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One More Look at American English and British English

One More Look at American English and British English | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The United States and the United Kingdom's imperial histories and modern influences have had a significant effect on the English wording. Since English was exported to different countries across the world, the language has undergone different variations, the most common one being the British English vs. American English. The British introduced the language to Americans in the 17th century. At that time, the spelling had not been standardized. Given the number of regions where English is used, differences are bound to arise. Even though British and American English may seem similar, there are disparities in vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

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

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The biggest difference between the two forms lies in vocabulary choice. Some words have a different meaning in the two forms. For instance, people go on holidays in British English while in American English, they go on vacations. Americans live in apartments whereas Brits live in flats. The disparity is vocabulary is also common in automobile terminologies. In American English, a hood is used for the bonnet, trunk for boot, and truck for the lorry. Although several examples are outlining the differences in vocabulary, most Brits and Americans can guess the meaning through the sentence context.

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Another variation between British and American English comes to spelling. There are several spelling rules between American and British English. Words ending with ‘-ter' like center and theater in American English end in ‘-tre' when written in British English. Words that end in ‘-or' like labor and color end in ‘-our' when converted to British English. Another difference involves words that end in ‘-ize' like recognize that use ‘-ise' in British English. Some words are shorter in the American version like program and catalog. The words are written as programme and catalogue in British English. The best way to ensure consistency with spelling is by using spell check tools in word processors and the preferred type (American or British).


Aside from vocabulary and spelling, there are some grammar variations between American English and British English. The collective nouns like ‘the band will play' are considered singular in American English. In contrast, the plural form of collective nouns like ‘the bands will play' is used in British English. British English mostly uses formal speech like ‘shall', whereas American English favors the more informal ‘will' or ‘should'. American English also continues to use ‘gotten' which British English has dropped in favor of ‘got' as the past participle of the verb ‘get'. Besides, ‘Needn't' is commonly used by Brits but Americans rarely use it and instead they prefer ‘don't need to'.

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American and British English have evolved in different ways considering the cultural influences that have affected every language independently. The two forms have also borrowed some common words from other languages. An example is the British word ‘coriander' that is derived from French and the American word ‘cilantro' derived from Spanish. Another example is aubergine, a British word from Arabic and eggplant, an American word from Arabic.

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In conclusion, American and British English have more similarities than differences. The difference between the two languages is often exaggerated. If a person understands one form, he should be capable of understanding the other style as well. Most Americans and Brits understand each other without any difficulties. They can watch each other's shows, read books, and sing songs without creating any misunderstanding.

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