American vs. British English

Great Britain and the United States don't just differ because of their size, culture, and eating habits. The official language of both nations - English - is also slightly different. The differences between British English and American English are not huge, but not knowing in which way they differ can lead to mistakes or misunderstandings.

To make sure this doesn't happen to you, we have prepared a useful guide to make sure that you know your "colours" from "colors". Below we'll show you some key differences between American English (AE) and British English (BE), which as you will see often differ in vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, and sometimes in grammar.

The different expressions

Some words differ in American and British English. Here are some examples:

vacation holiday
chips crisps
fries chips
soccer football
lift elevator
check bill
garbage rubbish
stove cooker
movie film
apartment flat
rent hire
match game
mom mum
bill note
subway underground


American words end in "-or" vs British words end in "-our"

color (AE) | colour (BE)
flavor (AE) | flavour (BE)
neighbor (AE) | neighbour (BE)

American words end in "-er" vs British words end in "-re"

theater (AE) | theatre (BE)
meter (AE) | metre (BE)
center (AE) | center (BE)

American words end in "-ize" vs British words usually end in "-ise"

apologize (AE) | apologise (BE)
organize (AE) | organise (BE)
realize (AE) | realise (BE)

In American English words often have only one consonant, while in British English they have two.

traveled (AE) | travelled (BE)
jewelry (AE) | jewelry (BE)
canceled (AE) | cancelled (BE)

Other different spellings:
cozy (AE) | cosy (BE)
catalog (AE) | catalogue (BE)


  • Americans pronounce all "r" sounds clearly, while the often British pronounce the "r" only as the first sound in the word. If the "r" is in the middle of a word it is usually barely audible, and the emphasis is more on the vowel (far sounds like "fa").
  • In American English, the letter "t" sounds more like a "d" (better sounds like "bedder"). In British, you can hear the "t" clearly. In some words, such as 'dance' or 'can't', the "a" is pronounced like an "ä" in American - in British more like a long "a".
  • British and American pronunciation differ a lot. To look at them more closely, it is helpful to listen to them. For example, watch an American movie and then a British one and you will quickly notice the differences in pronunciation.


Some British and American prepositions work differently:

  • For example, in American you say "on the weekend", while in British you almost always use "at" when talking about a time, so "at the weekend".
  • In American, the verb "to write" is usually used by itself, while in British you say "to write to", as in "I promised to write to her a letter."

The past participle of the verb "to get" differs between AE and BE:

- AE: get | got | gotten
- BE: get | got | got

Collective nouns (such as "team") can be plural in British English when referring to the individual members. In American English, they are always singular:
- AE: The team is good
- BE: The team are good

Want to master a British or American dialect? Learn to speak like a native on a language study trip! Discover Sprachcaffe's our educational trips to the USA or England