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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

Despite a lot of misunderstanding, there is a huge difference between British and American English. I think it is very important to learn the examples of this difference because, for instance, students in Russia who are going to pass the English Unified State Exam need to follow rules of British English. It is essential to remember this fact. So, this article and exercises can turn up quite effective for someone who wants to pass the exam successfully.

Dear Team,
So We can use "Do you have" in both British and American English.
We can use "Have you got" in only British?
Am I correct?
Thanks.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

'Have you got' is also used in American English, though it might be a little more common in British.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for good lesson!

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!

Hi team,
I have a question.
In the words like people and team should I use are or is?

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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