American English vs. British English
No matter how long you’ve spent perfecting your English and memorizing your rules, if you travel to different country, the locals might tell you you’re doing it wrong, or you might just plain not understand what they’re saying! Don’t worry, it’s not your fault—the English-speaking world is quite large, and everyone has learned to speak a slightly different form of English over the years.
Although spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary change slightly even within the same country, English is often divided loosely into American English and British English (although Canada, Australia, Ireland, and other English-speaking countries have their own rules as well!).
Let’s take a look at some differences you might notice.
Flip through a book (or blog post!) written by someone from a different part of the world, and you may think that something feels a bit strange. To them, however, that’s how the words are supposed to look.
British spellings will often have extra letters that Americans leave out.
color, neighbor colour, neighbour
traveler, canceled traveller, cancelled
Or else the letters used to make the same sound will be different or in a different order.
realize, analyze realise, analyse
center, theater centre, theatre
It can take a while to recognize words spoken by someone who learned a different English than you.
Americans and Brits sometimes put stress on different parts of the word
Adult: a-DUHLT A-dult
Weekend: WEEK-end week-END
Or else they simply pronounce the letters differently: Generally speaking, Americans will pronounce all of the Rs in a word, while British speakers will leave them off at the end of syllables.
Car: car cah
Farther: far-ther fah-thuh
(In fact, Brits pronounce this word exactly the same as the word “father”)
Americans also tend to change the sound of consonants within a word, or else leave them out entirely, to make the word easier and faster to pronounce:
Water: wa-der waw-tah
Mountain: moun-nn moun-tin
After you’ve mastered the different spellings and ways to say words, you come to the hardest part: the words that are completely different, and sometimes completely nonsensical to people not from the area! Here is a list of some of my favorites.
“Are you all right?”
In the UK, it’s common to say this to someone right after you say hello, much the same as “How are you?”
In the US, you only ask this question when you think they have a reason not to be all right – after they’ve hit their head on a doorway, or have been sick for a few days. If they come to the UK, Americans might wonder why everyone assumes they’re not feeling well!
Say this to an American, and they have images of a potato who decided to put on a coat! Americans would call this food a baked potato.
Careful with this word! In the US, it refers to the things we wear on our legs that Brits would call trousers. (Americans are familiar with this word, but it’s mostly used by older generations). For Brits, ‘pants’ means underwear! Make sure not to ask your English grandmother if she wants to see your new pants.
These differences will come alive when you study in one of our US or UK schools! Any other differences you may have come across in American English vs. British English, or any funny misunderstandings? Tell us your favorites in the comments!