British English and American English- Language nuances to note

British English and American English- Language nuances to note

The contradictoriness and discrepancies in spellings, grammar and vocabulary between British and American English keeps new learners or beginners quite puzzled. Both are daily dialects of the respective native residents; they offer insights into how they communicate. Though there are more similarities, it is possible to miscommunicate when either is used in place of the other in conversations.

The aim of this blog is to offer students a list of the unique differences and educate them on defining their learning requirements. Online English speaking courses in India at times may confuse learners through the sale of separate modules for British and American English. This is misleading and can also be termed as fraud.

Other than accents and the points mentioned below- British and American English is essentially similar. Most online spoken English classes can teach you on refining your pronunciations and you need not shelve out extra fees for the same.

Differences between British and American English:

Irregular verbs and tenses

Many irregular verbs, in the past tense, are used in British English -leapt, dreamt, burnt, learnt etc. whereas in American English they are often use as -leaped, dreamed, burned, learned. Let’s see few examples on the most common ones:

Spoilt / spoiled- The milk has spoiled since she forgot to put it inside the fridge. Vs The milk has spoilt since she forgot to put it inside the fridge.

Burnt / Burned- He has burned all the toast that I made for the breakfast. Vs He has burnt all the toast that I made for the breakfast.

Dreamt / Dreamed- I want him to join the defence so he could make us all proud. Vs I career in defence can be fruitful and promising for any young person.

Jeweler / Jeweller- You can find the best jeweler in my city. Vs The jeweller shop is in the next corner of the road.

Organise / Organize - You cannot organise the function in the park. Vs We should organize the birthday party on coming Sunday at home.

Marvellous / Marvelous - The gift was marvellous that you gave me last night. Vs The best brand has launched the marvelous car in the industry.

Licence / License- The car licence got cancelled because of expiry date. Vs The license is required to run the food business else it will be closed by the authority.

Enrol / Enroll- My sister will enrol this year for the fashion course from a reputed Institute. Vs Everyone can enroll in the culinary classes if they really love cooking.

Colour / Color - I like the dress because of the colour and unique style. Vs You can choose any dress or outfit of your color choice.

Catalogue / Catalog- I got all the details from the complete catalogue of the company. Vs You need to read the catalog before enrollment to any course.

Behaviour / Behavior- Children behaviour has changed because of lockdown and they are mostly looking at phones. Vs A good behavior can win anyone’s heart.

Metre / Meter- The wall of the school building is less than a meter high as compare to old building. Vs You need to bring the 6 meters cloth for making the curtain for the drawing room.

Fibre / Fiber- The fibre of the new dress is quite new, it has become a new craze. Vs You can choose any fiber which matches with your style and preference.

Flavour / Flavor- Which ice-cream flavor do you enjoy the most, vanilla or chocolate? Vs Which ice-cream flavour do you enjoy the most, vanilla or chocolate?

Recognise / Recognize - I did not recognize him as I had not seen him for years. Vs I did not recognise him as I had not seen him for years.

Centre / Center- The new center of the company is opening today. Vs The new centre of the company is opening today.

Neighbour / Neighbor- New neighbour is getting along with us pretty well. Vs New neighbour is getting along with us pretty well.

Theatre / Theater- There is no theater near our locality, we need to go far for watching movies. Vs There is no theatre near our locality, we need to go far for watching movies.

Travelled / Traveled - We traveled from one place to another to find the correct items for our shop. Vs We travelled from one place to another to find the correct items for our shop.

Anaemia / Anemia- Due to Iron deficiency in the body the patient has got anaemia. Vs Due to Iron deficiency in the body the patient has got anemia.

Encyclopaedia / Encyclopedia- New edition of Encylopaedia is going to be published next month. Vs New edition of Encylopaedia is going to be published next month.

Leapt / Leaped- The water suddenly leapt due to fall of heavy branch. Vs The water suddenly leaped due to fall of heavy branch.

Tyre / Tire- Michael has recently got new alloys for the front tires and they are looking amazing. Vs Michael has recently got new alloys for the front tyres and they are looking amazing.

Though confusing at first, try practicing these in a guided conversation with an online English tutor or a learning companion.

British grammar versus American grammar:

Americans normally use the past simple tense at the time of describing an event that has just now occurred, on the contrary people in the U.K. prefer to apply present perfect tense.

American English grammar

  • I am going to meet my friend on this weekend.
  • What are you doing on this national holiday?
  • Jenny feels sick after eating. She ate outside food.
  • I can't open my laptop. Did you see any problem in it?
  • They already took it.

British English grammar

  • I am coming to meet you at this weekend.
  • What are you doing at this national holiday?
  • Jenny feels sick after eating. She's eaten outside food.
  • I can't open my laptop. Have you seen any problem in it?
  • They have already taken it.

Two very common verbs -

Gotten Vs Got- I haven’t gotten the bad news about India’s performance at Olympics. (American) vs I haven’t got the bad news about India’s performance at Olympics. (British)

Is Vs Are- The team is doing well at the painting competition. (American) vs The team are doing well at the painting competition. (British)

Two Forms to Express Possessions

While both are correct (and approved in British and American English), have got (have you got, he hasn't got, etc.) is commonly the preferred form in British English, while most speakers of American English apply the have (do you have, he doesn't have etc.)

There are two forms to express possession in English: have or have got.

  • Do you have own house in the city?
  • Have you got own house in the city?
  • He doesn't have any work from school.
  • He hasn't got any work from school.
  • She has a splendid enormous home in the town.
  • She's got a splendid enormous home in the town.

Vocabulary differences in British and American English:

While this list is quite extensive and only increase with time, British and Americans use unique words as part of their vocabulary. Here are few examples:

American English                         British English

APARTMENT                                    FLAT    

COLLEGE                                         UNIVERSITY

VACATION                                       HOLIDAY

SCHEDULE                                      TIMETABLE

AIRPLANE                                        AEROPLANE

MAILBOX                                         POSTBOX

COOKIE                                            BISCUIT

SWEATER                                         JUMPER

FRIES                                                CHIPS

MOVIES                                           CINEMA

DRUGSTORE                                   CHEMIST’S

SOCCER                                           FOOTBALL

TERM                                               SEMESTER

FORTNIGHT                                    TWO WEEKS

AUTUMN                                         FALL

UNDERGROUND                           SUBWAY

PAVEMENT                                     SIDEWALK

TAP                                                  FAUCET

LIFT                                                 ELEVATOR

NAPPY                                            DIAPER

In conclusion, though the language has some unique differences, Americans and British can usually communicate with each other without too much difficulty. Hence, consider this assignment a “good to know” exercise if you are not able to memorise these subtle traits of the two dialects.

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