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Thread: Difference of usage between British and American English

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    Arrow Difference of usage between British and American English



    Apart from differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronuciation, I have noted a few differences in usage between BrE and AmE. I found these comparing the BrE and AmE versions of a Grammar Book. usually both are correct in each varietu of English, but one is more usual in BrE, while the other is more common in AmE.

    BrE : I'll phone her
    AmE : I'll call her

    BrE : I feel a bit hungry
    AmE : I feel a little hungry

    BrE : We decided to go by car
    AmE : We decided to drive

    BrE : horrible
    AmE : awful

    BrE : cross the road
    AmE : cross the street

    BrE : look for somewhere else to stay
    AmE : look for another place to live

    BrE : I am going on holiday
    AmE : I am leaving on vacation

    BrE : When you have finished with it...
    AmE : When you are finished with it... (this is wrong in BrE)

    BrE : to advise someone
    AmE : to give someone advice

    BrE : When will you know your exam results ?
    AmE : When will you find out how you did on the exam ?

    BrE : this evening
    AmE : tonight
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    BrE : When you have finished with it...
    AmE : When you are finished with it... (this is wrong in BrE)
    just to add my own AmE to this, i'd say "done" rather than "finished"
    "When you're done with it..."
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    Some of your British examples are also used by Americans.

    The British use "have" a little differently than we Americans, such as....

    "I'm going to have a bite" OR "We had a laugh".

    And, I'd never heard "hire" used in this way until I talked to British and "Commonwealth" folks I met in Japan...

    "I'm going to hire a video." In American English we'd only use the word "rent". "Hire" is only used to talk about paying a person to do something.

    How about...
    BrE: "boot"
    AmE: "trunk"

    I used to have the British English vs. American English debate all the time while in Japan.
    For information on the pros and cons of teaching at Nova English schools in Japan, check out

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brooker
    Some of your British examples are also used by Americans.
    I know. These are just differences I noticed they took the pain to change from the BrE version of my grammar book to the AmE version (they also changed the names, so that Sue becomes Amanda, and George becomes Dave, or the like).

    The British use "have" a little differently than we Americans, such as....

    "I'm going to have a bite" OR "We had a laugh".
    Yes, and also in most cases when Americans say "take" : have a bath, have a walk, have a nap, etc.

    "I'm going to hire a video." In American English we'd only use the word "rent". "Hire" is only used to talk about paying a person to do something.
    I thing that "hire" is used more in phrases like "hire a car" or "hire a boat" in Britain. I'd say "rent a video".

    But these are more vocabulary differences (words only used in BrE or AmE), while those I cited are supposedly correct in both AmE and BrE, but more common in one variety of English (i.e. the dictionary is never going to mention that "to phone" is BrE and "to call" in AmE, although "to ring (up)" or "to buzz" are BrE, and "to call up" is AmE).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    (they also changed the names, so that Sue becomes Amanda, and George becomes Dave, or the like).
    Those all sound like American (or English) names to me. (Funny that Sue and Dave are my parents' names, and they're both American )

    I thing that "hire" is used more in phrases like "hire a car" or "hire a boat" in Britain. I'd say "rent a video".
    I've actually heard an Aussie say, "Hire a video". That's why I thought it was so strange.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brooker
    Those all sound like American (or English) names to me. (Funny that Sue and Dave are my parents' names, and they're both American )
    I think you are mising the point. All English names (including those of Latin, Greek or Hebrew origin) are used in all English-seapking countries. It's just that some names are more common in one country than in another, and sometimes the age associated with a name can be quite different depedning on the country. Btw, George was in the BrE book, while Dave was the AmE one, although many US presidents from George Washinton to George Bush were of course American. But I didn't make the book, just noticing that they changed the names when they could have kept them as they were.

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    I reckon it's the strength of English that it is so easily capable of absorbing new phrases and vocabulary. It's always changing and adapting - an essential trait in this fast-paced world of ours. No surprise then, when some phrases sometimes sound odd and others sound familiar.

    I lived in the States for 10 years (many years back) and even now, I find the odd Americanism creeping into my speech.

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    the american language is told much slower than the way of the anglish from europe.

    to say, something is not in the formal way as in america to the euroepeans.

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    hello everybody, I´m new on this board :)
    thank you for some differences between BE and AE. As a native german speaker it´s sometimes confusing for me. At school we learn BE but in everyday life you´ll be surrounded by the AE: films, tv-shows ect. Also most people who speak an excellent English over here tend to speak with an "American accent".

    here some more examples:

    he/she is pissed
    AE: he/she is angry
    BE: he/she is drunk

    a funny one that actually happend to a friend:

    wake-up call
    in BE short: a knock-up
    in AE: well, hum... a completely another meaning lol

    A happy belated Easter to all!

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    Something I noticed is that I purchased a novel while in England by a rather well known British author and I really enjoyed the book. Two years later I purchased a new book by the same author in America. It was actually a sequel to the first book. One thing I noticed was that the American edition seemed to be written in an American voice.
    What I mean by that is in the phraseology of the language. For instance, in the English edition, it might have said that one of the characters was at the pub having a drink with his mates. In a similar situation with the same characters it stated that the character went to the bar to have some drinks with his buddies.
    I seemed to find dozens of Americanisms in the novel that weren't in the British edition which changed the whole feel of the novel.
    I actually got a little angry when I realized that there were separate British and American editions of the same book, written supposedly in the same language.
    Since then I have purchased all books written by British authors from Amazon U.K. Sometimes they even change the titles of the books so that they don't offend American sensibilities. For example the novel "Blackman" written by Richard Morgan, was publish under the title "13" in the USA. Ridiculous! I have run across a couple other examples.
    I guess the editors of the American publishers feel that they have to edit the British writers so stupid Americans will read them.

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    Cool...in both versions:)

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    I wanna know how Agatha Christie books' titling was done here and there. Used to make me cuckoo!

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    In spite of the fact that the differences amongst American and British spellings are frequently subtle, they are still significant. For example (American spelling - British spelling):

    1. canceling - cancelling
    2. color - colour
    3. behavior - behaviour
    4. gray - grey
    5. encyclopedia - encyclopaedia

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    The vocabulary one which always makes me realise the often huge differences is the name of a small bag which goes around the waist to carry bits and pieces, often used by tourists.
    In British English it's a bum bag (bum being uk slang for bottom or posterior)
    In American English it's a fanny bag (rude word in uk for part of female anatomy)

    I taught English in Eastern Europe and Spain, and especially in the former Soviet bloc countries a lot of English language absorption comes via television films etc which are usually American English, and so the accents and usage are shaped by that.

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    BrE : horrible
    AmE : awful

    BrE : cross the road
    AmE : cross the street


    The rest are good observations, but the above phrases I wouldn't say are British or American.

    I use horrible and awful interchangeably. "That's freakin horrible" or "that's freakin awful" are pretty common expressions of mine.

    Cross the road and cross the street are interchangeable in the u.s, but street sounds a little more proper and road a bit more colloquial. It's true though I think the Brits would say exclusively road in speech.

    "I'm a little hungry" and " a bit hungry" are essentially the same and Americans say both pretty often. British people might say bit way more than they do little but Americans don't have that distinction. For us they are the same and we use them both very often.

    Some things I noticed living in England.

    The Brits usually say "if I was you" instead of "if I were you." This literally sounds like poor English to me.

    They also say " brush the floor with a brush" instead of "sweep the floor with a broom" as in the u.s. Another good one is the British tendency to call pots and pans just "pans" where as Americans make a distinction between the two

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    I've noticed a recent upswing in the use of "Britishisms" in US speech. Specifically, the term "sit an exam" (as opposed to "take an exam") seems to be becoming much more common in the US than it used to be. Could this be due to continuing pop-culture influence such as through Harry Potter? Could it be through immigration from India and Pakistan? Am I imagining it?

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    Abbreviations for the word "mathematics." In the US, this word is abbreviated as "math." In British English, it's "maths."

    Examples:

    AEng: "I never liked math class."

    BEng: "I never liked maths class."

    Other differences:

    In American English, while there is a distinction between colleges and universities (colleges usually being smaller, private institutions and universities being larger, generally public institutions), we always refer to them as "college" when talking about them, regardless of what they actually are. In British English, it seems that they prefer "university."

    So in the US, we'd say, "I'm going to college next year" even if you are going to Harvard University or University of California. The only time we'd say "university" in the same way is when we are referring to a specific place, like "I am going to the University next year," with "the university" being a specific university like Harvard or UCLA or the one down the road and the listener knows which university you are talking about.

    I've also noticed that in the UK they say, "hospital" instead of "the hospital." In the US, we'd say, "Grandpa had had to be taken to the hospital," regardless of whether we are taking about a specific hospital or not. In the UK, they say, "Grandpa had to be taken to hospital." They don't seem to include the "the." The British way of saying it sounds strange to American ears, like the speaker doesn't quite have a firm grasp of the language. But oddly enough, in the US (and I think the UK too) we say, "I go to school"--which is general, but "I go to the school" when talking about a specific school. If you said, "I go to the school" without specifying which school you go to, it sounds very odd. So for some reason, in American English, "the hospital," "the store," "the market," "the mall," "the hospital", "the beach", can all be general, but "the school" cannot be and has to be a specific school. Weird.

    Lastly, in the US we don't say "marks", we use "grades" instead. So we wouldn't say, "I got good marks in maths." We would say, "I got good grades in math" or "I got a good grade in math."

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    Quote Originally Posted by wordy View Post
    In spite of the fact that the differences amongst American and British spellings are frequently subtle, they are still significant. For example (American spelling - British spelling):

    1. canceling - cancelling
    2. color - colour
    3. behavior - behaviour
    4. gray - grey
    5. encyclopedia - encyclopaedia
    This is an effect of our dictionary, Webster's. Mr. Webster wanted to simplify the spellings to create an American English so it's color, not colour, and parlor, not parlour. It's only in faux tourist spots that Olde English spellings are used.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wanderingscotsman View Post
    The vocabulary one which always makes me realise the often huge differences is the name of a small bag which goes around the waist to carry bits and pieces, often used by tourists.
    In British English it's a bum bag (bum being uk slang for bottom or posterior)
    In American English it's a fanny bag (rude word in uk for part of female anatomy)


    I was in Australia many years ago and the name of my buddy, Randy (short for Randolph), was the source of great amounts of laughter from the young ladies, When questioned, they declined to tell us the joke. Apparently it too was rude.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
    [/FONT][/COLOR][/LEFT]

    I was in Australia many years ago and the name of my buddy, Randy (short for Randolph), was the source of great amounts of laughter from the young ladies, When questioned, they declined to tell us the joke. Apparently it too was rude.
    I'm not Australian, but I wonder if the name of your friend Randy sounded like the word that they use for somebody who is "in the mood," so to speak? Kind of like when people might snicker or make jokes at the name of the type of lizard, the horny toad (which ironically live in Australia).

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    I expect you're right. I think I understood, at some level, what randy meant at the time, but the hilarity, and the blushes, of the ladies seemed beyond the normal. It's similar to the word bloody. I get that to a Brit it's obscene (or rude or course), but it can never have the impact on an American that it does on a Brit, so their reaction seems inordinate (and very comical!).

    BTW, I have very fond memories of Australia (Perth it was) based on that visit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
    I expect you're right. I think I understood, at some level, what randy meant at the time, but the hilarity, and the blushes, of the ladies seemed beyond the normal. It's similar to the word bloody. I get that to a Brit it's obscene (or rude or course), but it can never have the impact on an American that it does on a Brit, so their reaction seems inordinate (and very comical!).

    BTW, I have very fond memories of Australia (Perth it was) based on that visit.
    Do they not use the name Randy in Australia, I wonder? Well, in American English, and I think it's the same in British English too, we have a particular nickname for Richard that often gets a lot of laughter because it's also popular slang for an anatomical part.

    Incidentally, in American English we don't use Randy that way. We use it only as a name. I only first learned the non-name meaning from Austin Powers.

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