This article will discuss common differences between the two languages, including the following:
1. Examples of pronunciation differences between American English and British English
First of all, let me begin by saying that there are lots of different accents in both American and British English. An accent can identify the region of a country in which a person comes from, a well-educated person versus a person with limited education, and the person’s native language if they speak English as a second language, just to name a few. For the purpose of this article, we will be discussing some of the common differences between Standard American English and Received Pronunciation, which is also called The Queen’s English.
These are the accents you would hear news broadcasters use.
a. The “ae” (short a) sound as in “ask” is pronounced the “ah” in British English, making “ask” sound like “ahsk”.
b. The unstressed vowel “er” as in “sister” is pronounced like “uh” in British English, making “sister” sound like “sistuh”.
c. The stressed vowel “er” as in “person” is pronounced like “ah” in British English, making “person” sound like “pah-sun”.
d. The “aw sound” as in “talk” is pronounced more like “oh” in British English, making “talk” sound like “toke.”
2. Examples of grammar differences between American English and British English
British English speakers use some tenses differently than American speakers and also may use different words to express actions.
Let’s look at a few differences between how British speakers and American English speakers form tenses.
a. The present perfect tense versus simple present tense
British English speakers often use the present perfect tense to refer to something that happened in the recent past. American English speakers use the simple past tense to refer to something that happened in the recent past.
Let’s look at some examples:
British English: “I’ve lost my wallet”, or “I have lost my wallet.”
American English: “I lost my wallet.”
British English speakers tend to use the present perfect tense much more often than American English speakers do. Where American speakers would normally use the simple past tense to tell about a recent event, British English speakers often use the present perfect tense even when talking recent events.
American speaker: I dropped my keys.
British speakers: I have dropped my keys.
American speaker: I bought you a birthday gift.
British speaker: I have bought you a birthday gift.
b. Using “shall” and “will”
While Americans used to use “shall” when talking about the future, we now find that “will” is the norm. British speakers still use “shall” very often to talk about the future.
American speaker: I will go on vacation tomorrow.
British speaker: I shall go on vacation tomorrow.
British speakers also use “shall” when they offer help to someone. American speakers use “should”
American speaker: Should I go pick up your brother?
British speaker: Shall I go pick up your brother?
c. Expressing possession
British English speakers use “have got” to show possession, where American speakers use “have” or “have got” to refer to something in the present tense.
American speaker: I have a new coat . I’ve got a new coat.
British speaker: I have got a new coat. I’ve got a new coat.
American speaker: Do you have a new car?
British speaker: Have you got a new car?
3. Vocabulary differences between British English speakers and American English speakers
Just as speakers from different parts of a country can have different names for objects, the same is true for British and American English speakers. Let’s take a look at a few common vocabulary differences.
a. British speakers use the word “boot” instead of “trunk”
American speaker: My groceries are in the trunk.
British speaker: My groceries are in the boot.
b. British speakers use the word “flat” instead of “apartment”
American speaker: John just moved into a beautiful apartment.
British speaker: John just moved into a beautiful flat.
c. British speakers use the word “knickers” instead of “underwear”
American speaker: The girl’s underwear is showing through her dress.
British speaker: The girl’s knickers are showing through her dress.
d. British speakers use the word “holiday” instead of “vacation”
American speaker: I’ll be on vacation all next week.
British speaker: I’ll be on holiday all next week.
While both British English and American English are the same language, there are many differences between them. The above examples are just a few of the differences that we hear on a regular basis. Other differences may include stressing and intonation differences, voice quality differences, mouth movement differences, as well as others.