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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
What are the differences between British and American English?
Tuesday September 15th 2015
Question
What are the differences between British and American English? — Farideh, Iran
Answer

The most significant differences between British and American English are in their pronunciations, their vocabularies, and their spelling. There are grammatical differences, too, but these are less important and harder to describe, so we will pass over them for today.

Pronunciation

British English and American sound noticeably different. The most obvious difference is the way the letter r is pronounced. In British English, when r comes after a vowel in the same syllable (as in car, hard, or market), the r is not pronounced. In American English the r is pronounced. To hear some good examples of this difference, click on this link and watch the YouTube video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nAnT3PASak

 

Vocabulary

There are many differences in American and British English vocabulary. Here are 10 common words in American English followed by their British English equivalents:

American / British 

  1.       elevator / lift
  2.       garbage / rubbish
  3.       vacation / holiday
  4.       truck / lorry
  5.       sweater / jumper
  6.       cookie / biscuit
  7.       french fries / chips
  8.       line / queue
  9.       parking lot / car park
  10.    silverware / cutlery

 

Spelling

Finally, there are spelling differences. Below are three rules you can follow.

  • Most words ending in -our in British English are spelled without the u in American English (humour/humor, behaviour/behavior, etc.)
  • Most words ending in -re in British English are spelled with -er in American English (centre/center, litre/liter, etc.)
  • Many British English verbs ending in -ise are spelled with -ize in American English (realise/realize, organise/organize, etc.).

 

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