British vs. American English: What are the Differences?

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.

1. British vs. American Words

British and American English often use different terms to describe the same thing…

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British and American terms:

crisps – chips; potato chips

crocodile clip – alligator clip

current account – checking account

dressing gown – robe; bathrobe

drink-driving – drunk driving

drinks cupboard – liquor cabinet

drinks party – cocktail party

driving licence – driver’s license

dustbin – garbage can

faith school – parochial school

ladybird – ladybug

lift – elevato

lolly – lollipop

lorry – truck

market garden – truck farm

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mobile phone – cell phone

motorway – expressway; highway

mum/mummy – mom/mommy

pavement – sidewalk

pedestrian crossing – crosswalk

petrol – gas; gasoline

postbox – mailbox

potato crisp – potato chip

public school – private school

public transport – public transportation

queue – line

racing car – race car

railway – railroad

first floor – second floor

flat – apartment

football – soccer

footway – sidewalk

fringe (hair) – bangs

full stop (punctuation) – period

garden – yard; lawn

ground floor – first floor

holiday – vacation

in hospital – in the hospital

indicator (on a car)turn signal

jumper – sweater

junior school – elementary school…

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2. British vs. American Grammar

One of the most notable differences between American English and British English is their differences of grammar.

2.1. Present Perfect and Past Simple

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2.2. “Do” for an action/ Tag questions

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2.3. Group nouns/ the

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2.4. Other differences between British and American English

WILL OR SHALL

  • British English: 

Will or shall can be used with I/we:

E.g. I will/shall be late this evening.

The questions shall I…? and shall we…? are used to ask for advice, etc.

E.g.: Which way shall we go?

  • American English:

Shall is unusual

E.g. I will be late this evening.

Should I…? and should we…? are used to ask for advice, etc.

E.g. Which way should we go?

NEED

  • British English: 

You can use needn’t (do) or don’t need to (do):

E.g. We needn’t hurry or We don’t need to hurry.

  • American English:

Needn’t is unusual. The usual form is don’t need to:

E.g. We don’t need to hurry.

DEMAND

  • British English:

After demand, insist etc. you can use “should”:

E.g. I demanded that he should apologies.

We insisted that something should be done about the problem.

  • American English:

The subjunctive is normally used. “Should” is unusual after demand, insist etc.:

E.g. I demanded that he apologize.

We insisted that something be done about the problem.