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The Key Differences Between British and American English

If you are just beginning to learn the English language, you do not need to worry about the differences...

Henry Lambert Written by Henry Lambert · 2 min read >
The Key Differences Between British and American English 1

If you are just beginning to learn the English language, you do not need to worry about the differences between American and British English. You only need to focus on learning one or the other. However, as you grow more proficient, you will likely want to know the key differences between the way Brits and Americans use the English language.

Different Words 

One key difference between British and American English is the vocabulary and word choice. For example, Brits call the hood of a car the “bonnet” and the trunk of a car the “boot.” Other vocabulary differences include using the word “holiday” in Britain instead of the American “vacation,” the word “lift” instead of “elevator,” and the word “mum” instead of “mom.” 

Names for popular brands can be different as well. For instance, the card game blackjack is more commonly known as “twenty-one” in the United Kingdom (speaking of which, check out this live casino to play blackjack with a real dealer in real-time). 

Generally, British people are familiar with American differences in words due to the popularity of American TV shows and movies, whereas Americans are less familiar with British terms. However, most Americans can understand terms unique to British English based on the context. 

Different Spellings 

Not only are some different words used in Britain and the States, words can have different spellings too. For instance, British English uses an “s” in many words that are spelled with a “z” in American English, such as “nationalise,” “recognise,” and “familiarise.” Also, words ending in “er” in American English and typically spelled as “re” in British English, including “centre” and “metre.” Other British spelling variations include placing a “u” after an “o,” including the words “colour,” “labour,” and “honour.”  

Past Tense Verb Variations 

Some British words differ in their past forms as well, particularly irregular verbs. The past tense of the word “learn” is “learned” in the US. However, it can be either “learned” or “learnt” in the UK. The same rule applies to “burnt,” “dreamt,” and “leant.” Also, Americans typically use an “en” ending with words that Brits do not. For instance, Americans would say, “I have never gotten used to it,” whereas Brits would use the word “got” in place of “gotten.”  

Punctuation Placement 

The placement of punctuation is sometimes different. For example, commas are placed after a closing quotation mark in British sentences but before the closing quotation mark in American sentences.  

In the UK, people would write the following: 

Americans use the words “gotten”, “dreamt”, and “burnt”.

In the United States, people would write:

Americans use the words “gotten,” “dreamt,” and “burnt.” 

Furthermore, Brits have different words for some punctuation marks. For example, a period is called a “full stop” in the UK.  

The Use of Prepositions

 Although there are prepositional differences, both American and British English are becoming intermingled, so the differences in prepositions are not as pronounced as they once were. However, some differences in prepositions include the following: 

  • In American English, people would say, “I’m going to work on the weekend,” whereas British people would say, “I’m going to work at the weekend.”
  •  American people would say, “I’m working Monday through Friday,” whereas British people would say, “I’m working Monday to Friday.”


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Written by Henry Lambert
Henry loves sharing his thoughts on education, business, and marketing. He is also passionate about hiking and photography, but nothing gives him more joy than spending time with his son. Profile
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