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.

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.

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.

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.

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: 4.5 (86 votes)
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Submitted by Ai on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 23:42

do we need to use American grammar in IELTS Academic exam if we choose American English to prepare for the exam? and if we can't use American grammar there is decreasing in the score?

Hello Al,

The IELTS accepts all standard varieties of native-speaker English, so American or British English is fine.

I would recommend, however, that you be consistent in your usage -- for example, it would be best to avoid using both British and American spelling in the same written text. Instead, just use British or American spelling.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 23:42

Thanks for good lesson!

Submitted by Marcos on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 18:25

Hello Team! I have noted the use of from in this sentence above: My family is visiting "from" Pakistan. Is this correct form of preposition from in this context? Because from reffers origin instead destiny. Thanks!

Submitted by MarcosPermin on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 18:52

Hi team, I have a question. In the words like people and team should I use are or is?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 07:34

In reply to by MarcosPermin


Hello MarcosPermin,

It depends on the word.


People always plural; the singular form is usually person.


Team is a collective noun which can be either singular or plural. If you are thinking of a group of people then you can use a plural verb; if you are talking about the team as a cohesive unit then you can use a singular verb.

There are many collective nouns which work like this: the army, the police, Manchester United, the government, the United Nations, the EU etc.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by VegitoBlue on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 15:05

Hi, When people say "United Kingdom (UK) English", are they referring to British English? Or is there a difference between UK English and British English? Also, when people say "United States (US) English" are they referring to American English? or is there a difference between US English and American English? Regards, Vegito
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 15:11

In reply to by VegitoBlue


Hello VegitoBlue,

In most cases, 'UK English' and 'US English' are other ways (though less common, in my experience) of saying 'British English' and 'American English', though please note that 'Britain' and 'the UK' aren't the same

These teams are quite imprecise, for within both there are actually hundreds of different varieties of English. And then of course there are many other varieties of English, e.g. Australian, Canadian, Indian, Caribbean, etc.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mxoubi0 on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 21:11

I feel that UK English is quite easier than American English. On the one hand, UK English likes to simplify the statement and follow the shortest way to describe things. On the other hand, American English required extra words, explanations, and features that might be cause complexity. But still, it depends on the favor of the person what he likes to chose.