American English vs British English

Do you enjoy watching US TV shows and movies? I do! Growing up in the UK, many of my favourite TV shows as a child and teenager included a lot of US shows (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friends and many more!) and I have many new favourites too.

As a language student, you may have noticed there are some differences between the English spoken here in the UK and in the USA.

Below are a few examples of these differences;

  • Collective nouns: used to refer to a group of individuals. However, in American English it is singular. For example, they might say ‘The band is good’ (band = a group of musicians).
  • Vocabulary: There are lots of differences, but here are just a few; flat/ apartment, mobile phone/ cell phone, crisps/ chips, wardrobe/ closet, sofa/ couch, nappy/ diaper, chemist/ drugstore, chips/ French fries, trainers/ sneakers, football/ soccer and so on. Can you think of anymore?
  • Spelling: There are many words spelt differently, such as; ageing (UK)/ aging (US), catalogue (UK)/ catalog (US), theatre (UK)/ theater (US) and many more.
  • Past tense verbs: Americans tend to use -ed endings and Brits tend to use -t. For example; Dream = dreamed (US)/ dreamt (UK) Learn = learned (US)/ learnt (UK). Also, in the past participle form, Americans tend to use -en at the end of some irregular verbs. Such as, ‘I have never gotten caught’ whereas, Brits would say, ‘I never got caught’. Americans can use both ‘got’ or ‘gotten’ but in UK English, only ‘got’ would be used.

Aside from these differences, there are many similarities between US and UK English, so don’t worry too much about these! And people in both countries are able to understand both ways.

Next time you watch an American show, see if you can spot any differences.