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English in The United Kingdom and in The United States of America

English in The United Kingdom and in The United States of America | ITTT | TEFL Blog

When I started my ITTT classes, I wasn't totally sure of the difference between British English and American English. I knew there were accents and pronunciation differences, but it seemed like no big deal. Then I learned more about grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and spelling. When you speak to someone who has never spoken or has very little knowledge of the two, I can see how things get really confusing. British English is a bit more formal and follows the Kings English, where American English is a little bit more laid back.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Brian F. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Kings English (noun) is standard, pure, or correct English speech or usage. The native language most inhabitants of England.


English characteristic of England and clearly distinguishable in the U.S. and Australia.

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Defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary:

American English (noun) the English language as spoken in the U.S. - use especially with the implication that is distinguishable from the British English yet not so divergent as to be a separate language. The first known use of American English was 1805 and the first American English dictionary was printed in 1826.

When speaking or writing the two languages, the writing structure tends to be less of a problem than speaking. Mostly because of the same word may have several meanings and hard to distinguish which meaning it should be.

Most of the world uses British English because that is the way they were taught by people whose English is their second language. Which is fine but, they didn't know the difference either, let me give you some examples:

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British English vs. American English

  • trainers - sneaker/tennis shoes
  • jumper/pullover - sweater
  • lift - elevator
  • chips - French fries
  • waistcoat - vest
  • braces - suspenders
  • Peckish - hungry

Though they are both in "English" they're very different from the native speaker's point of view.When British speaks to the English, they understand most of what they are saying but, they may ask the other to repeat themselves or they may ask them to explain themselves, not out of disrespect but, not quite getting the meaning of what they said.

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All languages use slang, which is taking up most of the language, it's a must to be familiar with them as well. This is only a hand full of differences but enough to confuse someone depending on where they are. Here are some examples of the two:

British English vs. American English

  • cock-up - screwed the pooch-
  • (screw up) (screwed up)
  • nosh - grub-
  • (food) (food)
  • for the birds - for the birds-
  • (deserving of (foolish)
  • disdain)
  • taking the Mickey - joshing-
  • (to pick on or (poking fun at
  • make fun of someone)

These are just a few examples and should be explained to the class because slang will come up in conversation. To make things a little bit more interesting as in most countries the meaning and accent can change everything as well. In the U.S. if you come from the South you will get long drawn-out words, that even a native speaker would be confused about. I am sure the same thing happens in different parts of the U.K.

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To sum up, the two languages are very close but at the same time, they are both confusing. When teaching a class I will be touching on both languages so that the students are comfortable with both and they know the differences.

We don't want anyone being confused or embarrassed when leaving class.

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