There are many differences between British and American English. Generally, it doesn’t matter which variety of English you speak or write, and most native English speakers will understand you – whichever type of English you use.
Here are some of the biggest differences between British and American English.
Some common vocabulary differences are:
pavement (GB) – sidewalk (US)
lift (GB) – elevator (US)
lorry (GB) – truck (US)
rubbish (GB) – garbage / trash (US)
holiday (GB) – vacation (US)
return ticket (GB) – round trip (US)
1. British speakers use “yet” with the present perfect tense, while American speakers tend to use the Past Simple:
Have you eaten dinner yet? (GB)
Did you eat dinner yet? (US)
2. “at the weekend” (GB) but “on the weekend” (US)
3. British speakers will often use “was” in subjunctive sentences, while Americans prefer “were” as in:
“If I was you, I’d…” (GB) and “If I were you, I’d…” (US)
In British English, the final comma before “and” (in a list) is omitted, but not in American English.
She bought cereal, coffee, sugar and tea. (GB)
She bought cereal, coffee, sugar, and tea. (US)
1. –or and –our
British English tends to use -our in adjectives,whereas American English uses -or:
For example: colour (GB) and color (US); neighbour (GB) and neighbor (US)
2. –er and –re
Some noun endings are -re in British English, but -er in American English:
For example: centre (GB) and center (US)
3. – ice and –ise
Some words have -ice ending for the noun and -ise ending for the verb in British English. For example: practice (noun) and to practise (verb). However, in American English both noun and verb are spelled practice.
4. –l and –ll
In British English, when a word ends in a single consonant, it is doubled when we add a suffix beginning with a vowel: For example: traveller; levelled
However, in American English the ‘l’ is not doubled: For example: traveler, leveled
5. Other common words
British English and American English have different spellings for certain words:
For example: cheque (GB) – check (US); programme (GB) – program (US)
In British English we follow the day – month – year format, although this is month – day – year format in American English.
1/7/2010 is July 1st in British English, but January 7th in American English.
For more help with American English usage and idioms there are two books we recommend. The first is Speak English Like an American, a comprehensive but easy to follow book and audio CD set covering American English.
The second is Speak American – A Survival Guide to the Language and Culture of the U.S.A. This book will be a great help if you need a guide to “translate” your British English to American English.