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How to understand the differences between British and American English

Learn some common words that are used differently in British and American English.

Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the task. You can read the transcript at any time.



Language level

Intermediate: B1


I always get confused with this diffrences.

hi friend iam from Baghdad i love this site very much british council . it is batter one

I would like to notify The LearningEnglish Team about a problem that is happening, I can't watch the vídeos on this page. there's a message : Invalid Font
I hope you fix the problem as soon as possible. By the way I'm using Windows 8.1 on my lap top.

Hi luciusmaximus2008,

Are you still having this problem? I can see the video just fine now, and yesterday we were experiencing some technical difficulties, so I think it might work for you now. But if you still can't view the video, which browser are you using? Has it got the latest version of Flash?

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

If I had a British accent I'd never shut up :(

There's many American English be used in Malaysia ,like pants, French fries and movie . Now only I realise that's no Britain English ( by the way , English that we learn on Malaysia's schools is Britain English ) .

when we have to look for any new ,we should follow this web....


Hi, I'm from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I’m going straight to the point. We have been learning British English since the beginning and most of us are not good at American English but yesterday one of our teachers (university teacher) said that British English is no longer accepted around the world except a few places and institutions. However, he suggested all of us to learn and use American English everywhere which is quite difficult for almost all of us since we all have been learning British English since class one till now. So I want to know if what our teacher said is true. If so then what should we do? I and most of my friends have become nuts after hearing what our teacher said about British English. So please answer me as soon as possible. Now this has become the most important matter to us. By the way, I apologize for all the mistakes I made above. Thank you.

Hi Sky Walker,

I am sorry to hear that you are worried about the variety of English you have been learning and I hope I can reassure you.

Firstly, the differences between British and American English are not as big as many learners believe. There are almost no differences in grammar and only a few differences in vocabulary. British and American people understand each other without difficulty almost all of the time; we watch films and television from each other's countries for pleasure.

Secondly, to talk about 'British' and 'American' English is to over-simplify and generalise. Firstly, there is not one British or American English. For example, all major cities in the UK have their own dialects with different accents and sometimes small differences in grammar and vocabulary from each other. Sometimes these accents can be more difficult to understand for even a British person than some American Englishes. Also, there are Englishes from many other countries: Canada, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Jamaica etc. People who speak these Englishes usually also manage to communicate with other English speakers without any problems.

Thirdly, the most important English in the world does not belong to a country or region. It is International English, the language spoken between people of different national and language backgrounds. Since the majority of conversations in English are now between non-native speakers, not native speakers, this International English is more important than the English spoken in the UK or the USA. If you are interested in the future of English, the British Council published a free book on this subject:

Fourthly, for most practical purposes it doesn't matter which variety of English you speak. The British Council employs American and other non-British teachers in some countries because it's more important to have the best teachers than teachers from one country. The IELTS test uses a mixture of British and Australian (and some other) accents, but it is widely accepted in American universities:

Finally, all learners need to be able to understand English spoken and written by as many people as possible and they need to be able to speak English so that as many people as possible understand them. You should concentrate on this goal, not on trying to speak 'British' or 'American' English.

I hope this was helpful.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team