What Are The Differences Between American And British English?

Are the Brits and Americans really “separated by a common language”? How different are these two versions of English, actually?
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What Are The Differences Between American And British English?

If you’re not a full time editor, you may be asking yourself what the differences between American and British English are. Well, Americans and the British clearly speak the same language, but there’s enough variation to create versions of the language with slightly different personalities and local flavor — or should that be flavour?


It’s difficult to make clear distinctions between US and UK accents when there is such a wide variety of accents within both the US and UK. A Texan and a New Yorker are both Americans, but have very different accents. The same goes for British accents in London, Manchester and Glasgow.

However, some very general distinctions can be made. Americans usually pronounce every “r” in a word, while the British tend to only pronounce the “r” when it’s the first letter of a word.


American English British English
color colour
behavior behaviour
theater theatre
meter metre
organize organise
traveled travelled



American English British English
apartment flat
college university
theater theatre
vacation holiday
chips crisps
(french) fries chips
the movies the cinema
soda / pop / coke / soft drink soft drink / fizzy drink
sneakers / tennis shoes trainers
sweater jumper
mailbox postbox
band-aid plaster
drugstore chemist’s
soccer football
cookie biscuit




The differences below are only a general rule. American speech has influenced Britain via pop culture, and vice versa. Therefore, some prepositional differences are not as pronounced as they once were.

American English British English
I’m going to a party on the weekend. I’m going to a party at the weekend.
What are you doing on Christmas? What are you doing at Christmas?
Monday through Friday. Monday to Friday.
It’s different from/than the others. It’s different from/to the others.


Past Simple vs Present Perfect

Americans tend to use the past simple when describing something that has recently occurred, while people in the UK are more likely to use the present perfect.

American English British English
I ate too much. I’ve eaten too much.
I went to the store. I’ve been to the shop.
Did you get the newspaper? Have you got the newspaper?


The past participle of get

In the UK, “gotten” as the past participle of “get” is considered archaic and was abandoned long ago in favor of “got.” However, in the US people still use “gotten” as the past participle.

American English British English
get — got — gotten get — got — got
I haven’t gotten any news about him. I’ve not got any news about him.


Collective nouns: singular or plural?

In British English, a collective noun (like committee, government, team, etc.) can be either singular or plural, but more often tends toward plural, emphasizing the members of the group. Collective nouns in the US, by comparison, are always singular, emphasizing the group as one whole entity.

American English British English
The government is doing everything it can during this crisis. The government are doing everything they can during this crisis.
My team is winning. My team are winning.

Regular or irregular verbs?

This is a subtle difference that can be easily overlooked in speech, but is much more apparent in written form. Many verbs that are irregular in the preterite in Britain (leapt, dreamt, burnt, learnt) have been made regular in America (leaped, dreamed, burned, learned).

As the most-spoken second language on the planet, English has to be flexible. After all, it’s not solely spoken in the countries we’ve detailed above. So whether you speak English like a Brit or like a ‘merkan, this should not be an obstacle when communicating with people on the opposite side of the pond, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

To learn more about the differences between American and British English — and hear a Brit and an American go toe-to-toe over these differences  — check out this episode of the Chatty con Leche podcast!

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