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Hello everyone.
Welcome to the Langfocus channel and my name is Paul.
Today we'll be answering the question “How are British English and American English Different?”
- one of the most commonly asked questions by learners of English.
And hopefully native speakers of English will learn a thing or two from this video as well.
The truth is that both British and American English have numerous varieties, in other
words various accents and dialects, so in (the main part of) this video I will try to
focus on the most standard, non-regional variety of each one.
Disclaimer: I'm not American, I'm Canadian.
But I'm confident that we will someday be Americans after the invasion.
Standard Canadian English is very very close to General American English, so I will say
the American examples myself, unless there's some specific need to distinguish American pronunciation
from Canadian.
There are several ways in which Britain English and the American English different: vocabulary,
accent, spelling, and grammar.
In the US, people generally say “garbash” or “trash”, while in the UK they generally
say “rubbish”.
Both literally and figuratively.
“The game was rubbish!”
Americans “go on vacation”, while Brits “go on holidays”.
And this is also possible in American English.
In the US people rent “apartments”, while in the UK they rent “flats”.
In the US, if your apartment is at street level, then you live on the first floor, and
the person above you lives on the second floor.
In the UK, you live on the ground floor, and the person above you lives on the first floor.
If that person above you is unable or just too lazy to take the stairs, in the US they'd
take the elevator.
In the UK, they'd take the lift.
When you're bored at home, in the US you might turn on the TV, while in the UK you would
turn on the telly.
When you step outside of your building to go for a walk, in the US you might walk on
the sidewalk, while in the UK you walk on the pavement.
And if you're tired of walking, in the US you might take the subway.
In the UK, you take the underground.
In the US, it's perfectly to wear pants when you're riding the subway, but in the UK you'd
better wear some TROUSERS too because pants means underpants.
And specifically women's underpants are sometimes called knickers in the UK.
So when someone overreacts, in the US you might say “Don't get your panties in a bunch!”
In the UK you'd say “Don't get your knickers in a twist!”.
Paul how dare you be so crude.
Now I can't show this video to my 6 year old students!
Don't worry, they'll watch it on their phones during recess.
Going back to the word “pants” for a moment, it can also be used in British English as
an adjective, meaning something is “crappy” or “it sucks”.
For example “That album is pants”.
In American English, you might say “That album sucks”.
So I'll try to focus on General American English, and for the UK - Received Pronunciation.
These are the accents you're likely to hear on CNN and the BBC, respectively.
American English is rhotic, meaning that “r” sounds are always clearly pronounced.
British English is non-rhotic, meaning that the “r” sound is not pronounced unless
it is followed by a vowel sound.
Listen to the difference.
US: “My father's in the car”.
UK: “My father's in the car”.
Now let's focus on two words.
US: father UK: father.
US: car UK: car.
Notice that the final r sound is not pronounced in British English.
“Father” ends in a simple schwa vowel /ˈfɑː.ðə/.
And in “car” the a vowel sound is lengthened in place of the “r” sound.
Now, the thing about British non-rhotic dialects that I find pretty wild is something called
the intrusive r.
That means that people sometimes add an r-sound to a word that doesn't actually have one,
if it's followed by a vowel in the next word.
For example, in the sentence “I saw a film”.
In British English it sometimes sounds like this: “I saw'r a film”.
So you can hear that there's an “r” sound connecting “saw” and “a”.
I once had British on-the-job trainer, and she said “Hello my name is Paula and I'll
be your trainer today”.
I remember thinking “Pauler?
What, you can't say your own name?”
But, it wasn't just her.
That was the “intrusive r”.
In British English (and again, I must emphasize that I'm talking about the accent referred
to as Received Pronunciation), t sounds are pronounced as hard Ts, in other words voiceless
/t/ sounds.
In the US, they sometimes sound like /ɾ/ (an alveolar tap) instead of /t/ (an alveolar
This normally occurs in an unstressed syllable, between 2 vowel sounds, or between a vowel
and a rhotic sound (like an “r” sound).
So in the US people say butter.
And in the UK, they say butter.
In the US: Stop fighting! /stɑp ˈfʌɪɾɪŋ/.
In the UK: Stop fighting! /stɒp ˈfʌɪtɪŋ/.
You may have also noticed the “o” sound in the word “stop” was a little different,
which brings me to...
O sounds
In the word “stop”, the American “o” sound is an unrounded vowel /ɑ/ while the
British “o” sound is rounded /ɒ/.
Another example: US hot /hɑt/ UK: /hɒt/.
There is also the “o” diphthong in the word “know” US /noʊ/ (US).
In the UK: /nəʊ/ . In the UK the sound is a schwa followed by /ʊ/ as in “put”.
US: show /ʃoʊ/ UK: show /ʃəʊ/
A sounds.
In other words, sounds represented by the letter “a”)
/ɑː/ in UK normally becomes an /æ/ sound in American English.
For example, in the UK: half /hɑːf/.
And in the US: half /hæf/.
Words that are /æ/ in UK remain pretty similar in US.
For example, in the UK: cat /kæt/.
And in the US: /kæt/.
An exception is a small set of words in which the “a” is followed by “rr”, in which
case the vowel is pronounced as /e/.
In the UK: marry /ˈmæɹɪ/ . In the US: marry /ˈmɛɹi/.
Because of the difference, in the US “marry” and “Merry” sound the same.
“Carry” and “Kerry” sound the same.
Spelling: American and British spellings are largely the same, but there are a few notable
This is in large part because Noah Webster (whom the Webster dictionary is named after)
made an effort to reform English spelling in the 1700s, in order to make the words spelled
the way they sounded.
This resulted in some spelling changes in American English.
Most (but not all) words that end in ~re in the UK end in ~er in the US.
For example: centre/center, theatre/theater, metre/meter, sombre/somber.
Some words that end in ~nce in the UK are spelled with ~nse in the US.
Defence/defense, offence/offense.
Some words with “ou” in the UK are spelled with “o” in the US.
Colour/color, favour/favor, honour/honor, labour/labor, etc.
The ending ~ise became ~ize in the US.
A similar change also occurs in other contexts where the “s” is voiced (in other words
it makes a /z/ sound).
There are verbs ending with “l” that take a doubled “l” in British English when
a suffix is added.
In American English there is no double “l”.
travelled/traveled, cancelled/canceled, marvellous / marvelous.
If you're wondering how the last one fits in with the others, remember that “marvel”
is a verb, and then an adjectival suffix is added to it).
Grammar: There are only very minor differences in grammar between British English and American
Auxiliary verbs.
Brits use “shall” for the future much more than Americans, as well as to ask for
advice or an opinion.
Some difference in preposition use:
In the US, people say “on the weekend”, but in the UK they say “at the weekend”.
And in the US, people say “different from” or “different than”, but in the UK they
say “different from” or “different to”.
There are some different past tense forms.
For example, in American English the past tense of the world “learn” is “learned”,
while in British English it's more common to say “learnt”.
Actually, both forms are used in either country, but there is more of tendency towards one
This is true for other words like dreamed vs. dreamt, burned vs. burnt, leaned vs. leant.
Another example.
In the US, the past tense of dive is usually “dove”.
In the UK it's “dived”.
Maybe the American form developed by analogy with “drive” and “drove”.
Anyways, differences like these are not consistent, but you'll notice some different past tense
forms here and there.
Past participles: Sometimes past participles have a different form.
The most well-known example is for the verb “get”.
In the US, there's get / got / gotten.
But in the UK, it's get / got / got/.
** Both forms have existed since the Middle English period, but “gotten” has fallen
out of use in the UK.
“Got” can be used in American English in the form “have got”, but with the meaning
of “have”, not “has received/become”.
US: I haven't gotten the eviction notice yet.
UK: I haven't got the eviction notice yet.
Sentences – Alright, let's check a couple of sentences and see what we find.
In the US: I think we need a lawyer.
In the UK: I reckon we need a solicitor.
You'll notice that a couple of words are different.
British people often use the word “reckon” which means “think” or “suppose”.
Americans know this word, but rarely use it.
And while Americans would typically refer to a professional legal consultant as a lawyer,
in the UK they often say “solicitor” which is a type of lawyer that does consultation.
The type of lawyer who represents you in court in the UK in usually a barrister, while in
the US they are usually referred to as attorneys.
Another sentence.
In the US: I'm going for a beer with my friends.
In the UK: I'm going for a pint with my mates.
Notice that British people often “pint” where Americans would say “beer”.
Brits also say beer as a countable noun like this, but pint is used frequently.
And notice that Brits often say “mate” where Americans would say “friend”.
The differences between British English and American English might seem surprising or
amusing, but remember: in this video I'm zooming in on the differences and focusing on them.
For the most part they are actually the same.
There are some minor differences in vocabulary, in pronunciation, in grammar, and in spelling,
but any native speaker with a little bit of exposure to the other will quickly adapt to
these differences and be able to understand the other variety without any problem.
The differences are sometimes greater if we focus on regional dialects and sociolects
of British English and American English.
While most Americans probably have no trouble understanding Received Pronunciation, they
mayhave some trouble understanding Cockney English, or the Georgie English of Northeastern
England, or other varieties.
But as far as standard, non-regional speech goes, I'd say that the differences are minimal.
However, learners of English who focus on one of the two varieties, will likely have
a bit of trouble understanding the other until they gain significant more exposure to it.
The QOD: What other differences between American and British English are you aware of?
In this video I was only able to give a limited number of examples, so add yours in the comments!
Be sure to follow Langfocus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
And once again, thank you to all of my wonderful Patreon supporters.
And these ones right here on the screen are my top tier Patreon supporters, so many extra
special thanks to them.
And to everyone out there, thank you for watching and have a nice day.
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How Are British English and American English Different?

2813 Folder Collection
Samuel published on October 20, 2018    陳明頤 translated    Evangeline reviewed
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