Grammatical difference between British and American English

British English vs American English vocabulary

Difference between British and American English 

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and it has several regional variants, the most famous of which are the British and American variants. Although these two options are based on a common foundation, they have some differences in grammar, which can pose difficulties for learning English.

  1. Pronunciation: One of the most noticeable differences between British and American varieties of English is pronunciation. For example, in American English the “r” sound is pronounced clearly, while in British English it is softer and less pronounced. Also, there are differences in the pronunciation of individual words and phonetic rules.
  2. Vocabulary: British and American English have different words and phrases for the same things. For example, British English uses the word “flat” to describe housing, while American English uses the term “apartment”. This can cause misunderstanding and confusion when communicating between speakers of different language variants.
  3. Vocabulary composition: Vocabulary: Although many words are the same in British and American English, some words have different meanings depending on the language variant. For example, the word “biscuit” in British English corresponds to the American “cookie”, while “biscuit” in American English corresponds to the British “scone”. This can lead to misunderstanding when reading or listening to texts of another variant of the English language.
  4. Grammar rules: There are some differences in grammar rules between British and American English. For example, British English uses the Present Perfect form to refer to events that happened in the past and are related to the present, for example: “I have just finished my work.” At the same time, in American English, the Past Simple form is more often used for such cases: “I just finished my work.”
  5. Other differences: In addition, there are other less obvious differences between the use of British and American English, such as spelling, punctuation, use of abbreviations, and other linguistic features.

Grammatical difference between British and American English

In this article, we will dwell in more detail precisely on the grammatical differences in the use of British and American variants of the English language.

Present Perfect and Past Simple

The British use the Present Perfect with the adverbs just, already and yet to indicate the last action:

  • Tom has washed the dishes
Americans can use either Present Perfect or Past Simple in the following sentences:

  • Tom has washed the dishes
  • Tom washed the dishes
With ever and never, the British also use the Present Perfect:

  • Have you ever played football?
With ever and never, Americans tend to use the Past Simple, although the Present Perfect tense is possible:

  • Did you ever play baseball?
  • Have you ever played baseball?

Seem, look

In the British version, a noun can be used after the verbs appear, feel, look, seem, etc.:

  • She appeared (to be) a good teacher
Americans use to be or like after these verbs:

  • Не appeared like a good pilot

Collective Nouns + is/are

The brits accept singular and plural forms. So, it can be the school of fishes are swimming, or the band is really good

  • The Team are playing a game tomorrow night
In American English, collective nouns are singular

  • The team is playing a game tomorrow night


The British use will to form the future tense, but shall can be used in the first person:

  • We will/shall contact you
Americans usually do not use the verb shall to form the future tense:

  • We will contact you
The British use shall to express a sentence:

  • Shall I make the coffee?
Americans usually use should to express a proposal:

  • Should I make the coffee?
The British use Shall we…? for a call to action:

  • Shall we go for a walk?
Americans do not use shall in a call to action:

  • How about a walk?

Negative sentences and questions with have

In Britain, two structures coexist in parallel:

  • I haven’t (got) enough time
  • I don’t have enough time
  • Has she got a computer?
  • Does she have a computer?
Americans use the auxiliary verb do:

  • I don’t have enough time
  • Does she have a computer?

Formation of the past tense

Did is used to form the past tense in both versions:

  • We didn’t have books

Sectional questions

Americans do not use parting questions very often. Instead of the final part of such a question in America they use right? and ok?

I’ll bring coffe, shall I?I’ll bring coffe, ok?

Can’t та mustn’t

The British use can’t to say that something is impossible:

  • They can’t be at home
In this case, mustn’t can be used in America:

  • They can’t be home
  • They mustn’t be home

Needn’t and don’t need to

The British use both forms:

  • You needn’t go there
  • You don’t need to go there
Americans usually don’t use needn’t:

  • You don’t need to go there

Nouns to denote a set

In Britain, the following nouns can agree in singular or plural:

  • The crowd was/were restless
In America – only in the singular:

  • The crowd was restless


In Britain, the article the is used with the names of musical instruments:

  • play the piano
    Крім того, кажуть: in hospital
In America, the following usage is possible:

  • play piano/play the piano, in the hospital


The British use and between hundred and the rest of the numbers:

  • one hundred and twenty
In America, the following options are used:

  • one hundred twenty/one hundred and twenty


British versionAmerican version
  • round/around the village
  • towards/toward the west
  • looking out of the window
  • outside the town
  • around the village
  • toward the west
  • looking out the window/out of the window
  • outside the town/outside of the town
  • in Bond Street
  • at the weekend, at weekends
  • stay at home
  • a player in the team
  • ten minutes past four
  • twenty to seven
  • write to me
  • meet someone
  • on Fifth Avenue
    on the weekend, on weekends
  • stay home
    a player on the team
  • ten minutes past/after four
    twenty to/of seven
  • write me/write to me
  • meet with someone

Video – British vs American English Grammar Differences

In conclusion, it is worth noting that despite the grammatical differences between British and American versions of English, they remain mutually intelligible. Learning both variants of the English language can be beneficial as it allows you to better understand and perceive the language in different contexts. In addition, it provides an opportunity to adapt to different cultural environments where different variants of the English language are used.

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