Differences Between British And American English

us-uk.jpgI’ve recently made my point that the differences between British and American (and generally among all variants of English) matter little; here is a rundown of some of the basic grammar/vocab differences I’ve found, which contribute to my opinion that they are relatively insignificant As British and American English are the most common terms I am used to hearing, I use those here, though I realize there are many other varieties of English and do not mean to slight them by not naming and comparing all of them here.

To start, I do think factors like intonation and the overall “pace” (meter?) of speech play a significant role in some of the overall differences, and some standard pronunciation differences like the “a” and “r”. But beyond this, here you are:

  • Get on (/along) well with, consist in (/of), at (on) weekends, and probably a few others like this
    Stop someone (+from) getting angry
  • Mark (/grade) tests, have (/take) a look
  • All the overrated silly ones like lorry/truck
  • Occasionally a little extra present perfect and “have got” in British English
  • And then a few which can lead to rather humorous misunderstandings like trousers/pants and pants/underwear.

As for my own speech, I feel somewhat of a dilemma when speaking with Brits – or people who I know use British terms – about clothes and also food; I’ve taken on a bit of British vocab (flat, lift and holiday to be precise) but somehow I just can’t get away with saying jumper, trainers, biscuits or chips.

And while I use some of these words regularly, I’m still fairly aware that I’m using British terms; I’ve found it pretty funny to be speaking to another American about petrol stations and the like. You can take the girl out of the US but you can’t take the US out of the girl, not totally anyway! I’m fairly adaptive, but there’s a limit.

At any rate, over a couple of years of teaching from books which bill themselves as using “British English”, this is most of what I can come up with. In short, I think that while there are some differences, they are routinely overstated and play a relatively minor role in “what makes a good teacher.”