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British or American English?

20.09.2017
Author: guest post
Read: 1480 раз
British or American English?

When I was working at a language school, I often had to do placement tests. One of my favourite questions was about the difference between British and American English. 

Many people answered that “American English is an easy version of British English”. But, obviously this is wrong.

So what is the difference between British and American English, then?

First of all, the pronunciation is quite different. Vowels are the prime example. For instance, the British pronounce the word ‘dance’ with the long sound /a:/ and Americans use the sound /æ/ instead.

There is a noticeable difference in grammar, such as prepositions, tenses and even articles.

For example, Americans usually use past simple rather than present perfect with the words ‘yet’ and ‘already’.

They would say ‘I already did my homework’ instead of common British, ‘I have already done my homework’.


Nevertheless, vocabulary makes the most striking difference between these two variants of English. 

Being an English teacher, I’ve always learnt both variants. That’s why I’d been pretty sure about my knowledge of American English before I met native speakers.

One of the first confusions was caused by the word ‘mean’, which means ‘stingy’ in British English.  Once, when I was chatting and gossiping with my American friend, who I was doing a teaching course with, I heard the following phrase 'he is so mean'. I was puzzled. How on earth does she know that he is stingy? Some time later, I heard the same from my Canadian friend. Only then I realized that ‘mean’ could probably have another meaning. 

It happened to be the opposite of  'nice' . 'A mean person' can be defined as 'not friendly or kind person'.
The same story happened with the word 'cheap' which means ‘stingy’ in American English.
There is an incredibly large number of such words. I’ve prepared a list of the words which are hard to find in course books. 

British English

American English

Courgette

Zucchini

Aubergine

Eggplant

Beetroot

Beet

Chemist’s

Drugstore / pharmacy

Queue

Line

Torch

Flashlight

Chest of drawers

Dresser

Do the washing-up

Do the dishes

Unfriendly

Mean

Mean

Cheap

Fringe

Bangs

Stag night

Bachelor party

Which English to learn? Definitely, both!

You never know which variant is going to be used by the person you’re talking to. Native speakers usually understand all variants of their mother tongue. However, foreigners who speak English as a second language don’t always know both variants.  I’ve noticed that Asians prefer American English and don’t always understand British vocabulary. That’s the reason why I always recommend my students to learn both British and American English.

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Guest post by Daria Talanova

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