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British English and American English

Do you know any differences between British and American English?

Look at these sentences. Do you know which sentences are more typical of British English or American English?

Shall I open the door for you?
He's taking a shower.
France have won the World Cup.
I'm not hungry. I just ate.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Exercise: British English and American English: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

The main difference between British English and American English is in pronunciation. Some words are also different in each variety of English, and there are also a few differences in the way they use grammar. Here are five of the most common grammatical differences between British and American English.

1. Present perfect and past simple

In British English, people use the present perfect to speak about a past action that they consider relevant to the present. 

The present perfect can be used in the same way in American English, but people often use the past simple when they consider the action finished. This is especially common with the adverbs already, just and yet.

British English American English

He isn't hungry. He has already had lunch.
- Have you done your homework yet?
- Yes, I've just finished it.

He isn't hungry. He already had lunch.
- Did you do your homework yet?
- Yes, I just finished it.

2. got and gotten

In British English, the past participle of the verb get is got

In American English, people say gotten.

** Note that have got is commonly used in both British and American English to speak about possession or necessity. have gotten is not correct here.

British English American English

You could have got hurt!
He's got very thin.
She has got serious about her career.

BUT:
Have you got any money?
We've got to go now.

You could have gotten hurt!
He's gotten very thin.
She has gotten serious about her career.

BUT:
Have you got any money? (NOT Have you gotten ...)
We've got to go now. (NOT We've gotten to ...)

3. Verb forms with collective nouns

In British English, a singular or plural verb can be used with a noun that refers to a group of people or things (a collective noun). We use a plural verb when we think of the group as individuals or a singular verb when we think of the group as a single unit.

In American English, a singular verb is used with collective nouns.

** Note that police is always followed by a plural verb.

British English American English

My family is/are visiting from Pakistan.
My team is/are winning the match.
The crew is/are on the way to the airport.

BUT:
The police are investigating the crime.

My family is visiting from Pakistan.
My team is winning the match.
The crew is on the way to the airport.

BUT:
The police are investigating the crime.

4. have and take

In British English, the verbs have and take are commonly used with nouns like bath, shower, wash to speak about washing and with nouns like break, holiday, rest to speak about resting. 

In American English, only the verb take (and not the verb have) is used this way.

British English American English

I'm going to have/take a shower.
Let's have/take a break.

I'm going to take a shower.
Let's take a break.

5. shall

In British English, people often use Shall I ...? to offer to do something and/or Shall we ...? to make a suggestion. 

It is very unusual for speakers of American English to use shall. They normally use an alternative like Should/Can I ...? or Do you want/Would you like ...? or How about ...? instead. 

British English American English

It's hot in here. Shall I open the window?
Shall we meet in the café at 5?
Shall we try that again?

It's hot in here. Can I open the window?
Do you want to meet in the café at 5?
How about we try that again?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Exercise: British English and American English: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Hello!
Could somebody please explain me why there’s used the verb “have” in the sentence “France HAVE won the World Cup”?
This sentence is at the beginning of the article, as an example.
Shouldn’t it be “France HAS won the World Cup”? If it’s Present Perfect tense? And so we have to use HAS, if the subject of the sentence is he, she, or it?
Please, explain me, why there’s “France HAVE won the World Cup”, because it’s very confusing!
Thank you in advance!

Hello Vaskovsky,

For some collective nouns we can use either a singular or a plural form. It really depends whether the speaker sees the noun in question as a single thing or as a collection of individual parts.

Common examples of this include institutions like the army or the police, the government, collective nouns like the population, and teams like Manchester United or France - as a sports team, not a nation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter! I got it!

Hello Sir
I like cake , and I like cheese.
Is the 'comma' before and is alright in the above sentence?
Please let me know
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hello Lal,

I would say that there is no need for a comma. However, you may use one for stylistic reasons – to indicate a pause or some hesitation, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It's really helpful.

I would like to ask the following questions .
1 Our teacher told me 'have you got married ? many people say
' are you married ' and I often hear this question
' have you got any plans for the weekend ?' Is it correct ?
Does have got have other uses other than:
1 possession
2 about necessity (obligation )
If there are please tell me ?

Hello Henokk17,

Are you married? is a question about a person's marital status. You could ask it about a person who has been married for a day or for fifty years - it makes no difference.

Have you got married? is a question about a change in a person's marital status. It suggests that the person was not married last time they were seeen and asks if this has changed.

Have you got any plans for the weekend? is perfectly fine.

 

Have got can be used to talk about relationships, characteristics and illnesses as well as possession and obligation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

These grammar tests are really great :-) But I have found a mistake. As an American, we don't say "cinema". It is a "movie theater". It would be more common to say "They're not going to the movies."

Cheers

Hello TheSullyRhino

Yes, you are absolutely right! I've changed the sentence in question to what you suggested.

Thanks for pointing that out to us.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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