How Are British English and American English Different?


Hello everyone. Welcome to the Langfocus channel and my name
is Paul. Today we’ll be answering the question “How
are British English and American English Different?” – one of the most commonly asked questions
by learners of English. And hopefully native speakers of English will
learn a thing or two from this video as well. The truth is that both British and American
English have numerous varieties, in other words various accents and dialects, so in
(the main part of) this video I will try to focus on the most standard, non-regional variety
of each one. Disclaimer: I’m not American, I’m Canadian. But I’m confident that we will someday be
Americans after the invasion. Standard Canadian English is very very close
to General American English, so I will say the American examples myself, unless there’s
a need to distinguish American pronunciation from Canadian. There are several ways in which Britain English
and the American English different: vocabulary, accent, spelling, and grammar. Vocabulary In the US, people generally say “garbash”
or “trash”, while in the UK they generally say “rubbish”. Both literally and figuratively. “The game was rubbish!” Americans “go on vacation”, while Brits
“go on holidays”. And this is also possible in American English. In the US people rent “apartments”, while
in the UK they rent “flats”. In the US, if your apartment is at street
level, then you live on the first floor, and the person above you lives on the second floor. In the UK, you live on the ground floor, and
the person above you lives on the first floor. If that person above you is unable or just
too lazy to take the stairs, in the US they’d take the elevator. In the UK, they’d take the lift. When you’re bored at home, in the US you might
turn on the TV, while in the UK you would turn on the telly. When you step outside of your building to
go for a walk, in the US you might walk on the sidewalk, while in the UK you walk on
the pavement. And if you’re tired of walking, in the US
you might take the subway. In the UK, you take the underground. In the US, it’s perfectly to wear pants when
you’re riding the subway, but in the UK you’d better wear some TROUSERS too because pants
means underpants. And specifically women’s underpants are sometimes
called knickers in the UK. So when someone overreacts, in the US you
might say “Don’t get your panties in a bunch!” In the UK you’d say “Don’t get your knickers
in a twist!”. Paul how dare you be so crude. Now I can’t show this video to my 6 year old
students! Don’t worry, they’ll watch it on their phones
during recess. Going back to the word “pants” for a moment,
it can also be used in British English as an adjective, meaning something is “crappy”
or “it sucks”. For example “That album is pants”. In American English, you might say “That
album sucks”. Accent So I’ll try to focus on General American English,
and for the UK – Received Pronunciation. These are the accents you’re likely to hear
on CNN and the BBC, respectively. R-sounds American English is rhotic, meaning that “r”
sounds are always clearly pronounced. British English is non-rhotic, meaning that
the “r” sound is not pronounced unless it is followed by a vowel sound. Listen to the difference. US: “My father’s in the car”. UK: “My father’s in the car”. Now let’s focus on two words. US: father UK: father. US: car UK: car. Notice that the final r sound is not pronounced
in British English. “Father” ends in a simple schwa vowel
/ˈfɑː.ðə/. And in “car” the a vowel sound is lengthened
in place of the “r” sound. /kɑː/ Now, the thing about British non-rhotic dialects
that I find pretty wild is something called the intrusive r. That means that people sometimes add an r-sound
to a word that doesn’t actually have one, if it’s followed by a vowel in the next word. For example, in the sentence “I saw a film”. In British English it sometimes sounds like
this: “I saw’r a film”. So you can hear that there’s an “r” sound
connecting “saw” and “a”. I once had British on-the-job trainer, and
she said “Hello my name is Paula and I’ll be your trainer today”. I remember thinking “Pauler? What, you can’t say your own name?” But, it wasn’t just her. That was the “intrusive r”. T-sounds In British English (and again, I must emphasize
that I’m talking about the accent referred to as Received Pronunciation), t sounds are
pronounced as hard Ts, in other words voiceless /t/ sounds. In the US, they sometimes sound like /ɾ/
(an alevelar tap) instead of /t/ (an alveolar stop). This normally occurs in an unstressed syllable,
between 2 vowel sounds, or between a vowel and a rhotic sound (like an “r” sound). So in the US people say butter. [ˈbʌɾɚ]. And in the UK, they say butter. /ˈbʌ.tə/. In the US: Stop fighting! /stɑp ˈfʌɪɾɪŋ/. In the UK: Stop fighting! /stɒp ˈfʌɪtɪŋ/. You may have also noticed the “o” sound
in the word “stop” was a little different, which brings me to… O sounds In the word “stop”, the American “o”
sound is an unrounded vowel /ɑ/ while the British “o” sound is rounded /ɒ/. Another example: US hot /hɑt/ UK: /hɒt/. There is also the “o” diphthong in the
word “know” US /noʊ/ (US). In the UK: /nəʊ/ . In the UK the sound is
a schwa followed by /ʊ/ as in “put”. US: show /ʃoʊ/ UK: show /ʃəʊ/ A sounds. In other words, sounds represented by the
letter “a”) /ɑː/ in UK normally becomes an /æ/ sound
in American English. For example, in the UK: half /hɑːf/. And in the US: half /hæf/. Words that are /æ/ in UK remain pretty similar
in US. For example, in the UK: cat /kæt/. And in the US: /kæt/. An exception is a small set of words in which
the “a” is followed by “rr”, in which case the vowel is pronounced as /e/. In the UK: marry /ˈmæɹɪ/ . In the US:
marry /ˈmɛɹi/. Because of the difference, in the US “marry”
and “Merry” sound the same. “Carry” and “Kerry” sound the same. Spelling: American and British spellings are
largely the same, but there are a few notable differences. This is in large part because Noah Webster
(whom the Webster dictionary is named after) made an effort to reform English spelling
in the 1700s, in order to make the words spelled the way they sounded. This resulted in some spelling changes in
American English. Most (but not all) words that end in ~re in
the UK end in ~er in the US. For example: centre/center, theatre/theater,
metre/meter, sombre/somber. Some words that end in ~nce in the UK are
spelled with ~nse in the US. licence/license. Defence/defense, offence/offense. Some words with “ou” in the UK are spelled
with “o” in the US. Colour/color, favour/favor, honour/honor,
labour/labor, etc. The ending ~ise became ~ize in the US. organise/organize. apologise/apologize. A similar change also occurs in other contexts
where the “s” is voiced (in other words it makes a /z/ sound). Analyse/analyze. Cosy/cozy. There are verbs ending with “l” that take
a doubled “l” in British English when a suffix is added. In American English there is no double “l”. travelled/traveled,
cancelled/canceled, marvellous / marvelous. If you’re wondering how the last one fits
in with the others, remember that “marvel” is a verb, and then an adjectival suffix is
added to it). Grammar: There are only very minor differences
in grammar between British English and American English. Auxiliary verbs. Brits use “shall” for the future much
more than Americans, as well as to ask for advice or an opinion. Some difference in preposition use: In the US, people say “on the weekend”,
but in the UK they say “at the weekend”. And in the US, people say “different from”
or “different than”, but in the UK they say “different from” or “different to”. There are some different past tense forms. For example, in American English the past
tense of the world “learn” is “learned”, while in British English it’s more common
to say “learnt”. Actually, both forms are used in either country,
but there is more of tendency towards one form. This is true for other words like dreamed
vs. dreamt, burned vs. burnt, leaned vs. leant. Another example. In the US, the past tense of dive is usually
“dove”. In the UK it’s “dived”. Maybe the American form developed by analogy
with “drive” and “drove”. Anyways, differences like these are not consistent,
but you’ll notice some different past tense forms here and there. Past participles: Sometimes past participles
have a different form. The most well-known example is for the verb
“get”. In the US, there’s get / got / gotten. But in the UK, it’s get / got / got/. ** Both forms have existed since the Middle
English period, but “gotten” has fallen out of use in the UK. “Got” can be used in American English
in the form “have got”, but with the meaning of “have”, not “has received/become”. US: I haven’t gotten the eviction notice yet. UK: I haven’t got the eviction notice yet. Sentences – Alright, let’s check a couple
of sentences and see what we find. In the US: I think we need a lawyer. In the UK: I reckon we need a solicitor. You’ll notice that a couple of words are different. British people often use the word “reckon”
which means “think” or “suppose”. Americans know this word, but rarely use it. And while Americans would typically refer
to a professional legal consultant as a lawyer, in the UK they often say “solicitor” which
is a type of lawyer that does consultation. The type of lawyer who represents you in court
in the UK in usually a barrister, while in the US they are usually referred to as attorneys. Another sentence. In the US: I’m going for a beer with my friends. In the UK: I’m going for a pint with my mates. Notice that British people often “pint”
where Americans would say “beer”. Brits also say beer as a countable noun like
this, but pint is used frequently. And notice that Brits often say “mate”
where Americans would say “friend”. The differences between British English and
American English might seem surprising or amusing, but remember: in this video I’m zooming
in on the differences and focusing on them. For the most part they are actually the same. There are some minor differences in vocabulary,
in pronunciation, in grammar, and in spelling, but any native speaker with a little bit of
exposure to the other will quickly adapt to these differences and be able to understand
the other variety without any problem. The differences are sometimes greater if we
focus on regional dialects and sociolects of British English and American English. While most Americans probably have no trouble
understanding Received Pronunciation, they mayhave some trouble understanding Cockney
English, or the Georgie English of Northeastern England, or other varieties. But as far as standard, non-regional speech
goes, I’d say that the differences are minimal. However, learners of English who focus on
one of the two varieties, will likely have a bit of trouble understanding the other until
they gain significant more exposure to it. The QOD: What other differences between American
and British English are you aware of? In this video I was only able to give a limited
number of examples, so add yours in the comments! Be sure to follow Langfocus on Facebook, Twitter,
and Instagram. And once again, thank you to all of my wonderful
Patreon supporters. And these ones right here on the screen are
my top tier Patreon supporters, so many extra special thanks to them. And to everyone out there, thank you for watching
and have a nice day.

100 Replies to “How Are British English and American English Different?

  1. My my do Americans speak different accent and spell some words different, well I am a native English speaker from Guyana, no not Ghana you idiot, and I have to say that its not real English, If you have an accent and spell words differently and have foreign words in the language then it s not English.well that' s what we hear from Americans and non English speakers.in Guyana. Well in Guyana we speak with a Guyanese accent,( not talking about the Creoleise) and we have foreign words also in our English . Americans and non English speakers always say we speak rubbish English or broken English. But when English,people,Australians, Irish come to Guyana,they never have a bad word to say about out English,and there is no problem with communication most Guyanese speak creolise most of the time,but can move to Guyanese English if speaking to a foreigner .what I want to know is why is Americans allowed to have an accent and spell words differently and we are not? As far as the ass holes say is that Guyanese must speak the queens English with no accent.not even in England do they speak it. What pisses me off is non English speakers telling us what is the correct English, height of arrogance?

  2. British English? Don't you mean English English? Irish and Scottish English aren't the same as English English but all 3 are British English.

  3. Explain US and Canadian different pronunciations please. For the life of me, an American, I cannot say "about" like a Canadian. I hear it as somewhere between "a boat" and "a boot".

  4. "I'm not American, I'm actually Canadian", he said. So… In which continent is Canada? In Africa, maybe? America is a continent, not a country! If he is Canadian, he is American too (no boubt!). The case is that he is not United Statian!

  5. Most "American English" words Brits have stopped using. Flashlight, soccer, fall (for autumn) were all used by British people. Now people claim "oh that's so American" nope it's so Victorian.

  6. What are the differences between those following words that in french mostly have the same meaning :

    • Warehouse

    • Endeavor

    • Company

    • Enterprise

  7. This is a very good video, but there's one tiny detail that's not right: leant is pronounced "lent" not "leent", just like the past tense of kneel is knelt.

  8. I find it interesting that Americans fully truncate mathematics while British keep it plural. Americans: I like math class. British: I like maths class.

  9. I've never said trousers only pants I dont know anyone's who says pavement its path, as for your language analysis on r's and e's in the two languages your American excamples are more like English.

  10. Here's a quite important difference I don't find in the video or in the comments (perhaps I missed it below): If a Brit says "Say, Jack, it's getting awfully late, you know, and we have to get to the show. Could you knock up your mother-in-law so we can all leave and arrive there on time?" he may well lose his front teeth in the US. Beyond that, I have a question that no one has ever been able to answer satisfactorily: When in history was it first possible to say with confidence, "Oh, he speaks with an American accent." At the time of the French and Indian War? During the American Revolution? Even later?

  11. The top of your house is a roof, Americans say roof the same way woof sounds but with an r. (as in a dogs' woof) Also, many Americans say crick for creek. Up the creek without a paddle, sounds like, up the crick without a paddle.

  12. Honestly, if you grasp one you can easily learn the other. Most of the differences are just one uses word X while the other uses word Y. Spelling wise, it is damn easy to know what you mean by "theatre" in the US.

    Accents are another game entirely holy hell….

  13. The British English speaker was speaking something more like Standard Southern which has relaxed RP add the default accent. It sounded a bit off tbh but I have a Standard Southern accent and it sounded pretty much like I do 🙂

  14. As an American english speaker I was literally just saying "ew why would they say that?" Throughout the whole video and I'm pretty sure British ppl were probably doing the same 😂

  15. It's interesting how American and British people use the verb "have", in America people use it as a normal verb (do you have a pen?) and in Britain they use it as a special verb (have you got a pen? – old-fashioned: have you a pen?). Another difference is the frequency in use of the Present Perfect between the two variants. I love the English language.

  16. Due to so much American cultural influence in the UK, many of the US words are now used in the UK too. English has always absorbed words and usage. I am sure Americans would understand my South London accent 🙂

  17. So, they're essentially the same. British, Americans, Canadians and Australians can understand each other very easily. They speak English. Tiny differences, sure. But the differences between Chinese and Japanese, for example, are, in comparison, worlds apart. Norwegian and German? Can they understand each other as easily?

  18. As a brit I can confirm we do consume at least 5 cups of a tea a day. Oh yeah and whatever the hell this guy said is true.

  19. We can find a brilliant example of that intrusive R in the movie, "The Imitation Game" when Joan Clarke says to Alan, "I have an idea(r) of what might cheer you up."

  20. I spent 3years studing british one.
    Thousands of movies in american english.
    And I speak bricky solid koreana english

  21. Does the Y-Vowel link, and W-Vowel link, Reductions with should, could, and would of American English applies to British English???

  22. Who decided the letter Z should be pronounced as "Zee" when it was originally conceived as "Zed"? It seems the US is the only english speaking country to pronounce it… Zee.

  23. Especially pertaining to spelling, but also to pronunciation to a certain degree, Canadian English finds itself somewhere in between, with a bit of French sprinkled in. Perhaps a video on that in the future is in order?

  24. Long live British. British English is the best. Not underestimating Americans. So,don't mind. Everyone has his choice.

  25. Us Indians are confused people. British ruled India so the English we learnt at school was British English. But then we watch American TV shows and Hollywood films that has polluted our English and it is now a jumbled mix of both.
    Also, I'd like to point out one more aspect to this. Some people use words that aren't used commonly just to show elitism. For such people FILM became MOVIE, LIFT became ELEVATOR, FLAT… APARTMENT.
    I try to be on the British side as much as I can while I speak or write English.

  26. I like the words " you will be the American after invasion" that you invoke bigging your speech. Best of all, I like your amazing speech and enjoyed a lot.

  27. hello sir may i please take you to Buckingham palace and have some delightful tea and biscuits with the queen in front of big ben with a corgi

  28. The final r is not pronounced in English as according to Oxford dictionary when a vowel comes before r ,the r becomes silent

  29. Now I get it 🤔 in South Africa we are taught British English but I grew up watching a lot of American TV and that’s how I learned English , in high school my English teacher said to me I wrote American English which left me confused because I thought English was just English.

  30. What I find as peculiar is how some words borrowed from other languages, for example, garage, salon, valet, chianti and pasta retain a closer pronunciation to the original in American English than in British.

  31. Americans say “inside of” which sounds harsh to British ( or in my case Australian) ears. British just say “inside”. Similarly Americans say “visit with” eg “I am going to visit with my sister”. British just say “ I am going to visit my sister”.

  32. Seems like Uk English forgoes the article in some instances, for example "going to hospital" or "going to university"

  33. I was repeating those words out loud to see the difference and I’m pretty sure my parents think I have a mental disability or something now 😂

  34. But using "learnt" as in it is used deep south is normally construed as you being ignorant and misusing the English language. "He learnt him a new language" Instead of "He learned a new language". People will often mock you as being uneducated if you use the first.

  35. Nah nah nah nah nah… I don’t care that he said it was the whatever type of English but ain’t no body I know sayin the t in water nah fam it war-er and for butter it’s bu-er

  36. Americans has all kinds of different versions of English with differences in phrases , accents and words and some of it is a result of culture, history even being descended from people who where raised in other European tongues like French or German but then the united states is a very large nation with 52 states that are the size of decent sized countries and Americans use creek, crick and creak to describe a stream.

  37. I grew up in New England, and we definitely did say rubbish! But that was often a bit generation and seems to be fading.

  38. BrE: "Craig" pronounced "Cray-g" 👍
    AmE: "Craig" pronounced "Creg" 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

    BrE: "Graham" pronounced "Gray-um" 👍
    AmE: "Graham" pronounced "Gram" 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

    BrE: "I couldn't care less" 👍
    AmE: "I could care less" 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

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