Some of the differences between American English and British English

British and American English differs in several ways that encompass vocabulary, grammar
and spelling, and a student is not wrong if they use either version. Teachers should teach 
the English that they themselves speak but also have an awareness of the differences 
between the two. If a teacher is required to teach a course book that is in a version of 
English different to their own, then they should teach the English used in the book.

Some of the differences in vocabulary covered in this graphic are fairly well known such as 
‘pavement’ (GB) and ‘sidewalk’ (US), others not so much as in the case of ‘fortnight’ (GB) 
and ‘two weeks’ (US). While the differences between the two don’t generally matter, a 
teacher may prefer to teach one version of a word over another for clarity. ‘Bi-weekly’ in US 
English can mean every two weeks or twice a week, a state of affairs that causes confusion 
for native English-speakers let alone students of the language. In this case the UK English 
‘fortnightly’ may be preferred as it only means every two weeks.

Other differences between US and British English include the use of the present perfect. In
British English the present perfect is used to talk about things that have happened in the 
recent past and have an effect on the present, for example ‘I’ve just finished my homework’. 
In American English the past simple can be used here, ‘I just finished my homework’. 
Another difference is in the use of the past participle of the verb ‘get’. In British English the 
past participle is ‘got’ while in American English it is ‘gotten’.


Infographic Some of the differences between American English and British English


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