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Understanding Difference Between British and American English


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There are some topics where we have discussed about spoken differences between British English and American English.

However I found a quick reference guide that comprises they key points that differentiate one language from the other, one-page guide that you may like to check out.

British and American English

- Introduction

- Spelling

- Pronunciation

- Vocabulary

- Grammar

- Usage

- Conclusion

This is the link, http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/easy/aebe.htm

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Hi, I am English and I teach English online. I think Americans use the past tense more than the Brits. For example, it is common for an AMerican to say 'Did you eat dinner yet'?, whilst the Brits tend to employ the presentperfect tense in these contexts by saying 'Have you eaten dinner yet'? So with 'yet' and when you are talking about an action which was recently completed, the Brits are much more likely to use the present perfect tense. Hope this helps.

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Hi, I am English and I teach English online. I think Americans use the past tense more than the Brits. For example, it is common for an AMerican to say 'Did you eat dinner yet'?, whilst the Brits tend to employ the presentperfect tense in these contexts by saying 'Have you eaten dinner yet'? So with 'yet' and when you are talking about an action which was recently completed, the Brits are much more likely to use the present perfect tense. Hope this helps.

That's quite interesting, Mark. Here in Canada, we also say it like our neighbouring US friends. On occasion, I do use "Have you eaten dinner yet?" but most of the time when talking informally with friends I would just ask "Did you eat dinner yet?" I guess you can say it's a faster way of asking the same question and receiving the same expected reply.

I have a few British friends here in Canada who have immigrated, and I haven't realized this until you pointed it out.

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There are some topics where we have discussed about spoken differences between British English and American English.

However I found a quick reference guide that comprises they key points that differentiate one language from the other, one-page guide that you may like to check out.

This is the link, http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/easy/aebe.htm

Thanks! :) This is a great reference.  I have bookmarked it.  It's true, we have often had discussions here about the various differences between American and British English.  We don't always have the same point of reference as native speakers or non-natives who may be learning one form or another or some combination. 

That's quite interesting, Mark. Here in Canada, we also say it like our neighbouring US friends. On occasion, I do use "Have you eaten dinner yet?" but most of the time when talking informally with friends I would just ask "Did you eat dinner yet?" I guess you can say it's a faster way of asking the same question and receiving the same expected reply.

I have a few British friends here in Canada who have immigrated, and I haven't realized this until you pointed it out.

Likewise, thanks for pointing this out, Mark.  I hadn't thought of it, either.  But yes, it's true, in the U.S. we would typically say "Did you eat dinner yet?" 

It goes to show there's so much we can learn from each other about how the language is used in our respective countries. 

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Hi, I am English and I teach English online. I think Americans use the past tense more than the Brits. For example, it is common for an AMerican to say 'Did you eat dinner yet'?, whilst the Brits tend to employ the presentperfect tense in these contexts by saying 'Have you eaten dinner yet'? So with 'yet' and when you are talking about an action which was recently completed, the Brits are much more likely to use the present perfect tense. Hope this helps.

Really? I didn't know that at all. From what you have just said, I think I'm in the mix because sometimes I use past tense and other times I do use present perfect tense. I think I have read a lot of books in which are written by both American and British authors. I believe either tense is correct as long as being consistent.

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Definitely Mark added a very useful reference to differentiate British English from American English, particular in written English, so when someone emails us asking "Did you eat dinner yet?" we can now say this person speaks American English, as "Have you eaten dinner yet?"  for Brits.

Really helpful hint, thanks!

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  • 3 weeks later...

American and British English have many differences. One is the idiomatic expressions used which have opposite meanings in both languages. Another one is spelling of some words like "colour" in British, "color" in English. Some do get really confused using words and expressions in both languages. :)

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In India we use both "did you eat" and "have you eaten". Having the Brits as our colonial rulers once, and being heavily influenced by the American culture now, has led to a confusing concoction of Britmerican language here. :-/ For us "english" now just means english, inclusive of both countries and possibly others as well.

This is somewhat unfavorable for a literature student like me because when we have to scan poetic passages and study its rhythm and meter, I never know if I'm right. The entire exercise depends greatly on word pronunciation and it doesn't do good to get confused between a pure American pronunciation and a British one.

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It definitely is good if you know both styles, but if you find yourself using one of the two styles more frequently, try to master that style first.

This is a real useful article! Long gone are the days where I mix up "favor" with "favour" or "color" with "colour".

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wow! this thread is enlightening. I thought the few) differences between the American and the British English are (1) how they pronounce it and (2) how they spell it.

But then, I think for non-native like me and English being a universal language, it doesn't matter anymore what kind of English to use for as long as we can use it to be understood by others.

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The British English is more formal and they sound more well versed than the American English kind of way. At least that's how I have observed it. The accent on British English is more thick and strong as well.

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American and British English have many differences. One is the idiomatic expressions used which have opposite meanings in both languages. Another one is spelling of some words like "colour" in British, "color" in English. Some do get really confused using words and expressions in both languages. :)

The reason it's spelled differently is because of Noah Webster. He basically changed the spelling and pronounciation of some words to further separate us from England. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/why-we-have-both-%E2%80%9Ccolor%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Ccolour%E2%80%9D It sounds a little capricious, but to be honest the revolutionaries did a lot of petty retaliatory things like this. I mean the revolution was justified. It's just, tiny little things like this and how many hundreds of years later has it made a gigantic change in the way we speak and spell? I can't tell if my mind is boggling or I'm still just really tired lol

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Thank you so much for this link. In my freelance writing ventures, I am often asked to write content for UK-based websites. It can be a bit tricky; I mean, adding the "u's" and swapping out "z's" for "s's" is pretty easy, but I know there is more to it than that. I am sure this link will be very helpful for me, so thanks again!!

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I am also a writer who can write in either British or US English, depending on my clients' requirements. I grew up speaking and writing British English, but have been fortunate enough to live in a number of countries (including the US and other English-speaking countries) and learn several different languages over the years, so I have a high level of language awareness.

These days I generally write in US English by default as it's the more universally used form of the language. I actually find myself having to think quite hard about idiomatic expressions, phrasing and the amount of directness, energy and emotional depth to use when I'm asked to write in British English (spelling is simple enough).

There are so many subtle differences in the ways English speakers in different countries express ideas and actions that a true mastery can really only be acquired through prolonged observation and careful dissection. These differences must indeed be quite confusing for non-native speakers!

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are some topics where we have discussed about spoken differences between British English and American English.

However I found a quick reference guide that comprises they key points that differentiate one language from the other, one-page guide that you may like to check out.

This is the link, http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/easy/aebe.htm

Speakers of American English generally use the present perfect tense far less than the speaker of British English. In American English it is very common to use the simple past tense as alternative in the situation where the present perfect tense would usually have been used in British English. The difference between American English and British English may not be that great when spoken but when written it is entirely different. People often presume the differences are limited to basic disciplines like the use of 'Z' instead of 'S' occasionally. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

The largest difference I've noticed with American vs. British English is the use of slang, and some of their expressions are very different. Things British people say that Americans do not are:

"I am feeling poorly" means "I am feeling sick"

They used "learnt" as an acceptable form of "learned"

To "turn it over" means "to change the TV ("telly") channel ("programme")

To "take the piss of someone" is to make fun of them.

A sandwich is a "butty" and french fries are "chips"

A "pram" or "trolly" can refer to a shopping cart or baby carriage.

A "Lorry" is a slang word for "truck driver."

A "bird" refers to a girl, sort of like the American use of "chick."

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I know quite a few differences such as:

"That's awesome" - American and "That's wicked" - British

"I find her attractive" - American and "I fancy her" - British

There are more differences that I've noticed, but these were the only ones that I could think of at the tip of my tongue. I'm American, but I love the way the British speak.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I am an American and I think we have a more lazy English than the Brits.  Things kind of roll off our tounges without as much thought as our friends to the east.  I have noticed over the years that the way we spell the same words is often different too.  For example, in American we would spell "Catalog" and in England they spell it "Catalouge."

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