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British vs. American English

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

In this article, we are going to explore some differences between two Englishes - American and British - in these areas:

1 SPELLING

*-ise or -ize?

In general, the ending -ise is preferred in British English, however, it is acceptable to use -ize. It is a matter of preference but once you choose, you should be consistent in your writing.

Be careful as there are words that always end in -ise in both British & American English: advertise, advise, apprise, arise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disenfranchise, disguise, enfranchise, enterprise, excise, exercise, improvise, incise, premise, revise, supervise, surprise, televise

The ending -yze is not acceptable in British English but is preferred in American, e.g. analyze, paralyze, catalyze, or dialyze. In British English these would be spelled analyse, paralyse, catalyse, dialyse.


--> Br (-ise / -ize // -yse) vs. Am (-ize // -yze) <--


**-ce or -se?

In British English, nouns end in -ce such as practice, advice, and licence. However, if they are used as verbs, they will be spelt with -se: practise, advise, and license.

I need extra English practice. X I practise my English every day.

His advice was worth it. X He advised me to buy a flat.


2 PRONUNCIATION

The main differences between British and American English can be summarized as follows:

· Rhotic accent

· Differences in consonant pronunciation

· Differences in vowel pronunciation

· Change of stress

· Differences in articulation


1 r

Most American accents are rhotic whereas most British accents are non-rhotic. This means that most Americans will pronounce the r in certain syllables where British will not.

In British English, when r comes after a vowel in the same syllable, the r is not pronounced. It is pronounced when it is at the beginning or in the middle when it comes after a consonant, e.g. rain, read, crane, drink, bring,

For example: car, hard, market, water, work, turn, birth, farm, girl, other

In American English the r is pronounced.

To hear the difference, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nAnT3PASak



2 t

In British English, t is pronounced when it is at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a word (table, attract, cat).

In American English, they tend to drop the t at the end of words.

T in the middle position is pronounced as d:

a) when it is between two vowels – Saturday, matter, What about?

b) when it is between r and a vowel – party, part of

In American English t is pronounced like a fast d.

In American English, t is dropped after n, e.g. centre, interview, internet



3 some words

Here are only some examples. If you are not sure, it is always good to check with a dictionary where you can also play the pronunciation and practise it.


brochure UK /ˈbrəʊ.ʃər/ US /broʊˈʃʊr/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/brochure

garage UK /ˈɡær.ɑːʒ/ /ˈɡær.ɪdʒ/ US/ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/garage

address UK /əˈdres/ US /ˈæd.res/

laboratory UK /ləˈbɒr.ə.tər.i/ US /ˈlæb.rə.tɔːr.i/

advertisement UK /ədˈvɜː.tɪs.mənt/ US /ˌæd.vɚˈtaɪz.mənt/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/advertisement

patent UK /ˈpeɪ.tənt/ US /ˈpæt.ənt/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/patent

apricot UK/ˈeɪ.prɪ.kɒt/ US /ˈeɪ.prɪ.kɑːt/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/apricot

enquiry UK /ɪnˈkwaɪə.ri/ US /ˈɪn.kwə.ri/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/enquiry

leisure UK /ˈleʒ.ər/ US /ˈliː.ʒɚ/ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/leisure

herb UK /hɜːb/ US /ɝːb/

tomato UK /təˈmɑː.təʊ/ US /təˈmeɪ.t̬oʊ/


  • can vs. can’t

I would like to introduce you to this lovely couple which will explain the difference and you can practise the accent you prefer with them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpygq0h4Ql0

  • -ization: civilization, organization, authorization, globalization, modernization, specialization

UK /aɪˈzeɪ.ʃən/ US /əˈzeɪ.ʃən/


In the article above we can see a couple of changes. Here they are as well as more examples:

i) [əʊ] vs. [oʊ] tomato, no, go, promotion, romantic

ii) [ɒ] vs. [ɑː] apricot, hot, job, lot, clock, chocolate, sorry, box, dog

iii) [ju:] vs. [u:] new, assume

iv) [ɪ] vs. [aɪ] civilization, organization, authorization, globalization


The list is not exhaustive. There are many other nuances which also vary based on different accents, locations, etc.

If you decide to work on one of the accents, I can recommend Youtube videos. Here are some recommendations:


4 different stress


.....


3 VOCABULARY

You can practise the differences for example here: https://wordwall.net/cs/resource/32267360/british-and-american-english


Here are some other examples:

Many car parts differ too, e.g.:

bonnet vs. hood

boot vs. trunk

flat tyre vs. flat tire

gear-lever vs. gearshift

gearbox vs. transmission

silencer vs. muffler

windscreen vs. windshield


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