British and American English are on the whole very similar, however, there are several differences that need to be taken into account. When we make reference to British English, we of course mean from England and the rest of the British Isles and with American English, we are referring to the USA.

Vocabulary: The first and most obvious point is that there are some words that we use in British English, but not in American English. Here is a short list of words that are used in British and American English.

 

BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH
BILL CHECK
BOOT (OF A CAR) TRUNK
CHIPS FRIES
CITY CENTRE DOWNTOWN
CRISPS CHIPS
GARDEN YARD
LIFT ELEVATOR
LORRY TRUNK
MOTORWAY FREEWAY, HIGHWAY
PAVEMENT SIDEWALK

 

Although these words are different, in reality, we understand both words on either side of the Atlantic.

Spellings: The second point is the spelling of some simple words. In reality, both spellings are correct, but it is better not to mix them when you write as it can seem strange. Here are a few examples of changes in spelling.

 

BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH
COLOUR COLOR
JEWELLERY JEWELERY
LITRE LITER
ORGANISE ORGANIZE

 

Here is a quick video on the differences between each way of spelling. Source of video: Arika Okrent for Mental Floss

Word choice: Although simple verbs such as have, take and get exist in both dialects of English, we sometime prefer one to the other.

 

There are also some simple uses of verbs like have or take. In British English we usually favour the verb have over take, however, in American English we use take.

 

BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH
HAVE A BEER TAKE A BEER
HAVE A COFFEE TAKE A COFFEE
HAVE A REST TAKE A REST
HAVE A SANDWICH TAKE A SANDWICH

 

We also use get more often in British English over take when we make reference to transport.

 

BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH
GET THE BUS TAKE THE BUS
GET A FLIGHT TAKE A FLIGHT
GET THE TRAIN TAKE THE TRAIN
GET A TAXI TAKE A CAB

Grammar use: The final point is the fact that we rarely use the perfect tenses in American English.

In British English we would say “I have eaten in a restaurant today”. However, instead in American English we would use the past simple and use “I ate in a restaurant today”.

 

Study the tenses here.

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