Why is American English better

What are the differences between American and British English?

Of course, with around 330 million native speakers, the English language has numerous dialects. Most likely, however, in the course of your English language learning career you will choose one of two varieties: either British or American English. But what exactly are the differences between American and British English? We have summarized some of them for you here.

American vs. British English: The Pronunciation

It is difficult to draw clear lines between the accents in the US and the UK because there is a wide range of accents within the US and the UK as well. For example, a Texan and a New Yorker are both American but have very different accents. The same applies, for example, to the different accents in London, Manchester and Glasgow.

Nevertheless, there are some general distinguishing features in the accents of the USA and Great Britain:

  • Americans usually pronounce all [r] sounds regardless of their position in the word,
  • while Britons tend to pronounce the [r] only when it is the first sound in the word. In all other positions it becomes a so-called vocalic or vocalized [r] and is therefore pronounced more like an [a] - just as it happens, for example, in the Berlin [Balina] dialect.

American vs. British English: The Spelling

Writing English is not always easy, because creating the Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755, its author Samuel Johnson selected spellings from different dialects - different pronunciations were represented with the same typeface. Although the Americans have adopted this spelling as far as possible, some words written in American have been adjusted in such a way that they are more oriented towards the pronunciation: for example with "theater" (AE) instead of "theater" (BE) or with "organize" ( AE) instead of "organize" (BE - exactly the opposite of how in German, an unvoiced, "sharp" [s] is represented by an "s" and a voiced, "humming s" / [z] by a "z").

According to the British comedian Eddie Izzard, the British have not adjusted the spelling in order to be able to cheat better at Scrabble - because they write some letters that are actually not (any longer) pronounced.

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
colourcolorcolor
behaviorbehaviorbehavior
theatretheatretheater
metermetermeter
to organizeorganizeorganize
traveledtraveledtraveled

American vs. British English: Vocabulary

As with pronunciation, there are of course regional differences between British and American English when it comes to vocabulary. The following words differ across countries:

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
flatapartmentflat
vacationvacationholiday
crispscrispscrisps
French fries(french) friescrisps
movie theaterthe moviesthe cinema
Soft drinksoda / pop / coke / soft drinksoft drink
sneakerssneakers / tennis shoestrainers
pulloversweaterjumper
Mailboxmailboxpostbox
band Aidband-aidplaster
pharmacydrugstorechemist’s
Soccersoccerfootball
biscuitcookiebiscuit

American vs. British English: Grammar

prepositions

Even some prepositions differ in American and British English. We have listed a few examples for you below. The list is only intended as a general guide, because British English was strongly influenced by American English pop culture - and vice versa. That is why some differences are no longer as pronounced as they were before.

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
I'm going to a party on the weekend.I'm going to a party on the weekend.I'm going to a party at the weekend.
What are you doing at Christmas?What are you doing on Christmas?What are you doing at Christmas?
Monday to Friday.Monday through Friday.Monday to Friday.
It's different from the others.It's different from / than the others.It's different from / to the others.

Past simple vs. Present perfect

Americans tend to do that Past simple to use when you want to express that something happened recently. In contrast, speakers of British English tend to use that here Present perfect.

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
I've eaten too much.I ate too much.I've eaten too much.
I went to the store / shopping.I went to the store.I've been to the shop.
Did you bring the newspaper?Did you get the newspaper?Have you got the newspaper?

The Past participle of get

In the UK will gotten than Past participle of get considered obsolete and was therefore in favor of got abolished. In the US, speakers use as Past participle still gotten.

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
got - got - (has) gotget - got - gottenget - got - got
I haven't heard from him yet. (To get news about someone - "hear from somebody")I haven't gotten any news about him.I've not got any news about him.

Collective nouns: singular or plural?

In British English, a collective noun (such as committee, government or team) are either singular or plural, but the general tendency is towards the plural, which emphasizes the individual members of the group. In contrast, collective nouns in the USA are always in the singular, which underlines the group as a unit that belongs together.

German translationAmerican EnglishBritish English
The government is doing everything it can during this crisis.The government is doing everything it can during this crisis.The government are doing everything they can during this crisis.
My team wins.My team is winning.My team are winning.

Regular or irregular verbs?

This is a subtle difference that can be easily overlooked in spoken language, but is quickly noticeable in written language: In Great Britain, the past tense forms of some verbs are irregular (leapt, dream, burnt, learned), while in America they have the regular ending -ed be formed (leaped, dreamed, burned, learned).

As the second most common language in the world, English has to be flexible - after all, the language is not only spoken in the two countries that we have examined in more detail here. So whether you speak British, American English, or any other dialect, it shouldn't be an obstacle to communicating with people across the pond or anywhere else in the world!