Common Differences Between American And British English
English is the current lingua franca whereby it is spoken across all corners of the globe. As such, when you are learning this language, it is important to stick to a specific variety. Not only will this ensure consistency, but it will also give your English a more natural flow. However, using one variety over the other does not instantly lead to tragic miscommunication. Speakers of both varieties usually understand each other without any compromising difficulties.
Now, Brits usually find the way that Americans speak rather amusing, and vice versa. So, I guess the main question is, “apart from the accent, in what ways do these varieties differ from one another?”.
Albeit being the same language, both varieties have developed a standardised way of spelling. There are certain features that will enable you to distinguish between the two. For instance, American English drops the letter “U” in words such as “honour” and “colour”. It also uses a “Z” instead of “S” in words such as “organise” and “standardise”. Additionally, for words such as “metre” and “centre”, Americans switch the “-re” at the end of the word to “-er”. The reasons for these divergences are simple. Not only did Noah Webster want to characterise American English, but this variety is more phonetic at a linguistical level. To illustrate, words in American English are spelt the way they are pronounced, and likewise, pronounced the way they are spelt. The same can’t always be said for British English, however.
Apart from accent, the next most noticeable difference involves vocabulary. In fact, there are hundreds of everyday words that are completely different! Even though some words may appear as if they belong to a different language, most native English speakers can guess the meaning from the context alone.
Aside from spelling and vocabulary, there are also certain discrepancies between the two varieties in terms of grammar. It is important to note, however, that some American grammar rules have influenced British English due to the global presence of American media and pop culture. For example, some prepositional differences are not as embedded as they were once before.
Furthermore, Americans tend to use the Past Simple tense when talking about events that have recently occurred, meanwhile, Brits are more likely to use the Present Perfect tense. For example, an average American would say “I ate” meanwhile you would expect a British person to say “I’ve eaten”.
In addition, both varieties employ a different past participle for the verb “to get”. While the Americans would say “I have gotten”, the Brits consider this as somewhat archaic and use “I’ve got” instead.
It is much more likely that British individuals will utilise formal language such as “shall”, whereas Americans tend to stick to general language such as “will” and “should”.
As highlighted before, Americans have a tendency to simplify language wherever possible. Many verbs that are irregular in the past tense in Britain (i.e. leapt, burnt, dreamt etc.) have been made regular by the Americans (leaped, burned, dreamed).
In short, as a soon-to-be English pro, it is imperative to be able to discern between the two varieties. While the differences may be minor, knowing them will assist you with understanding the language more holistically. But do bear in mind that English must be flexible as it is a global language, and as such, you shouldn’t be concerned if you mix up a rule or two!
Do you have a preferred variety? Let us know your thoughts!