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The Key Differences Between British And American English

Posted by Chloe G. on May 25, 2022.

Let’s explore the core differences between British and American English

English is the most widely spoken language in the world as well as the most popular among foreign language students, and it is an official language in 53 nations. Although it originated in the United Kingdom or, more precisely, the British Isle, the bulk of its speakers now resides in the United States. 

English, like any other language, has various variants. British and American English are the most well-known versions. Are you able to tell them apart?  Read more to see the important differences between British and American English

The Key Differences Between British And American English

American English vs British English history

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Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the British introduced the language to the Americas when they arrived by ship. Spelling had not yet been standardized at the time. It required the first dictionaries to establish how these terms were to be written. London-based academics in the United Kingdom developed the dictionary. Meanwhile, in the United States, a man named Noah Webster served as a lexicographer. He allegedly changed the spelling of the words to distinguish the American version from the British version to demonstrate cultural independence from its mother nation.

The contrasts between American and British English in terms of speech emerged after the first immigrants arrived in America. These people talked in a style known as rhotic speech, in which the ‘r’ sounds of words are spoken. Meanwhile, the upper classes in the United Kingdom tried to distinguish themselves from the common people by softening their ‘r’ sounds. Because the affluent were regarded as the standard for being stylish even back then, others began to mimic their speech, and it finally became the norm in the south of England.


Are American and British English the same?

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These two English kinds aren’t identical, but they’re also not too dissimilar. This is crucial to understand if you’re a non-native English speaker who is concerned that changing a few words may render you incomprehensible. While this is nearly seldom the case, there are moments when the spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammatical structures of these two kinds are different.


American English vs British English spelling

There are some spelling differences between British and American English. The most prevalent ones are listed below in the table.

British English spelling American English spelling
-oe-/-ae- (e.g. aeon, aesthetic, anaemia) -e- (e.g. eon, esthetic, anemia)
-ence (For example: defence, offence, pretence) -ense (For example: defense, offense, pretense)
-t (For example: burnt, dreamt, leapt) -ed (For example: burned, dreamed, leaped)
-ise/isation (For example: apologise, recognise, globalisation) -ize/ization (For example: apologize, recognize, globalization)
-l- (For example: instalment, distil, instil) -ll- (For example: installment, distill, instill)
-ell- (For example: travelled, fuelled, marvellous) -el- (For example: traveled, fueled, marvelous)
-ou (For example: flavour, labour, neighbour) -o (For example: flavor, labor, neighbor)
-re (For example: theatre, calibre, lustre) -er (For example: theater, caliber, luster)
-ogue (For example: dialogue, monologue, catalogue) -og/ogue (For example: dialog/ dialogue, monolog/monologue, catalog/catalogue)
-y- (For example: tyre) -i- (For example: tire)
e (For example: annexe, glycerine, gramme)  (For example: annex, glycerin, gram) 
yse (For example: analyse, paralyse, catalyse)  -yze (For example: analyze, paralyze, catalyze) 


American English vs British English vocabulary

There are certain word differences between the Americans and the British. The table below includes some common things that have different names depending on which English dialect you speak.

British English vocabulary American English vocabulary
biscuit cookie
car park parking lot
caravan trailer
chips fries
black economy underground economy
blanket bath sponge bath
candyfloss cotton candy
driving licence driver’s license
dual carriageway divided highway
flat apartment
flexitime flextime
football soccer
hoarding billboard
holiday vacation
lift elevator
lolly lollipop
lorry truck
mobile phone cell phone
plain chocolate dark chocolate
postbox mailbox
postcode zip code
public transport public transportation
queue line
sailing boat sailboat
solicitor lawyer
sweet(s) candy
trainers sneakers
trolley shopping cart
underground subway
wardrobe closet


Differences Between British And American English: grammar

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There are some grammar differences between British and American English, aside from spelling and vocabulary. For example, collective nouns are singular in American English (e.g. The band is playing). In British English, collective nouns can be singular or plural, albeit the plural form is more commonly employed (e.g. The band are playing).

The British also employ more formal speech, such as ‘shall,’ whereas the Americans prefer the more informal ‘will’ or ‘should.’

On the other hand, Americans still use ‘gotten’ as the past participle of ‘get,’ which the British have long abandoned in favor of ‘got.’

In American English, the word ‘needn’t,’ which is often used in British English, is rarely employed. ‘Doesn’t have to’ has taken its place.

The preposition ‘at’ in British English refers to time and place. However, in American English, ‘on’ replaces the former, and ‘in’ replaces the latter.


Differences Between British And American English: Date format

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We’ve reached one of the most perplexing topics: date formats. This is partly due to the United States’ usage of the MM/DD/YY format, which means that we will celebrate Halloween on October 31, 2020 (10/31/2020). This is frightening enough for non-Americans. 

In the United Kingdom, the format is more like that of the rest of the world, with the date written as 31 October 2020 (31/10/2020 or 31.10.2020). Furthermore, you can use dots instead of slashes (American and British English) / obliques in British English (British English).


Differences Between British And American English: Monetary values

Money can be problematic while traveling between the United Kingdom and the United States, especially when utilizing good English in these nations or interpreting economic materials or movie subtitles. Quid is a slang name for the British pound (£).

Dollars ($) are sometimes referred to as bucks in the United States. They don’t stop there, either. Unlike the British, who refer to coins under £1 as pennies, Americans refer to 5 cents as nickel, 10 cents as a dime, and 25 cents as a quarter.

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To Sum up

While there are differences between British and American English, the main point to remember is that they are more similar. Miscommunication is not always the result of accidentally using one instead of the other. For any global business, it is important to localize the right English language to your target location.

Here at GTE Localize, we provide professional translation and localization services for both British and American English at a competitive price and a fast delivery time with a 1-year translation warranty.

We provide qualified translation and localization services for all major languages globally such as Thai translation services, Indonesian translation services, etc., and all types of content such as website translation services,  game translation services, transcription services, etc.

The Key Differences Between British And American English

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