Differences between British and American English

Текстовая расшифровка видео:

Hi everybody! My name’s Chloe; I’m a final year university student from the University of Birmingham in England.

I speak British English…

Last year, when I was on my year abroad in Moscow, because I study French and Russian,

I worked at Blab Club leading the Saturday club meetings, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was really really excited when they gave me this opportunity to teach you all online.

So hopefully I’ll be seeing a lot of you in my online lessons commencing shortly!

Today I thought it would be really cool if I did something that people (people who are learning English) ask me a lot about, and that’s the differences between British and American English.

Because there are plenty! And while we like to think we speak the same language, we, in a lot of cases, don’t quite!

I spent the summer teaching at a language camp in Siberia (I was teaching English) and I was teaching with a lot of Americans so over the course of the six weeks I noticed quite a lot of differences between the languages that we spoke.

There are obviously some differences that you’re probably aware of, I mean, things that I’ve been aware of my whole life, like spelling – the spellings of words like ‘colour’ (color) and centre (center).We add a ‘u’ to the word colour where the Americans just have an ‘o’. The word centre – we swap the ‘r’ and the ‘e’ around.

I’m not going to get into an argument to say which one came first, but you probably know what I think!

There’s loads of words like that, words like ‘specialise’ (specialize) which have that ‘zz’ sound at the end, in American would be spelt ‘ize’ at the end and in Britain would be spelt ‘ise’ at the end.

So there’s quite a lot of little spelling differences like that to watch out for, and actually which I find really annoying when I’m typing on a computer and it tries to make my spelling American! Not so fun – I’m a British English speaker!

Secondly – I’m sure you’re very aware of this – but there’s loads and loads and loads of words that are used in Britain and change in America.

So for example I would call a ‘shop’ a ‘shop’; in America that’s a ‘store’. Then there’s things like ‘car park’ in British English and ‘parking lot’ in American English. And there’s loads of little ones like that. ‘Pants’ in American and ‘Trousers’ in British.’ Tracksuit bottoms’ in British English, ‘sweatpants’ I think in American English.

And there’s loads of little ones like that. Probably quite useful to watch out for!

One of my favourite ones actually is ‘ice lolly’, which you know like frozen ice, fruit-flavoured usually – I call that an ‘ice lolly’. I was laughed at in a shop (store!) for calling that an ice lolly because apparently in America it’s a ‘popsicle’ and that is the ‘superior’ (!) word. It isn’t! They’re probably about equal! But they found it very funny that I called it an ice lolly. But there you go.

Thirdly, sometimes we use different prepositions; for example I would say ‘what are you doing AT the weekend?’ and an American would say ‘what are you doing ON the weekend?’.

Just little differences like that. I think there’s loads more, like ‘playing on a team’ ‘playing in a team’ (American, and then British) – I think that’s one, I was told that’s one anyway. I could be wrong. They’re just little tiny differences that you wouldn’t necessarily think of but do exist.

Fourthly, there’s adjectives, which we use differently sometimes in both Britain and America.

For example, I was…I think I was describing my shoes to my American friend and I said to her ‘oh my shoes are looking really skanky’. Now in Britain, the word ‘skanky’ means a bit dirty, a bit not-nice looking.

Sometimes it can refer to a girl that’s, you know, putting it out a little bit (that means behaving like a slag) but generally speaking the word can be used in an entirely non-prostitution-related context, whereas in America it’s always prostitution related, and my friend looked at me and was like ‘what on earth did you just call your shoes?!’ because to her I had effectively called them prostitutes. They weren’t, don’t worry – they were just dirty to me!

Ok, so there’s loads of little adjectives like that that mean one thing in British English and another thing in American English – or sometimes they don’t even exist at all.

For example the word ‘minging’ which describes something ugly in British English – it doesn’t exist in American English.

Then, we’ve got the dreaded phrasal verbs, of which there are a large number in British English that do not exist in American English and vice versa.

One example is, when I was teaching in Siberia,  my American friend pointed out this phrasal verb on a worksheet that she didn’t understand, which was ‘to splash out’. To her that meant absolutely nothing whereas to me that means ‘spending a lot of money’ and I found it really interesting that that particular verb doesn’t exist in American English.

And there are plenty that don’t exist in British English. I remember reading the Moscow Times once and it was very obvious that it had been written by an American because I couldn’t understand certain sentences due to not knowing the phrasal verb. Which is really really strange given that I speak the language that the article was written in! Bizarre.

Next we’ve got everyday expressions which are not colloquialisms but things that we might say very typically during the day, that everybody says across the country.

In Britain, to say that you’re just going to the toilet we would often say  — well pretty much all the time say – ‘I’m just going to the loo’.  It’s a very typical British thing to do, to shorten that word ‘toilet’ to ‘loo’.

In America they have never heard of the word ‘loo’ – that’s ‘L’ double ‘O’ – and would instead say I’m just going to the bathroom or to the restroom. And that’s something I heard quite a lot when I was around all these Americans in Siberia and I was just like ‘no! no! you’re not going to a bathroom it’s just a toilet!’ but that’s because what I think of when I hear the word bathroom is a room with a bath in it. Generally speaking! But to an American, that’s a toilet, or a place that you go to the toilet in.

Ok, that’s pretty much all I’ve got. I am really looking forward to teaching you guys so join me very shortly for some really exciting lessons. Bye!

12 октября (в пятницу) мы проводим бесплатный вебинар с Хлоей

Вебинар будет посвящён различным фразам из современного английского, которые носители языка используют в общении между собой. Этих фраз нет в учебниках, но это настоящий живой разговорный английский.

Начало вебинара в 20.00 по московскому времени.

(Если вы не смогли принять участие в прямом эфире, ничего страшного.
Всем записавшимся на вебинар после его окончания мы вышлем ссылку на запись)


  1. 30 октября 2012 Anastasia ответить

    Nice video! But being an American I have a few comments that I wanted to pass by..

    First —  I would simply drop both «ON» and «IN» when referring to the team, and instead say «playing FOR a team.»

    Second — the phrasal verb «to splash out» is widely used in northeastern part of the states. So it all depends on where you’re coming from.

    Lastly — instead of asking «What are you doing ON or AT the weekend» I’d go with «What are you doing THIS or NEXT weekend» — to avoid the confusion on both parts. 



  2. 5 ноября 2012 Anastasia ответить

    Miss you too, Michael! 🙁 I will stop by for a visit sometime next week!

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