Brits and Americans get along

5 differences between American and British English

England and the United States may share a language, but there is absolutely nothing like hearing an American speak to a British man. On the contrary, there are quite a few differences between English and American.

From overuse of a z to words that are spelled the same but sound totally different when pronounced, there is an ocean of linguistic disparity (plus an actual ocean) between the two largest English-speaking nations.

But no worry! If you are studying English in London and want to know why your accent is different from that of your friend who is in New York, here is what you need. We have listed some differences between English and American.

1. American English is actually older

You shouldn't tell a Briton about this - but this fact is true. When the first settlers set out for America from England, they took with them the everyday language of the day, which was based on something called rhoticity - if you emphasize the r in one word.

Meanwhile, the new upper classes in the wealthier southern cities of the UK wanted to stand out from the crowd, so they changed their rhotic pronunciation to a soft r, making words like winter sound like "win-tuh" instead of "win-terr" .

Of course these people were posh and everyone wanted to be like them, and so this new way of speaking - what the British now call it - spread Received Pronunciation denote - in the rest of southern England.

This also explains why in some places outside the south of England the “rhotic pronunciation” can still be found as part of the regional accent. Basically, you sound more posh when you know London English. Won.

2. British English is more like French

One of the differences between British English and American English is the influence of other languages. French influenced English in several ways - more than the English would like to admit. The first time was when William the Conqueror invaded Britain in the 11th century and the Norman French made their way. It has been declared a standard language - and spoken in schools, courts, universities and the upper classes.

However, it was not preserved and developed into Middle English, which in turn was a mixture of all linguistic influences at the time. The second time was in the 17th century when it was good form in Britain to use French-influenced words.

However, this “trend” never made it across the Atlantic. Therefore, British English has more in common with French than American English, which explains our obsession with croissants. Or maybe I'm just imagining the latter.

3. Difference between British English and American: the spelling

It is important to note that the American spelling was originally a protest. The American and British dictionaries are very different in that they were written by two very different authors with very different views on language: The British dictionary was written by scholars from London (not Oxford, for some reason) who simply collect all known English words wanted, while the American was drafted by a lexicographer named Noah Webster.

Webster not only wanted the American spelling to be more direct, but also different from the British spelling, so that America could demonstrate its independence from former British rule.

He discarded the letter u in words such as color and honor - which had developed through French influence in England - to instead make them color and honor.

He did the same with words that ended in -ise and made them -ize, thinking that the American spelling should also reflect the pronunciation. In addition, z is much cooler to write and so it was.

The date in English also looks different in both spellings. For example, June 12, 2019 is written as June 12, 2019 in British English, while the month and day are changed in American notation.

In this example it would be June 12, 2019. Especially the difference between English and American in the abbreviated spelling can cause confusion. You can write the date in English in the UK as 12/06/2019, but in the US it is 06/12/2019.

In Europe we would interpret this as December 6th. So if you're using the UK version and meeting friends from America on a specific date (or vice versa), make sure none of you mix up the date in English!

4. American English likes to drop words

The differences between British English and American English include the way you express something. Sometimes there are peculiarities in American English that make no sense to a British person. An example of this is when Americans remove entire verbs from a sentence. When an American declares that he wants to write a letter, he says: “I'll write them”.

If you ask an American if they want to go shopping, they might say, “I could”. In the UK these statements sound really strange as we would say “I'll write to you” and “I could go”.

The verb to drop may be because Americans want to say things faster. Or maybe because the British like to pronounce everything exactly what they want to express.

Nobody is right here. But if we were to pick a winner, it would be British English, as the American way honestly doesn't make sense. Not that I'm biased.

5. Both types of language have borrowed words from different languages

It is clear that British and American English evolved differently, given the cultural influences that influenced both independently and the borrowing of words from these languages.

For some reason, this is especially true of food-related words. Examples would be coriander (British, from French) and cilantro (American, from Spanish), as well aubergine (British, from Arabic) and eggplant (American as these vegetables look like a purple egg).

There are tons of other examples of differences between British English and American English. The most important thing to remember, however, is to get it right in your country of residence. After all, you don't want to ask a Briton for some aluminum foil and pronounce it aloo-minnum. Let's not even start with that.

Learn British or American English with usLearn more