Differences between British and American English

Differences between British and American English


Since its origin, more or less 1,600 years ago, English has grown by passing through borders, embracing different pieces of other world languages along the way. English is believed to evolve with the spread of the language across the globe. 

Unlike languages that form within one country or nation, it is believed that English originated when certain Germanic tribes came to Britain back in the 5th century. Over time there have been many modifications and changes. The one element we will be covering in this article is about the differences between British and American English. 

Ready? Let’s get started!

Is American English the same as British English? 

A simple answer to settle your curiosity is ‘No’. Both these types of English have different features. Some of the examples include:

  • Time Difference

Have you ever heard the term ‘Military Time’? If yes, then it was probably in an American content as they refer to the 24 hours clock as military time since it is not commonly used by the masses in America. Americans follow the 12 hours clock which incorporates the concept of “AM” (first half of the day) and “PM” (second half of the day). However, in Britain and some parts of Europe, a 24-hour clock is observed where 1 in the afternoon means 13:00, continuing so on and so forth. 

  • Date Formats 

One of the most common confusions in date formats is that Americans follow, MM/DD/YY format, while the British and the rest of the world follow DD/MM/YY arrangement. Furthermore, the British English language allows to freely use dots instead of slashes

  • Cultural Differences 

The state of our world, and especially our social and cultural environments, is often expressed in language. In the United States, children may be waiting for ‘Santa Claus’ to bring their presents, but they’re waiting for ‘Father Christmas’ in Britain.

With such apparent differences in opinions and distinctive features, both American and Britain people come from a different school of thought, and the varying accents speak for themselves.   

British and American English

Comparison between British and American English 

  • Pronunciation 

There is an evident variation between British and North American way of pronouncing specific words that bring out an utterly differing dialect. One obvious distinction between standard American and British is eliminating ‘R’ in the British English language. One only says the letter ‘R’ if there is a vowel sound after it. For instance, you don’t call it ‘Park’ but instead Pɑ’K, or not ‘Horse’ but ‘HƆS’

  • Spelling

Let’s be honest here folks, how often do you feel confused whether you’re going to the ‘theatre’ or the ‘theater’? Do you think you love blue ‘colour’ or blue ‘color’? According to the American lexicographer- Mr. Webster, ‘words should be spelled the way they sound’. Simultaneously, the British English language is highly grounded in its cultural roots and therefore prefers to keep its Latin and French influence.    


  • OR (American) vs OUR (British)

(favourite or favorite, honour or honor) 

  • IZE (American) vs ISE (British)

(apologize or apologise, capitalize or capitalise)  

  • ER (American) vs RE (British)

(litre or liter, meter or metre) 


  • Vocabulary

Coming to a noticeable difference in vocabulary, we witness how Americans and Brits use different terminologies for things with the same meaning. While many people find it absurd to feel bothered whether it’s called a ‘lift’ or an ‘elevator’, some are busy debating where the first floor is. In the US, they consider the level as the street as the first floor while in the UK it’s regarded as the ground floor and the first floor is the floor above ground.   

  • Grammar

Apart from using different prepositions, Americans prefer to use the past simple tense when explaining something that has recently happened. Nonetheless, individuals in the United Kingdom like to keep a present perfect tense. Notice the sentences below:

American English language: ‘I ate too much.’ 

British English language: ‘I’ve eaten too much.’ 

Moreover, in American English, several verbs that are irregular in the past tense of British English have been made regular.

This implies that, according to the British, leaped, dreamed, burned, and learned is, in fact, leapt, dreamt, burnt, and learnt.

Final Thoughts…

We all knew that the British and American English languages were different, from the very beginning of this article. However, now the reader must truly feel enlightened. They also know how the above-discussed aspects are a great point of attention and should not go ignored. 


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