If you are doing business in the US, learn the differences between British and American English

British English vs. American English: Are They Really So Different?

When you call our translation services asking for help with a translation into English, we start by asking you: British English or American English? Many clients remain confused, because they do not know that, apart from the accent in speaking, there are differences between British and American English.

For this reason, we decided to prepare a detailed article that lists the most important elements that make the difference between British English vs. American English. The way certain words are spelled and the structure of sentences will feel different to a native speaker. While they may understand the meaning of the text, not paying attention to these differences may make them believe that you made several grammar and spelling errors.

If you are doing business in the US, learn the differences between British and American English

Busy street in New York, the headquarters of Pronto Translations

The Main Differences between British and American English

Irish writer and playwright Oscar Wilde wrote in one of his best-known works The Canterville Ghost: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” When looking side by side at texts in British English vs. American English, any speaker of each language will understand both.

However, at a closer look, the reader will note several differences mainly related to:

Spelling

If you set your text editing software to American English, you will note many differences between British and American English. The text editor will highlight in red (spelling error) British English words such as:

  • Neighbour
  • Colour
  • Analogue
  • Defence
  • Tyre
  • Metre

One of the characteristics of British English vs. American English is that the latter language adopted a simplified way of spelling words (color vs. colour, catalog vs. catalogue).

Although your correspondent will understand words that you spell in a different way, in official documents and for the purpose of localization of your website and marketing materials, you should definitely use the accurate spelling for British English vs. American English.

In Piccadilly Circus you will certainly note the differences between British English vs. American English

One of the best known places in London, England is Piccadilly Circus.

Vocabulary

People in England not only spell words differently from people in the US, but they also have different words for the same concepts. Here are some simple examples of the differences between British English vs. American English:

British EnglishAmerican English
BonnetHood
BootTrunk
FlatApartment
UndergroundSubway
JumperSweater

 

Other differences between British and American English may cause confusion for readers. In the UK, the term for French fries is chips. The American chips (thinly sliced potato snacks) are called crisps in England.

Grammar

Finally, an important difference between British English vs. American English refers to grammar. One of the most important rules that differentiate the two languages is the treatment of collective nouns, such as:

  • Team
  • Band
  • Staff

In American English, these words are in the singular form: “Our team is playing tomorrow”. In British English, they are in the plural form: “Our team are playing tomorrow.”

Also, a British speaker would generally use the forms:

  • Shall instead of will
  • Needn’t instead of don’t need to
  • Gotten instead of got

Last but not least, another difference between British English vs. American English refers to the use of prepositions. In British English “at” is used in phrases related to place and time:

  • At Piccadilly Circus
  • At the weekend

American speakers would say “in Piccadilly Circus” and “on the weekend”.

For a newcomer to US, the differences between British and American English are poignant.

Arriving from England to US, you will note the language differences.

Confused About Differences between British English vs. American English? Hire Professional Translators

Pronto Translations is a professional translation agency offering over 300 language pairs. We know all the differences between British and American English and will make sure that your text is 100% accurate for a native speaker.

It may not be a huge difference, but it makes all the difference for your business and for any other communications you have with individuals, authorities, and businesses in the respective country.

We are based New York, but also serve clients in:

  • Chelsea
  • Midtown
  • Soho
  • Greenwich Village
  • All of Manhattan
  • Hoboken, NJ
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • … and anywhere worldwide

Call us now at 646-984-4073!

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