British English and American English Helpful Hints

The differences between these two languages is such that they should not both be called English as it is confusing. Many English speaking countries have a few of their own words and phrases, however, maybe because most of them are, or were strongly connected to Britain, these differences are relatively minor compared to ‘American’.

Many people think there are only a few spelling differences, and maybe a few words between American and British English, but it goes way beyond that as any good transcriptionist can tell you.

Spelling is the easiest of all the differences to change. Everyone knows Americans write ‘colour’ as ‘color’ and so on, but when the same word has a different meaning it isn’t so simple. Hundreds of common words tend to have different meanings or uses.

Then there are grammar dissimilarities, which can confuse a British person.

Here are a few brief, but helpful hints to make it easier to use both forms of English.

  • Spelling

A British word that ends in ‘our’ drops the ‘u’ in American; so neighbour becomes neighbour etc.

A British word that ends in ‘er’ has the two letters swapped round in American; so meter becomes metre etc.

A British word that ends in ‘ise’ exchanges the ‘s’ for a ‘z’ in American; so personalise becomes personalize etc.

  • Vocabulary

There really is no shortcut here as there are too many words that have different meanings; a purse in America is a bag in Britain a thing to hold money; pants are trousers, (although not all of America uses pants to mean trousers). A British footpath is a sidewalk in USA and on it goes. Fine a reliable site that lists words that are different and check and re-check.

  • Grammar

American English grammar tends to be simpler than British English, although this may make it harder to understand what is being said if you are used to the Queen’s English.

For instance, where Brits use the present perfect tense, (have/has + past participle), Americans often use the simple past tense.

Here is an example:

In a conversation asking if you are going to see the new film, (movie) in Britain the answer would be;

‘I have already seen it’, but in USA it would likely be ‘I already saw it’.

If you are British you have a choice when referring to collective nouns, (nouns referring to groups of people or things). You can use the singular or plural, depending on which suits best in a particular situation.

‘Pepsi are launching a new drink.’ ‘Pepsi is a big company.’

In America verb agreement with collective nouns is always singular, so ‘Pepsi is launching a new drink,’ is the only option.

Delexical verbs ‘have’ and ‘take’

A delexical verb is one where the meaning of the verb is removed and it is only used to indicate an action.

I had a shower, (meaning I showered)

He had a meal, (he ate)

Where Brits use have, Americans frequently use take, so ‘he took a shower’.

The grammar problems goes on, (and on) and includes; auxiliary and modals verbs; prepositions; past tense and more. Again these need to be learnt, or at least checked through a comparison sire.

Singapore Transcription are fluent in both British and American English, and recognise the differences, and if something crops up that we don’t know, we check, so we can provide a correct transcription wherever you are from.