From February, 2013

The Differences Between American And British English

“England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”

–George Bernard Shaw

Companies and individuals all over the world are realizing the importance of learning English. To learn English is to open up a global market and not just in the UK and the US but in every country as English is increasingly becoming the common language. So should you learn American or British English? Do I walk along the “sidewalk” or the “pavement”? Am I attending “school” or “college” and have I got my “pants” on today! Students often ask if they should they be learning British English or American English and I give the following advice:Don’t worry about it too much!

The differences between British English and Standard American English are not serious enough to keep speakers from communicating. For speakers of all dialects, it helps to be tolerant of different ways of saying something and to have a sense of humour (Americans would spell that humor!). These two dialects are well known, but they only cover a small percentage of the English speakers in the world….so think of the bigger picture.

Recognise the main differences

Spelling rules are different and some British universities will only accept British spelling rules. Check over your letter of application and personal statement carefully or have it proof read by a British native speaker.

British English words that end in -re often end in -er in American English

centre                                                                                         center

British English words ending in -our usually end in -or in American English:

labour                                                                          labor

Verbs in British English that can be spelled with either -ize or -ise at the end are always spelled with -ize at the end in American English:

apologize or apologise                                                apologize

In British spelling, some verbs add a double letter when adding –ed.  In American English it is not doubled:

travelled                                                                      traveled

Some nouns that end with -ence in British English are spelled -ense in American English:

defence                                                                       defense

Get to grips with some vocabulary

Many of the lexical differences between the two dialects are a result of the rapid technological development that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. As new machines were invented, new words were created to describe the machines. Because of the distance between Great Britain and the United States, there was little or no attempt to standardize the vocabulary. That’s why British and American words for automobiles, airplanes, and railroads are different.  Have a look at these……

American                                                                               English

bonnet                                                                                      hood

boot                                                                                          trunk

car park                                                                                   parking lot

flyover                                                                                      overpass

lorry                                                                                          truck

Above all have fun with it and remember there are lots of varieties of English all over the world: Canadian English, Scottish English, Irish English, Indian English ……..there is enough English to occupy you for a lifetime.

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