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Differences Between American and British English

Differences Between American and British English

Explore the different gradations of British English and American English with this all-inclusive guide. From spelling differences to vocabulary variations, unveil the typical features that differentiate these two renowned forms of the English language.

Kids learning a foreign language, especially English, need to know the difference between American and British English. Mixing the two variations of English will not only sound unnatural but also be strange. Moreover, it's likely to affect the kid's learning capacities in the future. 

British English and American English may appear the same, but there are a lot of differences in how they're pronounced or their diction is. Many native speakers of these two types of English will gradually face problems in understanding one another. 

This article clearly dives into helping parents understand the differences between American English and British English. 

History of British English and American English

The British were the first to introduce English as a language to the Americans. In the UK, the London-based scholars prepared the dictionary. However, a lexicographer in the USA named Noah Webster made some changes in how the words were spelled. This was done to establish that America was culturally independent from its mother country. 

Read more: Using Pauses to Improve Your English Speaking

Some differences between British and American English are:

Speech

A major difference in speech arose when the first settlers arrived in America. The people who came and settled here were using rhotic speech emphasizing the ‘r’ words of the sound. The higher classes of the UK turned to distinguish themselves from the everyday English speakers and thus, they softened their pronunciation of the ‘r’ sound. Since the elite were considered to be fashionable and people with class, eventually more people started following them. 

Vocabulary

The vocabulary highlights the major differences between American and British English. When kids are learning English, they will have to go through the spellings carefully and understand the meaning of the words. For example, a word in American English may mean a different thing in British English. When you say chips, it would mean crisps in American English whereas in British it would mean French Fries. 

In the section below, you can find all the American and English words that may sound different but are the same thing:

British English

American English

Trousers

Pants

Flat

Apartment

Bonnet (the front of the car)

Hood

Boot (the back of the car)

Trunk

Lorry

Truck

University

College

Holiday

Vacation

Jumper

Sweater

Crisps

Chips

Chips

French fries

Trainers

Sneakers

Fizzy drink

Soda

Postbox

Mailbox

Biscuit

Cookie

Chemist

Drugstore

Shop

Store

Football

Soccer

Spelling Differences

A major difference between American and British English is that of spelling. When kids learn British English, they will see that some words have the ‘o’ use which also changes the pronunciation. On the other hand, when the kids learn American English, there is no ‘o’ sound. 

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About ESL Classes: A Guide

English has various words of the French word, the spellings of which may be slightly changed and have an impact on how they're pronounced. While the Britishers adopted the English dictionary, the Americans tweaked it a little and used simplified versions of the spellings. 

Some of the major spelling differences from British and American English include the following:

British English

American English

-oe-/-ae- (e.g. anaemia, diarrhoea, encyclopaedia)

-e- (e.g. anemia, diarrhea, encyclopedia)

-t (e.g. burnt, dreamt, leapt)

-ed (e.g. burned, dreamed, leaped)

-ence (e.g. licence, defence, offence)

-ense (license, defense, offense)

-ell- (e.g. cancelled, jeweller, marvellous)

-el- (e.g. canceled, jeweler, marvelous)

-ise (e.g. appetiser, familiarise, organise)

-ize (e.g. appetizer, familiarize, organize)

-l- (e.g. enrol, fulfil, skilful)

-ll- (e.g. enroll, fulfill, skillfull)

-ogue (e.g. analogue, monologue, catalogue)

-og (e.g. analog, monolog, catalog) *Note that American English also identifies words spelled with –ogue

-ou (e.g. colour, behaviour, mould)

-o (e.g. color, behavior, mold)

-re (e.g. metre, fibre, centre)

-er (e.g. meter, fiber, center)

-y- (e.g. tyre)

-i- (e.g. tire)

Grammar Differences

Apart from the spelling and vocabulary differences, British and American English also have a range of grammar differences. These grammar differences include tenses, nouns, prepositions, and more. With respect to nouns, collective nouns are considered to be singular in American English. However, in British English course, collective nouns can be singular or plural. In most of the cases, the collective nouns are addressed to be plural in terms of British English.

The British language also uses a more formal speech than usual. On the other hand, the American language may have a more informal tone. There are terms like ‘needn’t’ which are commonly used in the British language. However, concerning American language usage, this term may not be that common. Instead, the American language will use the concept ‘don’t need to.’

Read more: Breaking Down Barriers: The Importance of English as a Global Language

There is also a difference in how the prepositions are used in the English language. For example, in British English, ‘at’ as a preposition may be used for time or place. The word ‘on’ may however be addressed instead of ‘in’ in the case of the American language. 

Which English to Teach

It is one of the most commonly asked questions among parents as to what English they should teach their kids. It is advisable to teach the particular English that you want your kids to pursue in the future. Your kids can learn British English or learn American English online depending on their convenience. 

It is important for the kids to convey the idea and information appropriately to avoid any negative consequences. Some of the major things to consider especially in terms of learning British English or American English online are as follows:

The child should be able to clearly convey the ideas and information. Thus, their pronunciation should be top-notch. 

Read more: All about the NYMS of English | Learning English from A to Z

The child should further put some extra stress on the words for their appropriation. When your kids learn English grammar, it is important to teach them how to stress the words. This is extremely important for the sentences as well as words. Stressing on the right parts of the word or the right words of the sentences can play an important role in conveying the information appropriately. 

It is also important to focus on the intonation of kids. Irrespective of the particular English you want your kid to pursue a higher career in, intonation plays an important role in determining that their voices are going up and down at the right time. 

FAQs

Q. Which English is correct- British or American?

Ans:. Whether British or American English is correct completely depends on the region where it is used or spoken.

Q. What are the key differences between British and American English?

The key difference between American and British English lies in terms of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling.

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Article Author

Author image
Anchal Sinha

Anchal Sinha is a highly motivated lady with an MBA in Finance and Marketing and has worked for three years in this field. After becoming a mother and carrying out the responsibilities of motherhood, she left her career. Thereafter, she planned to be a gratified writer and acquired three years of content writing experience till now. She also worked as a teacher in a school and a retail trainer at ICA Edu Skills Pvt Ltd. Taking forward this experience, she started working as a phonics educator at Bambinos Live. She put in all the efforts to engage kids in her classes. Seeing kids enjoying her class and participating in activities motivates her to work with full vigour. This made her competent to work in altering environments. She puts her 100% into whatever she makes up her mind to pursue. With these potentials, she desires to flourish in anything and everything.

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