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While there are certainly many more varieties of English, American and British English are the two

varieties that are taught in most ESL/EFL programs. Generally, it is agreed that no one version is "correct" however, there are certainly preferences in use. The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage. If you decide that you want to use American English spellings then be consistent in your spelling (i.e. The color of the orange is also its flavour - color is American spelling and flavour is British), this is of course not always easy - or possible. The following guide is meant to point out the principal differences between these two varieties of English. Use of the Present Perfect In British English the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment. For example: I've lost my key. Can you help me look for it? In American English the following is also possible: I lost my key. Can you help me look for it? In British English the above would be considered incorrect. However, both forms are generally accepted in standard American English. Other differences involving the use of the present perfect in British English and simple past in American English include already, just and yet. British English: I've just had lunch I've already seen that film Have you finished your homework yet? American English: I just had lunch OR I've just had lunch I've already seen that film OR I already saw that film. Have your finished your homework yet? OR Did you finish your homework yet? Possession

have got (have you got.) The Verb Get The past participle of the verb get is gotten in American English. he hasn't got. British English . She has a beautiful new home. One of the best examples of this is the terminology used for automobiles.condom.) is generally the preferred form in British English while most speakers of American English employ the have (do you have. Many vocabulary items are also used in one form and not in the other. etc. tight fisted) Rubber: (American English . British English . American English . Vocabulary Probably the major differences between British and American English lies in the choice of vocabulary.not generous. British English He's got much better at playing tennis.hood British English .There are two forms to express possession in English.tool used to erase pencil markings) There are many more examples (too many for me to list here). He doesn't have any friends.bonnet • . While both forms are correct (and accepted in both British and American English). Some words mean different things in the two varieties for example: Mean: (American English .angry. your dictionary will note the different meanings in its definition of the term. bad humored. he doesn't have etc. If there is a difference in usage. Have or Have got Do you have a car? Have you got a car? He hasn't got any friends. Example He's gotten much better at playing tennis. She's got a beautiful new home.

For a more complete list of the vocabulary differences between British and American English use this British vs. American English vocabulary tool.truck British English .on a team British English .please write me soon British English . Burn Burnt OR burned • Dream dreamt OR dreamed • Lean leant OR leaned • .on the weekend British English .lorry • Once again. the irregular form is generally more common in British English (the first form of the two) and the regular form is more common to American English. however.trunk British English .please write to me soon • Past Simple/Past Participles The following verbs have two acceptable forms of the past simple/past participle in both American and British English.in a team • American English .American English . your dictionary should list whether the term is used in British English or American English. Prepositions There are also a few differences in preposition use including the following: American English .at the weekend • American English .boot • American English .

patronize. colour. recognise. As you can see. However.Learn learnt OR learned • Smell smelt OR smelled • Spell spelt OR spelled • Spill spilt OR spilled • Spoil spoilt OR spoiled Spelling Here are some general differences between British and American spellings: Words ending in -or (American) -our (British) color. Words ending in -ize (American) -ise (British) recognize. humour. flavour etc. patronise etc. there are really very few differences between standard British English and standard American English. flavor. British and American English • • • • • • • Introduction Spelling Pronunciation Vocabulary Grammar Usage Conclusion . humor. the largest difference is probably that of the choice of vocabulary and pronunciation. The best way to make sure that you are being consistent in your spelling is to use the spell check on your word processor (if you are using the computer of course) and choose which variety of English you would like.

] What follows are brief examples of the major areas of difference between the two languages. but the non-native speaker who has learned Hochdeutsch (high or standard German) should have no problems in making himself understood by citizens of Germany. For Americans pants are trousers but for Britons pants are what you wear under your trousers. he may well wonder why she doesn't seem to take his remark as a compliment. An obvious example is the omission in AE of the letter u in words such . to be understood . if a Londoner tells a resident of New York that she has left her child's dummyin the pram and its nappy in the boot. This is necessary not only for sake of communication.Introduction Those people who complain about the difficulties of learning German. spellings and pronunciations of these two dialects are diverging year by year. there are regional differences of dialect in German-speaking countries. Indian. South African English etc. [In America dummies and nappies are called pacifiers and diapers. He is confronted with two English dialects to learn: British English and American English (leaving aside Australian. Admittedly. she will merely be greeted with a look of bewilderment. The difficulty for the non-native learner of English on the other hand is that there is no standard English form.they only have one language to master. don't know how lucky they really are . more importantly. For example. it can be said that American English has the more economical and phonetic spelling. Unnecessary letters are left out and words are spelled how they sound. but also to avoid embarrassment. the non-native speaker needs to know which words have distinct meanings and pronunciations depending on whether they are used by a Briton or an American. To be consistent in his use of English and. where there are differences between British English (BE) and American English (AE) spelling. it seems that the vocabularies.) And despite the many cross-cultural influences. prams and bootsare called baby carriages and trunks. If the New Yorker then tells the London woman that she has nice pants. together with some quiz questions: Top Spelling differences In general. Austria or Switzerland.

but unfortunately you would be wrong! Quiz 1 In the following table.as color. honoretc.moustache airplane cheque theatre tyre defense woolen pajamas gaol Go to answers Top Pronunciation differences There are of course great regional differences in pronunciation within both countries. However. Quiz 2 Can you say the following words both how an American and how a Briton would say them? vase route ballet address (noun) ate leisure buoy tomato advertisement garage Go to answers Vocabulary differences . which words are spelled in American English and which in British English? Can you give the alternative spelling in each case? Example: AE . jewelry and program with their BE counterparts travelling. but the following is a list of words which are pronounced differently by most Americans and most British. this rule does not always apply. jewellery and programme. The difference lies either in using different vowel sounds or by stressing the word in a different place. Compare also the AE words traveling. For example.mustache : BE . you would expect skilful to be the AE spelling and skillful the BE spelling. neighbor.

In AE the past tense of fit is fit. In BE the present perfect tense is used for situations in which AE would typically use the past simple. in BE it is fitted. there are however some interesting variations.biscuit bonnet caravan vacation fall lift bill flashlight subway mailman film postman baggage movie torch candy check gas trailer line autumn underground luggage elevator cupboard drawing pin holiday Go to answers Top Grammar British English and American English grammar are mostly in agreement. but the problem for learners of English is that these words are among the most common in the language. but not so many know what an alumnus or a fender is. but common British English words likeplimsolls or oflicence may mean nothing to them. Quiz 3 From the lists below. Britons I've got to know her well. and vice versa.As a percentage of the total English vocabulary the number of words which are used only in one or the other country is very small. Similarly. For example using the words just or already. most Britons know that Americans call biscuits cookies and flats apartments. Americans say I've gotten to know her well. For example there are differences in certain verb forms. There are many words that are used almost exclusively by Americans which are understood by most Britons. Example: AE . choose the pair of words that have the same meaning and identify them as American English or British English. But there are others which can cause difficulty. For example. Britons would be more likely to say: I've just seen him or I've already done .cookie closet sweets drapes hood curtains petrol queue thumb tack = BE . Americans know that what they call their yard is called a garden in Britain and that trucks are lorries.

meaning up to and including. Take the useful expression used in AE through. As another example. The jury has not yet reached its decision.. Does the exhibition close at the end of May or the end of June? To avoid any misunderstanding. committee etc.it whereas in AE it would be common to hear I just saw him or I already did it. Quiz 4 The following sentences are typically AE. Similar differences can be seen in the use of words like government. where noughtis more widespread.Zero itself is a much more common word in AE than in BE.. but this is ambiguous. Go to answers Top Usage There are countless other small and interesting differences between AE and BE. You must come visit me real soon. it is necessary to say something like The exhibition is showing from March to the end of June. The government are . Americans are likely to say the .g. Go fetch your book. for most Britons it has 12 zeros (a million million). The exhibition is showing March through June. Americans are much more likely to be technically correct in the agreement of collective noun and verb form than Britons. So in standard AE it would be: The team is playing well this season whereas in BE it is common and acceptable to say The team are playing well. (BE). What would the typical Briton say? • • • • • • Do you have any siblings? It is important that she be told. which come under the heading of usage. E. (AE).. As another example: for Americans the number billion has 9 zeros (a thousand million).: The government is . The equivalent expression in BE is from March to June. He dove into the water.

The best he can do is to acquire a good reference book. The soccer team won two to nothing (2-0). whereas in Britain it would almost always be said four hundred and fifty three. Clinton will see you soon.Spelling In the following table the red spellings are American English and the blue spellings are British English: . Please write me when you arrive. "Mr. The secretary said. Two books that I can recommend on this topic are: • • Practical English Usage. Oxford University Press The Right Word at the Right Time (A guide to the English language and how to use it) (1985) Readers Digest Top Answers Quiz 1 . Swan (1995) . He was born 3/27/1981. Call me as soon as you get there. M." Go to answers Top Conclusion It is clear that the poor non-native speaker has an almost impossible task to keep the two languages separated. you'll just have to do it over. She arrived at twenty of two. Most everyone has a telephone and a refrigerator these days.number 453 as four hundred fifty three. And so on! Quiz 5 Are the following sentences more likely to be said (or written) by an American or a Briton? • • • • • • • • • I'll try and visit you on the weekend. If you make a mistake.

BE : garage .airplane . For example.Pronunciation Americans and Britons agree in most cases on where a word in stressed.gaol* theater . not in differently-stressed syllables. cinema and consider.lift : hood . They are therefore more difficult to illustrate in writing without recourse to phonetic script. but the following words from the table are stressed differently in the two dialects: • • • • ballet .underground : baggage luggage : movie .defence pajamas .cupboard : vacation . everyone says pencil and relax. Quiz 3 .AE address .BE : address * .tyre * Jail is more common in BE too nowadays.holiday : fall . the BE words in blue: : closet .AE The differences in pronunciation of the other words lie in the vowel sounds. although gaol is still perfectly acceptable (and pronounced the same as jail!) Quiz 2 .curtains : elevator .Vocabulary The AE words are shown in red.BE : advertisement .cheque defense .autumn : thumb tack drawing pin : flashlight .woollen tire . Their proununciations are illustrated therefore by reference to common words with the same sound • • • • • • vase: vars as in cars (BE) : vace as in face (AE) route: root as in shoot (BE) : rout * as in shout (AE) buoy: boy as in toy (BE) : booey as in the French name Louis (AE) ate: et as in let (BE) : ate as in late (AE) tomato: tomarto (BE) : tomayto * (AE) leisure as in pleasure (BE) : leesure (lee as in she) (AE) * Some Americans pronounce these words as Britons do.theatre woolen .bonn .torch : subway . which few people know.film : drapes .AE garage .pyjamas jail .BE : ballet .aeroplane check .AE advertisement .

Call me as soon as you get there. He dived into the water. Go and fetch your book. A bill in AE is a synonym for a banknote. BE . You must come visit me real soon.petrol : trailer . AE . .Usage This was a trick question because in fact all of the sentences are more likely to be said or written by an American than a Briton! Here they are again with their English equivalents: • • • • • • AE .Most everyone has a telephone and a refrigerator these days.I'll try to visit you at the weekend.If you make a mistake. BE . The jury has not yet reached its decsion. Go get your book.Grammar • • • • • • AE BE AE BE AE BE AE BE AE BE AE BE - Do you have any siblings? Have you got any brothers or sisters? It is important that she be told. The jury have not yet reached their decision. * It is important that she is told.Please write me when you arrive.I'll try and visit you on the weekend. BE . you'll just have to do it again. * AE is much more likely to use a subjunctive form than BE. You must come and visit me really soon. In America you ask for the check.Almost everyone has a telephone and a fridge these days. Quiz 4 . BE . BE . Quiz 5 .Ring me (phone me) as soon as you get there.bill * : line .caravan : * In England you ask the waiter for the bill at the end of your meal. AE . AE .He was born on 27/3/1981.Please write to me when you arrive.queue : candy . AE .et: mailman . you'll just have to do it over.sweets : gas.He was born 3/27/1981.postman : check . He dove into the water. AE . BE .If you make a mistake.

" The difference in the last two sentences is in the punctuation. "Mr. She arrived at twenty to two." The secretary said: "Mr Clinton will see you soon. Clinton will see you soon. The soccer team won two-nil (2-0). She arrived at twenty of two.• • • AE BE AE BE AE BE - The soccer team won two to nothing (2-0). . The secretary said.

-ou. Canadian. researchers. the PhraseBook helps you write at university and research level in English Read more Buy book Download digital version Download sample Writing Help British and American English Confusing words English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Numbers Possessive Punctuation Quotations Referring to yourself Helping you write and publish in English Read about our English Language Editing Service for university staff. differences in speech should not be exaggerated: there is greater variation in spoken English between London and Glasgow than between London. companies and organizations Send a text Prices Our customers Subjects. companies and organizationswhere our English language publications and services are used . New Zealand.British and American English Writing Help from the PhraseBook for Writing Papers and Research in English The differences in writing between British and American English are small. universities.and -oBritish arbour ardour armour behaviour candour clamour colour demeanour enamour endeavour favour fervour flavour glamour harbour honour humour labour mould neighbour odour parlour rancour some meanings rigour rumour saviour American arbor ardor armor behavior candor clamor color demeanor enamor endeavor favor fervor flavor glamour or glamor harbor honor humor labor mold or mould neighbor odor parlor rancor rigor rumor savior or saviour PhraseBook for Writing Papers and Research in English With over 5000 words and phrases. Similarly. Irish and South African English also have only minor differences. Cape Town or Sydney. A number of spelling and vocabulary differences in British and American English are listed below. For differences in punctuation click on the Writing Help links to the right. written English is essentially the same worldwide: as well as British and American English. particularly in writing. San Francisco. vocabulary and punctuation differences. national varieties such as Australian. Apart from minor spelling.