When it comes to English, some people get confused as to what kind of English they use. Ironically, British and Americans often miscommunicate due to the difference in terms. For example, a “chip” in the American language is the usual potato chip we see. For the British, it’s actually a French Fry. So, you can only imagine a British person getting frustrated in an American burger joint and an American person trying to explain to a British restauranteur want a French fry is.
So, what are the common differences between British and American English? Here are some differences to take note of:
The spelling of some words.
When it comes to certain words, British English would add a letter or two. For example, the word “color”. Color is spelled C-O-L-O-R for Americans whereas British spell it as C-O-L-O-U-R.
But how come it ended up being spelled that way?
Well, you have Noah Webster to blame for that. He wanted to establish American independence so he started playing around with the language until it could be called something American.
Ever wonder why British people always sound so posh and so fancy? Well, it also comes from the way they speak. While Americans adopted a more casual way of talking, the British prefer a more formal way of speaking. For example, Americans use words like “will”, “would”. Whereas the British would use “shall” as their go-to word for future tense.
Their vocabulary is different.
Don’t be surprised when a British person stares at you strangely when you ask him for a pair of pants or feel offended when you call a sleeveless shirt a “wife-beater”. The same applies to Americans when you call pants “trousers” and the bathroom “the loo”.
This is one of the reasons why writers sometimes have a hard time adjusting especially in companies. They first have to find out where the company is from. By knowing where the company is based, they would know what English to you. It’ll also prevent them from offending their boss by saying God knows what.
Some of their grammatical rules are different. For example, the concept of collective nouns. For Americans, collective nouns make plural nouns singular. Like, a murder of crows, a clump of trees, a bevy of girls, and etc. If you look at British English, collective nouns can be both plural and singular depending on how it’s used. Often, they refer to a group as a “team”.
They also have something called tag questions. Tag questions are what turn ordinary statements into questions. For example, “the weather is awful today, isn’t it?” That’s a tag question. You’re taking an ordinary statement and converting it into a question. Americans would maybe say, “Isn’t the weather awful today?” That’s a more familiar form that students are used to learning.
Tenses of verbs
Another thing to notice is how they change the form of their verbs. For Americans, a simple addition of -ed will do. For example, the word learn is learned in the past tense. The same applies to other verbs except for some special ones such as: burned, lived, kicked, filed, and others.
For British English, they have two forms: -ed and -t. One example is the word dream. American English would only acknowledge dreamed. But in British English, there are two: dreamed and dreamt.
So, what’s better?
If better you mean by “more used”, some would say American English due to how quickly it spread. Countries such as China, Japan, and even the Philippines learned American English. But this doesn’t render them incapable of understanding other forms of English.
However, it would be good to know both as it’ll help a person understand English no matter where they go. Some English speakers have a heavy accent from their native land which is why there is the existence of Neutral English among Filipinos today.