Dates, numbers, weights, money and spelling in British English and American English…what a confusion! Let’s be honest, when you are in your country, counting and measuring is usually a simple activity that you do on a daily basis, however, abroad it can often be complicated. This is easily confirmed by our students of ESOL in London, who often travel both to the US and the UK to study English. Even for our higher level students, such as Cambridge students or those who are studying IELTS London, British and American conventions can be tricky to detect and difficult to remember. That’s the reason why EC London would like to share with all of you some of the most common language differences between these two English-speaking countries!
In Britain, the term quid to express pounds (£) is equivalent to the American term buck ($). Even more interesting, unlike Brits, Americans have precise terms for coins that are smaller than $1! To give you some examples, nickel is used for 5 cents, dime refers to 10 cents and a quarter is 25 cents. British people do not have this convention, ending up using the general term pence for any coin below £1.
The difference in the way British and Americans write dates is huge, often causing some confusion among people who are not familiar with their systems. While in the US you would indicate the month before the day, in the UK is the opposite. This means that a Brit would indicate day/month/year. For instance, when an American writes July 4th 2015 (Independence Day in the United States) as 07/04/2015, a British person prefers 04/07/2015.
When dealing with body mass conventions, everything can become extremely baffling. While in the UK weights are indicated in pounds, in the United States people use stones. Even worse, Europeans usually use kilograms!
If you need to convert pounds into stones, or kilograms into pounds without using any converter tool, it could be of great help being aware of the fact that there are 14 pounds in one stone and that one stone is almost 6 kilograms. So, for example, if someone weighs 11 stones in the US, he or she is 154 pounds in England and almost 70 kg in Europe.
Due to the French influence on British English, there are several words, which are spelt differently in British and American English. In a nutshell, British English tends to keep the spelling of those words of French origins, whereas American people tend to spell words more closely to the way they sound. This results in the omission of some letters.
Be aware that if you are writing for British readers, you should only use the British spelling. Besides, it’s very important to stick to one style or the other throughout the same piece of writing! Let’s have a look at some dissimilarities:
1. In British English, most words which usually end in -our have an -or ending in America. These are words such as neighbour vs. neighbor; colour vs. color; behaviour vs. behavior; favourite vs. favorite.
2. British English words that end in -re often end in -er in American English. Some examples include centre vs. center; theatre vs. theater; litre vs. liter.
3. American spelling uses a final -ize as opposed to British spelling -ise in many words such as realise vs. realize; recognise vs. recongize; analyse vs. analyse.
Do you know any further differences that you would like to let us know?