IDP IELTS Blog

British vs. American English

29 Nov 2021
British vs. American English

Although they are the same language, British and American English have some major differences. Even though both are acceptable on the IELTS test, it can be confusing and overwhelming when learning English. Here are some of the more common differences between British and American English.

Vocabulary

British and American English have evolved quite differently, especially in terms of vocabulary. This is because vocabulary used in British English is derived from different languages than vocabulary used in American English. Although there are a large number of words that are exactly the same, many words are completely different.

Clothes

British American
trousers pants
trainers sneakers
jumper sweater
dungarees overalls
nappy diaper

Food

British American
chips french fries
aubergine eggplant
biscuit cookie
candy floss cotton candy
maise corn

School

British American
full stop period
maths math
rubber eraser
plaster band-aid
loo bathroom

Homes

British American
flat apartment
lift elevator
washbasin sink
wardrobe  closet
torch flashlight

Cars

British American
lorry truck
windscreen windshield
bonnet hood
boot trunk
indicator blinker


Spelling

The spelling of words can also be different in British and American English. This can also be due to the languages the words were adopted from. Also, words used in American English tend to be spelled the way they sound. It is also said that vocabulary used in American English was spelled differently to gain some independence.

-RE/-ER

British American
centre center
metre meter
litre liter
theatre theater
fibre fiber

-OUR/-OR

British American
colour color
neighbour neighbor
favourite favorite
humour humor
labour labor

-SE/-ZE

British American
apologise apologize
realise realize
memorise memorize
organise organize
specialise specialize

-LL/-L

British American
traveller traveler
signalling signaling
modelling modeling

-T/-ED

British American
dreamt dreamed
learnt learned
burnt burned


Grammar

There are also some differences in grammar. These differences may not be as noticeable as the vocabulary and may be easier to understand.

Shall

British American
Shall we go to the theatre now?

Should we go to the theater now?
OR
Would you like to go to the theater now?

Got/Gotten

British American
Has he got the papers yet?

Has he gotten the papers yet?

Collective Nouns + is/are

British American
The Team are playing a game tomorrow night.

The team is playing a game tomorrow night.

Prepositions

British American
What do you do at the weekend?

I live in that street.

What do you do on the weekend?

I live on that street.

Needn’t

British American
She needn’t come to the party.

She doesn’t need to come to the party.

US vs UK Speech bubbles

Though there looks to be many differences between British and American English, there are even more similarities. Both forms of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar are accepted on the IELTS test so there is no need to worry. It may be useful to know some vocabulary from both British and American English because either could be used throughout the test. Whatever you use, make sure you know how to spell the word and use it in a grammatically correct sentence.

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