USA Versus UK English

A worksheet by Viv Quarry (www.vivquarry.com)

In formal written English there are virtually no differences between British and American English and it is often impossible to tell if a document was written in Britain or the United States. However, in spoken English the differences become clear, primarily through accent, and then through the various features listed below:

The differences between British and American English can summarized in the following four categories:

1. Grammatical differences

2. Differences in pronunciation

3. Spelling differences

4. Differences in vocabulary

1. Grammatical differences

(US) He just went home (UK) He's just gone home.

(US) Do you have a problem? (UK) Have you got a problem?

(US) She's just gotten a raise . (UK) She's just got a raise.

burn, dream, lean, learn, smell, spell, spill and spoil are regular in American English, but often spelt ending in a 't' in British English in both the past and past participle forms.

(US) burned, dreamed, leaned, learned, smelled, spelled, spilled and spoiled.

(UK) burnt, dreamt, leant, learnt, smelt, spelt, spilt and spoilt

fit, quit and wet are regular in British English, but in American English past and past participle forms are the same as the infinitive.

(US) He fit the new carpet (UK) He fitted the new carpet

Other verbs which are different are:

Infinitive		Past		Past participle
(US) wake		waked		waked
(UK) wake		woke		woken
(US) dive		  dove		dived
(UK) dive		  dived		dived

(US) Have you done it already? (UK) Have you done it yet?

(US) He looked at me real strange. (UK) He looked at me really strangely.

2. Differences in pronunciation

The differences in pronunciation between Britain and America can only be generalized as there are many different regional accents in both countries. Nevertheless, here are some of the main differences between standard British and American English

(US) hello /halaow/ (UK) hello /halow/

(US) mummy /mmaaimmi/ (UK) mummy /mumi/

(US) pot /part/ (UK) pot /pot/

(US) can't /cairnt/, fast /fairst/, glass /glairs/, staff /stairf/, after /airfta/, example /egzairmpl/

(UK) can't /carnt/, fast /farst/, glass /glars/, staff /starf/, after /arfta/, example /egzampl/

(US) writer /rida/ (UK) writer /raita/

(US) car /kair/, turn /teurn/, offer /arfur/ (UK) car /ku/, turn /tun/, after /arfta/

(US) new /nuw/, duke /dewk/, tune /toown/ (UK) new /˝uw/, duke /djewk/, tune /tchoon/

(US) fertile /fertil/, reptile /reptil/, futile /fewtil/ (UK) fertile /fertiyl/, reptile /reptiyl/

(US) borough /burow/, thorough /thurow/ (UK) borough /buruh/, thorough /thuruh/

NOTE! THE WORDS BETWEEN SLASHES (IN BOLD) ARE WRITTEN PHONETICALLY AND ARE NOT SPELT CORRECTLY!

3. Spelling differences

(US) traveler, leveling (UK) traveller, levelling

(US) theater, center, meter (UK) theatre, centre, metre

(US) labor, honor, color (UK) labour, honour, colour

(US) catalog, dialog, analog (UK) catalogue, dialogue, analogue

(US) realize (UK) realize or realise

USA

UK

aluminum aluminium
analyze analyse
check cheque
defense defence
gray grey
jail gaol / jail
jewelry jewellery
offense offence
pajamas pyjamas
plow plough
practice (V) practise (V)
pretense pretence
program programme (tv or schedule)
specialty speciality
tire tyre (car)

 

3. Vocabulary differences

  • (Adapted from the internet- http://pages.prodigy.com/NY/NYC/britspk/main.html)
  • WORD IN THE USA IN BRITAIN
    Bomb Big Failure Great Success
    Braces Wire device worn to straighten teeth Straps worn to hold up trousers (US, suspenders)
    Bum Homeless person Buttocks
    Chips Thin wafers of potato Fried rectangles of potato
    Cider Non-alcoholic beverage made from apples Alcoholic beverage made from apples
    Corn Maize Wheat or oats
    Cot Small, collapsible bed Small bed for a baby (US, crib)
    Decorator Person whose job is to plan the decorations for homes and offices Person whose job is to paint homes and offices
    Fag Rude word for a homosexual man Cigarette
    Faggot Rude word for a homosexual man 1. Sausage patty, 2. Sticks of wood tied together and used to start a fire
    Fanny Buttocks Female sex organs
    First Floor Street level One floor above street level
    Flat Punctured tyre of a car. Apartment
    Garden Plot of land used to cultivate flowers or vegetables (UK allotment) Plot of grass adjacent to a house (US, yard)
    Gas Fuel for cars (a liquid) Fuel used in cooking (a gas)
    Haberdashery Men's clothing Sewing supplies
    Hamper Large basket for dirty clothing (clothes hamper) Large basket for food (picnic hamper)
    Homely Ugly Pleasant
    Hump (Vulgar slang) Have sex with Carry a heavy object
    Hush Puppy Cornmeal fritter Suede shoe
    Inside Lane Lane nearest center of road Lane nearest side of road
    Jelly Preserve made from fruit Gelatin
    Jumper Sleeveless dress worn over a blouse Knitted pullover (US, sweater)
    Knickers Short trousers Woman's undergarment
    Knock up Impregnate 1. Awaken by knocking on door,

    2. In tennis, a warm up session,

    3. Prepare hastily

    Lemonade Non carbonated beverage and sugar Carbonated beverage
    Mad Angry Crazy
    Mail Send a letter (UK = post) Letters received
    Mean (ADJ) Nasty, vicious Opposite of generous
    Momentarily In a moment For a moment
    One way Ticket in one direction (UK= single) A street where you can drive in one direction
    Overalls Loose fitting trousers with a bib front and shoulder straps Outer garment worn to protect clothes
    Pants Trousers Masculine underwear
    Paraffin Candle wax Oil distilled from petroleum or shale (US, kerosene)
    Pavement Paved surface of a road Paved walkway beside a road (US= sidewalk)
    Pissed Angry Inebriated
    Poof Exclamation used to express that something has happened suddenly or magically Rude word for a homosexual man
         
    Pot plant Marijuana Potted plant
    Precinct City district, for electoral or police administration purposes Pedestrian shopping area
    Presently Now Soon
    Public School State school Private school
    Punter Person who kicks the ball in American football. Customer or gambler
    Purse Where a woman keeps everything essential (UK=handbag) Where a woman keeps her money
    Randy Man or woman's name Sexuallly excited
    Revise Correct or update Review
    Robin Larger bird; symbol of Spring Smaller bird; symbol of Christmas
    Rubber Condom Eraser
    Semi Tractor-trailer Semi-detached house
    Shorts Worn under trousers Worn during sport or at the beach
    Sick Unwell Nauseated
    Slate List of candidates Criticize or type of stone
    Sod Turf Unpleasant person (deriv. sodomite)
    Stove The whole cooker Part of a cooker for heating water or frying things
    Stuffed Full from overeating Part of a rude expression: "Get stuffed!"
    Subway Underground railway Underground walkway
    Suspenders Straps worn to hold up trousers (UK= braces) Straps worn to hold up a woman's stockings
    Table (V) Set aside Bring to a vote
    Tick Off Make angry Reprimand
    Vest Garment worn over a shirt (UK= waistcoat) Garment worn under a shirt
    Wash up Wash hands and face Wash dishes after a meal

     

    USA UK
    Alumnus graduate
    Antsy Fidgety
    Anyplace Anywhere
    Apartment Flat
    Attorney Barister, Solicitor
    Automobile (Motor) Car
    Baby carriage Pram
    Bar Pub
    Barf Vomit
    Billboard Hoarding
    Billfold Wallet
    Broiler Grill
    Cab Taxi
    Cabana Beach hut
    Call collect Reverse charges
    Can Tin
    Candy Sweets
    Checkers Draughts
    Cheesecloth Muslin
    Closet Cupboard
    Coin purse Purse
    Cookie Biscuit
    Corn Maize
    Cotton candy Candy floss
    Crib Cot
    Crosswalk Pedestrian crossing
    Cuffs Turn ups (on trousers)
    Dessert Sweet
    Detour Diversion
    Diaper Nappy
    Dish towel Tea towel
    Divided highway Dual carriageway
    Downspout Drainpipe
    Drug store Chemist('s)
    Duplex Semi detached house
    Elevator Lift
    Eraser Rubber
    Faculty Staff (of a university)
    Fall Autumn
    Faucet Tap (indoors)
    Fender Wing or Bumper (car)
    Flashlight Torch
    Freeway / Expressway Motorway
    Garbage can Dustbin, rubbish bin
    Garbage collector Dustman
    Gear shift Gear lever (car)
    Generator Dynamo (car)
    Goldbricker Skiver
    Ground round Best mince
    Highway Main road
    Hobo Tramp
    Hood Bonnet (car)
    Intermission Interval (entertainment)
    Intersection Crossroads
    Janitor Caretaker
    Kerosene Parafin
    Lightening bug Glow worm
    Liquor store Off licence
    Mail (V) Post
    Mailbox Postbox
    Mailman, mail carrier Postman
    Math Maths
    Motor Engine
    Movie Film
    Muffler Silencer (car)
    Noplace Nowhere
    Oil pan Sump (car)
    One way Single (ticket)
    Optometrist Optician
    Overpass Flyover
    Pacifier Baby’s dummy
    Pants Trousers
    Panty hose Tights
    Patrolman Constable (policeman)
    Pavement Surface (road)
    Peek Peep
    Pitcher Jug
    Pocket book Handbag
    Potato chips Crisps
    Private hospital Nursing home
    Railroad (car) Railway (carriage)
    Raise Rise (salary)
    Realtor Estate Agent
    Rest room (Public) Toilet
    Round trip Return (ticket)
    Rubbers Wellington boots
    Run Ladder (in tights)
    Schedule Timetable
    Sedan Saloon (car)
    Shoulder Verge (road)
    Sidewalk Pavement
    Sneakers Tennis or training shoes
    Someplace Somewhere
    Spigot Tap (outdoors)
    Spool of thread Reel of cotton
    Station wagon Estate car
    Store Shop
    Stroller Push chair
    Subway Tube or underground
    Sweater Jumper, jersey, pullover
    Teeter totter See saw
    Thread Cotton
    The movies The cinema
    Thumbtack Drawing pin
    Tidbit Titbit
    Traffic circle Roundabout
    Trailer Caravan
    Trash Rubbish
    Trashcan Dust bin, rubbish bin
    Truck Lorry
    Trunk Boot (car)
    Turnpike Toll motorway
    Undershirt Vest
    Vacation Holiday
    Wheat Corn
    Windshield Windscreen (car)
    Wreck Crash (vehicle)
    Wrench Spanner
    Yard Garden
    Zipper Zip
    Zucchini Corgette
    (US) Check sth out (UK) Check sth
    (US) Do sth over (UK) Do sth again
    (US) Fill out a form (UK) Fill in a form
    (US) In back of swh (UK) At the back of swh
    (US) Meet with sb (UK) Meet sb
    (US) Monday through Friday (UK) Monday to Friday
    (US) Protest sth (UK) Protest against sth
    (US) Stay home (UK) Stay at home
    (US) Visit with sb (UK) Visit sb
    (US) Write sb (UK) Write to sb

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