Difference Between American English and British English


Difference Between American English and British English

Difference Between American English and British English

Difference Between American English and British (Royal) English

Difference Between American English and British English

Difference Between American English and British English: English, as a mother tongue, is spoken in America and in Great Britain. But the English language spoken and written in America is called American English the English language spoken and written in England is called King’s  (Royal) or British English. The English language of the Americans did not originate in America but was brought to America by the English colonists in the seventeenth century. Though American English originally belonged to Royal English, yet there are some outstanding differences between the two. The main factors that are responsible for the differentiation between the two are as follows:

A. Causes of Difference Between American English and British English

First of all, the English who migrated from England to America carried with them the English language that was prevalent in seventeenth-century England, especially the language spoken and written by Shakespeare, Milton, Webster, Bunyan and the Elizabethans.

The second cause is that the English language borrowed by the colonists has taken many native or provincial elements which have not entered into the vocabulary of Royal English. On the other hand, British or Royal English has taken many foreign elements after the seventeenth century which have not been inserted into American English.

The third outstanding cause of the difference between American English and Royal English is that, when America got freedom from the yoke of Britain, then the Americans surged with nationalism and patriotism and began to hate any foreign elements or influences on their culture. Hence some scholars came out to give a national form to their language and as a consequence, Noah Webster wrote some books on the American English language in which he willingly differentiated somewhat the English language from the language of that of Britain. The famous books written by him are- ‘A Grammatical Institute of the English Language’, ‘The American Spelling Book’, and ‘Dissertation on the English Language’. In 1828, he even wrote a dictionary entitled: ‘An American Dictionary of the English Language’.

B. Points of Difference Between American English and British English

In the above-mentioned books, he differentiated American English from Royal English especially in pronunciation and in the spelling of many words. Nowadays, the difference that occurs between the two is mainly pertaining to vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling and syntax.

(a) Vocabulary

The vocabulary of American English differs from British English because the Americans have taken many native elements into their English which British English fails to get at.

The new elements taken from its native source and from the Red-Indians are pertaining to the name of trees, names of living things, and the names relating to food, such as:

Names of trees: hickory, live-oak, locust, sweet-potato, egg-plant etc.

Names of living things: moose, terrapin, porgy, shunk etc.

Names of food: pone, hominy, tapioca etc.                            

Besides these American English took some words from French, Dutch, German and Spain, which have differentiated American English from British English.

Some of the words taken from French are: portage, bureau, levee, chute etc.

Some of the words taken from Dutch are: stoop, boss, cruller etc.

Some of the words taken from German are: noodle, pretzel, smear-case etc.

 Some words taken from Spain are: corral, chile, quadroon, stampede etc.

The atmosphere of American political life compelled the Americans to introduce some political terms to their vocabulary, some of such terms are: banner-state, drank-horse, favourite son, landshide, floater, slate etc.

Many words pertaining to rail roads, American English differs from British English.

American Eng—British Eng

Cowcatcher — pilot

Locomotive — driver engineer

Conductor — guard

Baggage — luggage

Car — carriage etc

(b) Pronunciation

The second outstanding difference between the two types of English occurs in pronunciation. The Americans preserve the flat sound of ‘a’ in some words like- fast, path, grass, dance etc. while British English pronounces them with broad ‘a’ sound as ‘a’ in father.

In American English, the ‘r’ is pronounced in all positions, while in Royal English the sound of the letter is omitted in such words, as: lord, port, short etc. The British English language pronounces these words as: loud, pout, shout respectively.

Concerning the sound of ‘o’ in such words, as: not, dot, pot, hot, lop etc, American English pronounce the ‘o’ as short ‘a’ while British English pronounces these words with an open ‘o’.

There are some words as: been, leisure, either, neither etc. which American English pronounces as- bin, lisure, ether, nether respectively, while Royal English pronounces ‘been’ as ‘bean’; ‘leisure’ as they pronounce ‘pleasure’ and ‘either’ and ‘neither’ with an initial diphthong ‘an’.

The words like: secretary, necessary etc. American English pronounces without the omission of any letter, but British English pronounce these words as- secret’ry, necess’ry respectively.

(c) Spelling

The third outstanding difference between the two kinds of English is pertaining to spelling. The Americans write some words without the use of ‘U’ as labor, honor etc. while British English writes with the letter ‘U’ as labour, honour etc.

Many times American English uses a single consonant in some words, while British English uses two consonants as-

American Eng — British Eng

Traveler — traveller

Wagon — waggon etc.

The American substitutes ‘er’ for ‘re’ in many words such as – figer, center, theater, while British English writes – figure, centre, theatre etc.

In some words, American English writes- ‘se’ and British English writes ‘-ce’as-

American Eng—British Eng

Defense — defence

Offense — offence etc.

(d) Syntax

The fourth outstanding difference between the two seems in syntax. American English writes infinite ‘to’ before verb as: aim to go. While British English use gerund as: aim at going.

In the use of adverbs, American English puts the adverb before the auxiliary verb as: He frequently has been punished. In contrast, British English uses the adverb after the auxiliary verb as: He has frequently been punished.

Though both English differs from each other in some respects, yet there is a close affinity between the two in many respects, for which an American can understand British English without facing any difficulty and vice-versa. It will be interesting here to say that the English language which has become the basis of present-day International English, is Royal English, not American English.

Generally, it seems that American English concerning pronunciation and spelling is more logical than British English; because the pronunciation of American English corresponds with that of their spelling. And that is why it may be called that if the English language needs any simplification in the future it may learn something from American English. 0 0 0

Difference Between American English and British English

Read More: An Essay on Standard English

N. B. This article entitled ‘Difference Between American English and British English’ originally belongs to the book ‘A Brief History of the English Language‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Difference Between American English and British English

Books on Linguistics by M. Menonimus:

  1. A Brief History of the English Language
  2. Essays on Linguistics
  3. My Imageries
  4. Felicitous Expression: Some Examples
  5. Learners’ English Dictionary

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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