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Is American English different to British?

Although it is typical to study British English here in Catalonia, there is also a widespread influence of American culture, particularly in TV programmes (or ‘programs’) and films (or ‘movies’). This means that it is likely you have heard both types of English. But what are the main differences?

Pronunciation Of course, there are lots of pronunciation differences between the two, not only in general but within the countries themselves, with huge varieties between regional accents.

Grammar There are some grammatical differences. For example, in the USA they use the past simple tense more than the present perfect tense: ‘I already saw it’ rather than ‘I’ve already seen it’. They also count collective nouns such as ‘staff’ or ‘class’ as singular whereas in British English they can be either singular or plural depending on the meaning intended: ‘the class is studying’ or ‘the class is/are studying’.

Some prepositions are different, such as ‘at the weekend’ (British English) or ‘on the weekend’ (American English). They also use ‘don’t need to’ in American English rather than ‘needn’t’ and say ‘take a shower’ or ‘take a nap’ rather than ‘have a shower/nap’.

In American English some of irregular verbs have been changed to have a regular ‘-ed’ past form, whereas in British English you can use both forms. This is most common with verbs which take the ‘t’ form in the past such as: Learn – learnt/learned Dream – dreamt/dreamed Spell – spelt/spelled Burn – burnt/burned Smell – smelt/smelled American English also uses the past participle ‘gotten’ rather than ‘got’.

Spelling There are some key spelling differences, which like the irregular verbs were made in American English to try and simplify the language. The main ones are using ‘or’ (US) rather than ‘our’ (UK): color/colour, honor/honour, neighbor/neighbour; using ‘er’ (US) instead of ‘re’ (UK): theater/theatre, center/centre, meter/metre; and using ‘ize’ instead of ‘ise’: organize/organise, realize/realise.

Vocabulary Perhaps the biggest differences come in vocabulary with many different words for the same thing. Sometimes this can be quite confusing particularly where the same word has different meanings in the two countries. For example, ‘chips’ which are pieces of potato in the UK are thin circles of potato in America (‘crisps’ in UK). Or ‘pants’ which mean ‘trousers’ in the USA refer to underwear in the UK.

Academia de inglés West One UK US English

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