British English and American English

British English and American English

Do you know any differences between British and American English? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

Average: 4.6 (71 votes)

Submitted by Ali.Ateik on Tue, 19/07/2022 - 19:31

Permalink

I believe that Americans don't use the word "Police" .They use "Cops" instead

Hello Ali,Ateik,

Both words are used in the US. Cops is an informal term which is common in conversation, but for more official contexts police is used:

I'm going to call the cops!

Please welcome our new Chief of Police!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mod mod on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 12:12

Permalink

yeAH vEry good. I lik, ilike

Submitted by Yola on Fri, 17/12/2021 - 11:11

Permalink

Hi! Can we answer to the question "Have you ..(done something)?" - "Yes, I did" in a spoken language?

Hi Yola,

The meaning is clear - the person did it. So, from that point of view, it's absolutely fine in casual conversation. "Did" is also used if there is a time reference (e.g. "Yes, I did it this morning").

Purely in terms of grammar, though, the best response is "Yes, I have" (matching the present perfect in the question). In more formal speaking situations, that would be the best answer.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emidepegaso on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 19:44

Permalink

Nice lesson I've learn soo much how to use American English and British English but there is a question that can get out of my mind can we use American English and British English together?

Hello emidepegaso,

I think a lot of English users speak a kind of 'transatlantic English' which combines elements of UK and US dialects. The only thing I would be careful of is consistency in writing. It's not a good idea to mix US and UK spelling, so I think it's better to either follow UK spelling rules or US.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GiulianaAndy on Tue, 06/07/2021 - 04:55

Permalink
Hello, great lesson. However, I have a couple of questions, here they are: 1) What is the difference between "It's hot in here" and "It's hot here"? 2) Is is possible to say: "How about if we try it again" instead of "How about we try it again?? And if it is possible, what would be the difference?

Hello GiulianaAndy,

1) We use ...hot in here when we are talking about a place which we can be inside such as a building or a car.

The phrase ...hot here is more general and can be used indoors or outdoors.

 

2) Both forms are correct. I suppose the first is more hypothetical, as if you were discussing possible actions in a meeting rather than actually doing the actions, while the second could be used while actually doing something with someone else. It's not a clear distinction, however and I can't think of a context where you could use one and not the other.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team