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Kenneth Beare

American English vs. British English

By November 8, 2010

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While there are certainly many more varieties of English, American and British English are the two varieties that are taught in most ESL/EFL programs. Generally, it is agreed that no one version is "correct" however, there are certainly preferences in use. The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage.

Spelling Differences between American and British English.

This fun tool "translates" British English to American English and vice versa. Finally, once you've understood all the differences (good luck!), you can try this American English vs. British English quiz.

Comments

July 17, 2007 at 8:19 pm
(1) Tim collins says:

I must correct your statement. It is not “generally accepted” at all. Only Americans believe “American English” is correct, and it is simply English, not British English.

November 8, 2010 at 6:40 pm
(2) Jeremy says:

What happened to “The Queen’s English”? I am a UK citizen and I lived in the US from age 15 until 45. So 2/3 of my life. I always used the spelling and grammer I was taught in school, so UK English. I did forget a few things and picked up a few bad American habits, but when I am made aware of them, I change them. I now teach in Poland. UK English, we are a British sponsored school. My question is, where is the Harvard or Yale equivalent. Only the UK offers degrees with such high renown. The UK and the US also need to do a much better job of teaching English correctly. Despite differences, the non native speakers often have a better grasp and command of the language than many of our countrymen.

November 9, 2010 at 3:45 am
(3) Arwen says:

Maintaining US or UK English as the only standards to aspire to does the language we speak a disservice. British English is certainly not the only variety that should be promoted, and if you think having ESL learners speak the Queen’s English isrealistic, you are sorely mistaken.

November 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm
(4) Micheal says:

Tim. Don’t be an idiot please. In fact, only people from the UK (specifically England) think there’s is the world standard.
It is not. There are two standards and don’t forget, 4 out of every 5 native speakers use US and emerging economies like China have officially adopted US WEnglish. The only place UK English is used is in countries which the UK invaded and then whipped into submission. Countries with a choice, like China, Japan, Korea, and the young generation of India choose US over British. the simple reason is that US English has been modernized while the UK insists on spelling words like ‘center’ in French.

November 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm
(5) Stella Joly says:

excuse me , but I think that the Americans “still ” use old words such as ‘cab’ which is what people drove before cars existed and ‘trunk’ which is a wooden box that was at the back of cabs to hold luggage etc… so I don’t think it’s fair to say that US English is more modern.

November 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm
(6) Sandro Borém says:

American or British? Hold on a second! As an English teacher I always bring to my classes materials from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa, etc. Have you ever heard anything about language prejudice? So there is no such thing as British, American or whatever English. There are things called intolerance, prejudice and egotistic proud that must be dealt with in any language. Do you agree?

November 17, 2010 at 9:43 am
(7) julia says:

Hi Micheal,i don’t agree with your opinion.Acutually US english and UK english not with the big differents.actually we learn uk english more than US english in China.pls don’t be preach down chinese.we not allowed!!!!

November 19, 2010 at 1:26 am
(8) Yeyen says:

Excuse me Tim, its my first time to put my comment about your site which is for me was a great site for us as an English learner & honestly I use it a lot for my English lesson BUT this time I really can’t stand to say this to you “would you consider on what to say on your site before you publish it as it’ll be viewed by many countries”? Your statement are too radical for some parties that really create conflict. Look at to some comment you’ve got from your site! And those selfish American create more flaming with their stupid opinion about their language. Be realistic that you don’t own the language. I see no different between the two’s. Just stop being prejudice & egotistic.

November 19, 2010 at 10:57 am
(9) Ken Beare says:

Hi Yeyen,

It seems that you’ve misunderstood me (Kenneth Beare) for Tim who started with the first comment. These are comments on this subject, and I have not added these comments as guide to the site. The comments are opinions expressed by visitors to the site, and do not reflect the views of the site.

Kenneth Beare
Guide to esl.about.com

November 30, 2010 at 5:09 am
(10) Derek says:

These comments are, frankly, laughable. You can dress up insecurity and blind patriotism as you like but to use AmE VS BrE as some kind of idiotic “we’re better than you!” ad hom argument is ridiculous.

We all know British is superior, anyway. :D

March 13, 2012 at 9:08 am
(11) Helen says:

Wherever I am teaching English language learners, I model authentic, contemporary English.
As a British-born Canadian with professional qualifications from UK, Canada and USA and teaching experience in UK, Canada and China, I am absolutely neutral!

March 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm
(12) Michael says:

I’m American, but I’ve always agreed that British English is the most proper. I think what it comes down to is the British think they’re better and American’s don’t like to think of themselves as inferior, thus the argument. I’ve learned Spanish and now Chinese and one thing I noticed is that all regions of a language have their own way of saying things with their own slang etc… Most people don’t want to learn English to speak it expertly like someone from Oxford. They want to speak it to communicate and do business, hmmm can’t think of many business opportunities in the uk for the world… Too bad! But at least they speak the best English! People just want to learn to speak as a native speaker if they spoke it with perfect grammar and diction their English would have an affectation, which would sound ridiculous. Most kit these people that obsess about the grammar and correctness of English never learn another language!

March 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm
(13) helen says:

Michael – as a British-born/educated English speaker, I do not consider for one moment that the English I speak is any better than that spoken by an American, Canadian or anyone from another primarily anglophone country. I do think that the more neutral Canadian accent is easier for English language learners to process. Students I have taught in China are greatly relieved when I tell them that they do not have to try to sound like Queen!
The whole concept of British English/American English is outdated. Let’s drop it. Think and act globally!

March 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm
(14) Denver says:

Reputable dictionaries published in both Britain and North America use labels such as ‘BrE’ and ‘AmE’ to classify words or expressions that are principally found in one model of English or the other. Even though the language forms spoken in various other English-speaking countries may have some distinctive features, all can be loosely classed under one of those two labels. In the present century, it seems silly to claim that careful educated North American English is inferior to the ‘received’ pattern of English in Britain. Both are legitimate and respectable forms. Careful North American speech reflects the spelling of our words somewhat more closely than British English, so in my years of teaching in various countries I have noticed that students often find it a bit easier to understand. (Careless American speech, on the other hand, is a challenge for them!) I must admit that I was dismayed to see that several of those arguing for American English had misspellings and other errors in their sentences which really damaged their credibility. In terms of spelling and vocabulary, the similarities between these two major forms of English are much more significant than the differences, even if many people seem to be fascinated or obsessed by those differences.

March 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm
(15) Normaswari says:

Hi guys … it’s great and pleasure to read all your comments. I do think that there’s no right or wrong in your comments … i believe that this is just a learning website that we can learn and improve our language. moreover, we can comment whatever that we want … a thought to be shared together … sharing is caring :)

March 14, 2012 at 12:35 am
(16) Richard says:

Hey folks, are ya done smacking each other around in the name of a language that was created out of at least a half dozen other languages?

I am fluent in American sign language, although I am hearing, I seem to sign with a decidedly hearing flavor. Some folks from the West coast have entirely different signs for something than someone from the East coast, and the Deaf folks don’t have this division. Also people from other countries don’t compare the Japanese Sign Language with the American version.
ASL is actually derived from French BTW.
that being said, in my years of teaching I have noticed the gap in our two sides of the pond.
And it’s no comfort to me to continually hear the same old finger pointing and tongue wagging about one another.
I enjoy both (dialects) of the English language, as a child I used to want to sound British and have that wonderful way of speaking. Which is great if you are David Attenborough, but anyways I digress.
No one of us are correct or incorrect in my ever so small opinion.
I say let’s try to look past our differences and see the Similarities. Remember the whole world is watching us, and who wants to watch mom and dad fight all the time about some pitiful little differences?
So get passed it and grow up folks we have a lot of work to do.

March 14, 2012 at 6:53 am
(17) sachin says:

Hi everyone. I am Sachin from India. I teach here and feel that we people follow both kind of English as long as it serves our purpose. As for official usage, we people prefer British over Amercan English as one has to stick to some rules and language is somethings which must follow some strict rules.
Language is ever changing and it will keep changing but it should not mar the real sense of words and grammar.

March 15, 2012 at 2:19 am
(18) pedito says:

I am a teacher of vocational high school at Rejang lebong Bengkulu. sometime me my self get confusing how to explain to my students about British and american, but one thing that I always tell to my students is English which we are studying now is British. I gave to them the words which is difference to both of them.

March 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm
(19) Mikal Steinacher says:

Many of the phases the quiz says are British English only, are used in American English too, at least in the Pacific Northwest.

March 23, 2012 at 10:55 am
(20) Joeffrey grino says:

Here in the Philippines, we have been taught of American English, since the arrival of the Thomasites (priests who were on board SS St Thomas and established the first American school in the archipelago)) . But, we also use British English, occasionally. Our concern is to speak better English, be it American or British, what is important, we are being understood. British English only differs from American’s they way it is spelled and spoken. Therefore, both are acceptable in our country. We don’t mind the “status’ that a speaker of British English is in to by the time he speaks or writes the way British treat their language, what we are up to is the achievement and satisfaction one gains by speaking better English. Although, at times, my tongue slips and pronounce some words in British (not in consistence, I think), and my friends would suddenly say, wow1 that’s British. And would make comments like, “Irish”

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