici#le 'Br( 'Am( 'Br( #o.e #o.e3 #a.ed #o.en

%ast #artici#le 'Am( #o.en

=ote that ha,e got is 1ossible in American English; b(t is (sed #ith the meaning 8ha,e8; gotten is the (s(al 1ast 1artici1le of get; e&g& American English Ao(8,e got t#o brothers (B yo( ha,e t#o brothers) Ao(8,e gotten taller this year ). Im#lications for teaching 5he t#o ma<or ,arieties of English 5he t#o ,arieties of English most #idely fo(nd in 1rint and ta(ght aro(nd the #orld are British and American - it is therefore im1ortant for teachers to be a#are of the ma<or differences bet#een the t#o& And #hile le"ical differences are the easiest ones to notice; a .no#ledge of grammatical and 1honological differences can be (sef(l not only for teachers to be a#are of; b(t also to be able to deal #ith sho(ld they come (1 in class& >hich is better9 An im1ortant 1oint to ma.e is that different doesnCt mean #rong& Comments s(ch as DAmerican English is inferior to British EnglishE; or DAmerican English is better than British EnglishE ha,e no solid basis other than the s1ea.erCs o1inion& 5he tr(th is that no lang(age or regional ,ariety of lang(age is inherently better or #orse than another& 5hey are <(st different& St(dents #ill often ha,e ,ery firm beliefs on #hich English they thin. is better3easier to (nderstand3clearer etc& >hile it may be tr(e for that 1artic(lar indi,id(al; there is no e,idence to s(ggest that one ,ariety is easier to learn or (nderstand than the other& !aterials and ,arieties 'f yo( are an American English teaching #ith a British co(rseboo. or ,ice ,ersa; #hat do yo( say #hen the boo. is different from yo(r English9 5he ans#er here is to 1oint o(t the difference& 5he differences are not so n(mero(s as to o,erload the st(dents and often can be easily dealt #ith& @or British English Ao(8,e got t#o brothers Ao(8,e got taller this year

e"am1le; if yo( are an American English (sing a lesson that has <(st incl(ded Dat the #ee.endE it ,ery little time to 1oint o(t that in American English 1eo1le say Don the #ee.endE& Acce1t either from yo(r st(dents then& 'f yo( decide to go along #ith the boo. and say Dat the #ee.endE yo(rself; yo(Cll 1robably so(nd (nnat(ral; and Don the #ee.endE might sli1 o(t any#ayF E"ams and essay #riting 'n most international e"ams; both ,arieties of English are acce1ted& :o#e,er; #hile #riting for an international e"am (or #riting in English generally) st(dents sho(ld try to remain consistent& 5hat means if they fa,o(r (or fa,or) American s1elling and grammar; they sho(ld stic. to that con,ention for the #hole 1iece of #riting& >hat role do other ,arieties of English ha,e in the classroom9 Altho(gh British and American ,arieties are the most doc(mented; there are of co(rse many other ,arieties of English& Scotland; 'reland; So(th Asia; Canada; A(stralia; =e# Gealand; >est Africa; the Caribbean; So(th Africa all ha,e their o#n regional ,ariations of English& 5he decision #hether or not to highlight as1ects of these Englishes #o(ld de1end on t#o factors6 if the st(dents are going to li,e; or are already li,ing; in one of these 1laces in #hich case the need to (nderstand s1ecific as1ects of that English is clearH or if the teacher is from one of those 1laces and therefore s1ea.s a regional ,ariation of English& 'n this case it co(ld be (sef(l to occasionally 1oint o(t differences bet#een yo(r English and that of yo(r Anchor Point6bottomco(rseboo. (see 1oint / abo,e abo(t (sing yo(r o#n ,ariety)&