American English Grammer

American English vs. British English

American English is the form of English used in the United States. It includes all English dialects used within the United States of America. British English is the form of English used in the United Kingdom. It includes all English dialects used within the United Kingdom. Differences between American and British English include pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary (lexis), spelling, punctuation, idioms, and formatting of dates and numbers.

Comparison chart

American English versus British English comparison chart
Edit this comparison chart American English British English
Pronunciation differences Some words pronounced differently in the languages are Methane, Interpol Some words pronounced differently in the languages are Methane, Interpol
Spelling differences flavor, honor, analyze,color etc. flavour, honour, analyse,colour etc.
Title differences Mr. , Mrs. Mr, Mrs
Different meanings ace, amber etc. ace, amber etc.
What is it? American English is the form of English used in the United States. It includes all English dialects used within the United States of America. British English is the form of English used in the United Kingdom. It includes all English dialects used within the United Kingdom. It is also used in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other Commonwealth regions

History of British vs. American English

The English language was introduced to America through British colonization in the early 17th century. It also spread to many other parts of the world because of the strength of the British empire. Over the years, English spoken in the United States and in Britain started diverging from each other in various aspects. This led to a new dialects in the form of American English.

American vs. British accent

Prior to the Revolutionary War and American independence from the British in 1776, American and British accents were similar. Both were rhotic i.e. speakers pronounced the letter R in hard. Since 1776, the accents diverged but English accent in America has changed less drastically than accents in Britain.

Towards the end of the 18th century, non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper class; this “prestige” non-rhotic speech was standardized, and has been spreading in Britain ever since.

Most American accents, however, remained rhotic.

There are a few fascinating exceptions: New York and New England accents became non-rhotic, perhaps because of the region’s British connections. Irish and Scottish accents, however, remained rhotic.

To be fair, both American and British English have several types of accents and there is no one true American or British accent.

Noah Webster and the Blue-Backed Speller

Even after America gained independence, American schools used textbooks imported from England. Noah Webster, an American lexicographer, nationalist and prolific political writer, found them unsatisfactory. He disliked the influence and control of British aristocracy over the English language and its pedantic rules for spelling and pronunciation.

So in the 1780s Webster wrote and published A Grammatical Institute of the English Language a compendium that consisted of a speller (published in 1783), a grammar (published in 1784), and a reader (published in 1785). The speller became very popular and over time, Webster changed the spellings in the book to be more phonetic (e.g. color instead of colour; defense instead of defence). Webster’s changes greatly influenced American English because his grammar books were so popular and used in schools throughout the country.

This influence was further solidified by Webster’s dictionaries, first published in 1806. Noah Webster was a spelling reformer who believed that the spelling of words should match their pronunciation as much as possible.

Differences in use of tenses

In British English the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment. For example: I’ve misplaced my pen. Can you help me find it? In American English, the use of the past tense is also permissible:I misplaced my pen. Can you help me find it? In British English, however, using the past tense in this example would be considered incorrect.

Other differences involving the use of the present perfect in British English and simple past in American English include the words already, just and yet.

British English: I’ve just had food. Have you finished your homework yet? American English: I just had food. OR I’ve just had food.
I’ve already seen that film. OR I already saw that film.

Differences in Vocabulary

While some words may mean something in British English, the same word might be something else in American english and vice versa. For example, Athlete in British English is one who participates in track and field events whereas Athlete in American English is one who participates in sports in general.

Rubber in British English: tool to erase pencil markings.
Rubber in American English: condom.

There are also some words like AC, Airplane, bro, catsup, cell phone etc. which are common in American English and not used very often in British English. Some words widely used in British English and seldom in American English are advert, anti clockwise, barrister, cat’s eye.

Differences in Spelling

There are many words that are spelt differently in both forms of English. Some examples are:

American English spelling British English spelling
color colour
fulfill fulfil
center centre
analyze analyse
aging ageing
dialog dialogue
anesthesia, anaesthesia

A majority of the spelling differences between American and British English fall into the following categories:

  • Latin-derived spellings
    • our (British) and –or (American). e.g. colour vs color
    • re (British) and –er (American). e.g. centre vs center
    • ce (British) and –se (American). e.g. defence vs defense
  • Greek-derived spellings
    • ise (British) and –ize (American). e.g. centralise vs centralize
    • yse (British) and –yze (American). e.g. analyse vs analyze
    • ogue (British) and –og (American). e.g. dialogue vs dialog
    • Simplification of ae and oe in American English. e.g. gynaecology vs gynecology

Differences in the use of Prepositions

There are also a few differences between British and American English in the use of prepositions. For example: While the British would play in a team, Americans would play on a team. Another example: While the British would go out at the weekend, Americans would go out on the weekend.

Differences in Verb usage

American and British English may also use a base verb in different manners. For example: For the verb ” to dream”, Americans would use the past tense dreamed while the British would use dreamt in past tense. The same applies to “learned” and “learnt”. Another example of differing past tense spellings for verbs in American and British English is “forecast”. Americans use forecast while the British would say forecasted in simple past tense.

Differences in Pronunciation

Some words that are pronounced differently in American vs British English are controversy, leisure, schedule etc. There are also some words like Ax (Axe in British) and Defense (Defence in British) which have the same pronunciation but different spellings in both languages.

Time telling in British vs American English

Both languages have a slightly different structure of telling the time. While the British would say quarter past ten to denote 10:15, it is not uncommon in America to say quarter after or even a quarter after ten.

Thirty minutes after the hour is commonly called half past in both languages. Americans always write digital times with a colon, thus 6:00, whereas Britons often use a point, 6.00.

Differences in Punctuation

While the British would write Mr, Mrs, Dr, the Americans would write Mr., Mrs., Dr.

Video explaining the differences

Here’s a funny musical video that outlines the differences in some English and British English language words.

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References

American versus British English

Six Differences Between British and American English


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For VOA Learning English, this is Everyday Grammar.

There is an old saying that America and Britain are “two nations divided by a common language.”

No one knows exactly who said this, but it reflects the way many Brits feel about American English. My British friend still tells me, “You don’t speak English. You speak American.”

But are American and British English really so different?

Vocabulary

The most noticeable difference between American and British English is vocabulary. There are hundreds of everyday words that are different. For example, Brits call the front of a car the bonnet, while Americans call it the hood.

Americans go on vacation, while Brits go on holidays, or hols.

New Yorkers live in apartments; Londoners live in flats.

There are far more examples than we can talk about here. Fortunately, most Americans and Brits can usually guess the meaning through the context of a sentence.

Collective Nouns

There are a few grammatical differences between the two varieties of English. Let’s start with collective nouns. We use collective nouns to refer to a group of individuals.

In American English, collective nouns are singular. For example, staff refers to a group of employees; band refers to a group of musicians; team refers to a group of athletes. Americans would say, “The band is good.”

But in British English, collective nouns can be singular or plural. You might hear someone from Britain say, “The team are playing tonight” or “The team is playing tonight.”

Auxiliary verbs

Another grammar difference between American and British English relates to auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs, are verbs that help form a grammatical function. They “help” the main verb by adding information about time, modality and voice.

Let’s look at the auxiliary verb shall. Brits sometimes use shall to express the future.

For example, “I shall go home now.” Americans know what shall means, but rarely use it in conversation. It seems very formal. Americans would probably use I will go home now.”

In question form, a Brit might say, “Shall we go now?” while an American would probably say, “Should we go now?”

When Americans want to express a lack of obligation, they use the helping verb do with negative not followed by need. “You do not need to come to work today.” Brits drop the helping verb and contract not. “You needn’t come to work today.”

Past Tense Verbs

You will also find some small differences with past forms of irregular verbs.

The past tense of learn in American English is learned. British English has the option of learned or learnt. The same rule applies to dreamed and dreamt, burned and burnt, leaned and leant.

Americans tend to use the –ed ending; Brits tend to use the -t ending.

In the past participle form, Americans tend to use the –en ending for some irregular verbs. For example, an American might say, “I have never gotten caught” whereas a Brit would say, “I have never got caught.” Americans use both got and gotten in the past participle. Brits only use got.

Don’t worry too much about these small differences in the past forms of irregular verbs. People in both countries can easily understand both ways, although Brits tend to think of the American way as incorrect.

Tag Questions

A tag question is a grammatical form that turns a statement into a question. For example, “The whole situation is unfortunate, isn’t it?” or, “You don’t like him, do you?”

The tag includes a pronoun and its matching form of the verb be, have or do. Tag questions encourage people to respond and agree with the speaker. Americans use tag questions, too, but less often than Brits. You can learn more about tag questions on a previous episode of Everyday Grammar.

Spelling

There are hundreds of minor spelling differences between British and American English. You can thank American lexicographer Noah Webster for this. You might recognize Webster’s name from the dictionary that carries his name.

Noah Webster, an author, politician, and teacher, started an effort to reform English spelling in the late 1700s.

He was frustrated by the inconsistencies in English spelling. Webster wanted to spell words the way they sounded. Spelling reform was also a way for America to show its independence from England.

You can see Webster’s legacy in the American spelling of words like color (from colour), honor (from honour), and labor (from labour). Webster dropped the letter u from these words to make the spelling match the pronunciation.

Other Webster ideas failed, like a proposal to spell women as wimmen. Since Webster’s death in 1843, attempts to change spelling rules in American English have gone nowhere.

Not so different after all

British and American English have far more similarities than differences. We think the difference between American and British English is often exaggerated. If you can understand one style, you should be able to understand the other style.

With the exception of some regional dialects, most Brits and Americans can understand each other without too much difficulty. They watch each other’s TV shows, sing each other’s songs, and read each other’s books.

They even make fun of each other’s accents.

I’m Jill Robbins.

And I’m John Russell.

And I’m Claudia Milne.

Now it’s your turn. What style of English are you learning? Why did you choose it? Write to us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Adam Brock wrote this article for VOA Learning English. Jill Robbins and Kathleen Struck were the editors.

________________________________________________________________

Word in This Story

collective nounn. a word which refers to a collection of things taken as a whole.

auxiliary verbn. a word used in construction with and preceding certain forms of other verbs, as infinitives or participles, to express distinctions of tense, aspect, mood, etc

modalityn. expressing ability, necessity, possibility, permission or obligation.

lexicographer n. someone who writes dictionaries

inconsistency n. the quality or fact of not staying the same at different times

exaggerate v. to think of or describe something as larger or greater than it really is

Words to live by

Subj: Fw: Words to live by. REALLY!
C O L O R   ONLY GOD COULD CREATE
95FED42B7F174CC398F9CF3A34FAEBEB_JounPC.   
Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not.
~Henry James~
9B035C20418340C4B18CA8A459516548_JounPC.
Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
~Mark Twain~
  
DA884F1F7F874D90B9AE5945A04BFEFC_JounPC.    Carry a heart that never hates , a smile that never fades   and a touch that never hurts.
  
A5DF57F284E5432CB56E0231501511D5_JounPC.
Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret,
for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
~Robert Brault~
E98949B9AAA140FC93806369C18B3C5C_JounPC.
Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you ,
not because they are nice but because you are.
  
97898AD686E0425E9D309D6F03E8BA4E_JounPC.
Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up.
  
1F2196416FF24E6280BF09F870D75F79_JounPC.
A good character is the best tombstone.
Those who loved you will remember.
Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.
F32724AA7729466E9311EF171A8C73E4_JounPC.
It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.
  
248805DC47E14B4BAACEAC5F92AD1FB2_JounPC.
Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.
It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.
3D11682A6B874005A4D184523FE684A4_JounPC.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
8F98F2B541A54E868D441C78FF75866C_JounPC.
I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.
~Rudyard Kipling~
C939F19C2BE94FC18908D26E46699671_JounPC.
Don’t be yourself — be someone nicer.
  
9A50CBDD08424B1F9879E011717BD683_JounPC.
Never miss an opportunity to make others happy,
even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it.
(Wow! Good one. – nj)
E521FC3B511D4B8580D95881917FEE97_JounPC.
Love your enemies – it will confuse them greatly.
4679D84DA7A94A6AAF3CB4F78084C08E_JounPC.
There is one word which may serve as a rule for all one’s life — reciprocity.
~Confucius~
  
95A6525057424F3DB3AE7BC37EEDAB3C_JounPC.
Grownups know that little things matter   and that relationships are based on respect.
3EC8690B4D284FA89C85E6EC7AD90A00_JounPC.
Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.
~Henry James~
7B095765830F4697B45DD8B2A09C77EA_JounPC.
The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
~Henry Boyle~
    
7F9E4EE9D37C496C8963F0BA462F2F94_JounPC.
When I was young, I admired clever people.
Now that I am old, I admire kind people.
~Abraham Heschel~
16D444D3A0844AC5A9588EBF49992955_JounPC.
If we should deal out justice only in this world, who would escape?
No, it is better to be generous for it gains us gratitude.
~Mark Twain~
  
33E651F88F714E8F9CAFC873CC04DAB8_JounPC.
  B e tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, tolerant of the weak,
because someday in your life you will be all of these.
~George Washington Carver~
  
928920481B4646899A1A89AECD3D5F6B_JounPC.
You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone
who will never be able to repay you.
~John Wooden~
  
E33FD227EF264A37B7D532AB818DA3C2_JounPC.
If those who owe us nothing gave us nothing, how poor we would be.
~Antonio Porchia~
  
75DF02945C214EE9958E56C649B2E625_JounPC.
You cannot do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
  
47E068B8920C461AA931AC008591C8D0_JounPC.
By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.
~Winston Churchill
  
DC642EFE0C8147EA841FB7569935A40F_JounPC.
Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.
~Frank A. Clark~
  
81DB5A7D8A7E4E6E9382FD9859FAFE53_JounPC.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
~Epictetus~
3358FD33DCB4480AB1E55DAA04B13968_JounPC.
Don’t let those who take advantage of your generosity
stop you from being generous.
~Author Unknown ~
C024E6F3282D4474BE8AC9CDFB8BA907_JounPC.
Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.
~Maya Angelou~
B41C8A395C9847EF8DDA283DE0D9BF2C_JounPC.
In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who cares more.
~Author Unknown ~
  
50108520B1734DAF8EEF4B081DEF6EB7_JounPC.
Love thy neighbor and if that requires that you bend the truth, the truth will understand.
~Robert Brault

 

6 Reasons Why My Boyfriend and I Love Sleeping in Separate Bedrooms

American and Vinglish

People who come to the USA from India have difficulty in communicating with Americans, because most speak fluent English or have received their education in English. Indians speak British English, there are many differences between regular English and British English. Indians that have been raised in India have a British English accent or an Indian accent.

Hindi is the major language of India. English is the major language of America. Hindi is identical to Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan. The two languages are joined together and referred to as Hindustani or Hindu-Urdu. The differences are noticed in the writing. Sanskrit is the supplier of Hindi words.

Hindi has half as many vowels and twice as many consonants. Words containing the letters (this, thing, months) will cause most Hindi learners the same kind of problems that they cause most other learners of English. Compared to English, Hindi has weak but predictable word stress.

English, is of course  prominent in India. That is why Hindi learners are extremely fluent and speak the language perfectly. Although, the people of native India have a strong Indian accent. Only the American born as they are called ABCD “American Born Confused Desi ” can speak it with perfection.

BY: Vanita Lalwani

American Culture Versus Indian Culture

Americans are very independent and like to keep to themselves. While Indians focus towards groups when in family or any relations. Indians are very family oriented, the Americans are individual oriented. Family values and traditions are given very much importance in the Indian culture. Americans are commited to themselves, while Indians commit themselves to their families. Indians love stability and consistency while Americans love change and mobility.

Americans are more independent and fast, the children are raised in a different environment. They are told to support themselves and hold a job and get married. They move out of their houses and start their own families at a  young age. Where as in the Indian culture the inlaws live with their children and support their children all throughout their lives even after marriage. The children in USA have to stand on their own two feet and be independent. Whereas, in Indian culture the two feet that the children stand on are loved by their family and in the opposite way the children respect the the two feet of their parents and elders as they grow up to become adults and leave their homes. In Indian culture the younger ones always touch the feet of their elders for blessings out of respect. That is the Indian tradition that brings families together in the Indian culture.

The children in India are more dependent on others. In Indian culture their is respect for elders and they are the ones who make the decisions. In the American culture each individual including young children make their own decisions. Indians are more competitive in sports and challenging events then Americans.

Indians work to support their families. Americans work only for their own means to strive to make money to get rich and prosper for their own benefit.

In a nutshell, Americans are respectful for time and its value where as Indians believe the value of time is to watch a nice Bollywood movie with the family. They are more carefree. They value the moment!

By: Vanita Lalwani