4 things you should know about the difference between the American and British English
Grab a Coke to be paired with any of the two below, and the day is complete. What a guilty pleasure! You may crave for these favorite snacks made from potatoes, but how do you call each picture?
If you say fries for the first picture and chips for the second, that is correct. However, on the other side of the world, it is also correct to call the first picture chips and the second, crisps. You may say next, what?
It is the same English language and this only illustrates the difference between the American and British manner of speaking.
To Americans, the pictures show fries and chips.
To Brits, the pictures show chips and crisps.
The difference in the English usage between two nations always sends the people abuzz, making it another factor why the language is odd and difficult to learn.
Though confusing, it is not totally surprising. It’s like having the same chocolate cake topped with different flavors. The British started the language centuries ago, but the Americans adopted it and changed some ways that fit their culture and lifestyle.
Let us crack down the characteristics of American and British English.
The major factor is the vocabulary.
You should be careful with your choice of words. Some words have different meanings and some do not exist for the two nations. For example, in the US, you call line a line, but in the UK, you call it queue. The dictionary has all the words combined so it is quite hard to tell which item is American or British.
Here is a cheat sheet.
Auxiliary Verbs and Past Tense of Verbs slightly differ.
Do you know the what auxiliary verbs are? These are verbs that help in establishing the time, moods, and voices of other verbs such as may, will, can, and should. Refresh your mind with this short jingle.
Before you memorize the song, let us focus on the auxiliary or helping verbs used for the future tense. Americans say, “I will take a bath.” British prefer using shall instead.
American English: I will go to the café tomorrow.
British English: I shall go to the café tomorrow.
Spelling clashes like Titans.
Another obvious oddity of the English language is the spelling of words. Sometimes we get dizzy trying to figure out which way is correct, but both are. The technique is to learn if the word is spelled either in an American or British way.
Here’s a short list of samples.
It is also worth noting that there is also a difference in changing the verbs to the past tense.
Present tense: I dream of being a chef, but I learn that it is hard to cook for I burn the egg.
The usual way, as what the Americans follow, is adding -d or -ed at the end of the word, as shown by the example:
Past tense: I dreamed of being a chef, but I and learned that it is hard to cook for I burned the egg.
In the British way, some irregular verbs are added with -t.
Past tense: I dreamt of being a chef, but I learnt that it is hard to cook for I burnt the egg.
And so does the pronunciation.
If you are not an American or British, learning how to speak English can be overwhelming, especially when pronouncing the words. English has a lot of inconsistency when it comes to pronunciation, even though you see that the spellings are just the same.
In connection with this, here’s a video that gives a detailed contrast of American and British English pronunciation.
As a final word, it is said that the American and British pronunciation is not exclusive ways to speak English. Both nations have people that speak English in many variations. In fact, even Australia, Canada, and the Philippines speak English with their own pronunciation and accent.