Библиографическое описание:

Демидова О. М. The Pecularities of British and American English // Молодой ученый. — 2014. — №8. — С. 409-411.

In the given article the author pays attention to the peculiarities and differences between the American and the British variants of the English language. The attention is paid to all aspects of the language: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, spoken language.

Key words: American variant, British variant, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, pronounciation.

English is used as a national language by many nations, therefore it is multinational. British English gave rise to the American version, and then to South African and Australian. At present, in the 21st century, people face the Indian, Nigerian and Singaporean types. [1, p. 6] Now, more commonly American English is used “in activities and life of people — in the sphere of economy, culture and finance, health, education and other fields -it is becoming increasingly widespread, and the American version replaces British»... [2, p. 7]

The main purpose of the given article is to identify the differences between American and British variants of the English language. To reveal the following aspects it is necessary to take into consideration the history of American English origin.

XVII century was a time of migrating people from Europe to North America. For three thousand of years, this movement, which started from a few hundred British settlers, has grown to millions of new visitors. Most of the European settlers left their land because of political restraints in the hope of expanding their religion, getting freedom or seeking adventure. The first English settlers in the new world, having come to America, spoke English of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth. This gave rise to certain distinctive features of the American English.

English is known to people as the language of verbal imitations. English-speaking colonists contacted with the representatives of different cultures and languages. Many loans were affiliated to the English in XVII.

As a result, from the Indians there were adopted not only geographic names of lakes, rivers, mountains, but also the names of plants, such as red cedar, hickory, egg-plant, and persimmon as well as, the names of animals such as woodchucks (woodchuck forest) and raccoons (raccoons). Among other things, cooking tools: hammock (hammock), canoe, wigwam (wigwam), tomahawk (tomahawk), toboggan (sled), totem (totem), moccasin (moccasins), igloo (needle), and others. Apart from various Indian influences, American English reflects the non-English culture with which immigrants faced during the conquest of the continent. In the west of the continent English-speaking colonists soon came into contact with the French settlements and a great number of words was borrowed from the French language: prairies, chowder, rapids.

But more significant was borrowing from Spanish culture, as English-speaking colonists moved to the west and south to the Pacific Ocean. Spanish words were acquired in two different stages of development. Then, after the Mexican War (1846–1848) communication with Spanish-speaking residents of Spain and west Texas led to the borrowing of such words as: ranch, sombrero, and canyon. German colonists of New York introduced to American English the following words: 1.Boss (boss); 2. Cookie (biscuit); 3. Scow (barge); 4. Santa Claus (Santa Claus).

For further analysis, it is necessary to examine some aspects of the linguistic characteristics of American English. Firstly, we will turn to the comparative analysis of the vocabulary.

Differences in vocabulary can only be explained by referring to American history. On the other hand, some of the words that have the same meaning on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during XVII-XVIII were given new interpretations in America. Thus, American «French fries» is British «chips». Sometimes the same words mean the same thing: «a truck» in American — is «a lorry» (truck) in British English.

It follows thence; the Americans and the British often use different words to denote the same objects. These words do not lose their national character and are in constant use. Below, you can see several examples of misunderstanding between the British and the Americans.

British variants

American variant

Meaning of the word













dinner jacket









Another characteristic feature of the present spoken language of Americans is marking events or class of objects by one of the words in this class. This phenomenon is called synecdoche. So, M. A. Goldenkov found that «all Americans call raptors — hawks». In addition, it is essential to use as symbols of all the beetles, the word “bug» and in the meaning of «fir», the word pine — “pine» (Christmas as well).

Another popular area of English vocabulary — is American slang, which requires special explanation. In the lexicon of modern Americans slang occupies the greatest part. In the twentieth century dynamic process of introducing literary English slang vocabulary takes place. «Permeability of colloquial language layers, especially slang has long been an important feature of Australian and American English». Not so long ago such common expressions and words as “lunch”, “to take part”, “to get up”, “of course” belonged to the group of slang. [3, p. 6] It is also necessary to mention the expression that is in its origin American slang idiom, but still exists in all the textbooks of English. This expression is “ok”, colloquial phrases from “all correct” (“the right thing»). M. A. Goldenkov (like «New English- Russian Dictionary «by V. K. Mueller) lists the following meanings of the word:

1.         «Please» (respond to expression «gratitude»);

2.         «Excellent» (as a respond to the question: «How is your wife?» Or «How are you?»);

3.         «Right»;

4.         «All right»;

5.         «Okay» (synonymous to «all right»). [3, p. 9]

There is active penetration to the English language of other alternatives showing negation and affirmation. Instead of “yes”, even the British now use “yea”. Besides, «often in Canadian manner the English do not say “no”, but “nope” and not “yes” but “yap” [3, p. 101] American English affects the use of proper names. " In this century, the tradition of using derivatives of full names (diminutives and pet- forms) as independent names continues to develop». [4, p. 48] In modern English derivatives of names are used not only in communication among acquaintances, friends and relatives, but also in formal setting. As an illustrative example the names of famous presidents of the United States of America: William Jefferson Clinton (Bill Clinton), James Earl Carter — (Jimmy Carter) can serve.

In conclusion, it is necessary to present an example of the interpretation of Americanisms in speech, taken from the publication of V. L. Burovaya. [5, p. 4–6] The researcher examines an episode from film «Forrest Gump» from the point of view of reflection of the characteristics of American culture. In this episode the hero of the film is plunged in memories about the time when his my mother took him to school. He says: “She wanted me to have the finest education, so she took me to the Greenbow Country Central School. I met the principal and all. Principal: The state requires a minimum IQ of about 80 percent to attend public school, Mrs. Gump. He's going to have to go to a special school”. Certain Comments should be given:

1.                  “Principal” is a headmaster of public school. In the U. S. director of the private schools is a “headmaster”.

2.                  “Public school” is a state school with free education, as opposed to the private school. In the UK, “public school” is a private school.

3.                  “Special school” in the American system of education is a school for the people with limited abilities.

4.                  The grammatical form «He's going to have to go» requires explanation. Here, the expression «to be going to» is used in the future tense. The sentence is translated as: «He will have to go to…».

Now, let’s talk about the peculiarities of spelling between the English and American variants.

The book “Dictionary of the English Language” by Noah Webster (Noah Webster) observed the following peculiar features: in American English people often write [6, p. 257]:

-          or instead of -our, e.g. color — colour;

-          er instead of -re, e.g. meter — metre;

-          se instead of -ce, e.g. practise — practice;

-          z- instead of -s-, e.g. organization — organisation;

-          l- instead of -ll-, e.g. traveled — travelled;

-          me,-ue at the end of words are omitted, for example, kilogram — kilogramme;

—       Sometimes –the prefix “in” is more preferred than “en”, e.g. insuare — ensuare, inclose — enclose;

—       Writing of oe or -ae often vary in the direction of simplification, e.g. diarrhea — diarrhoea, anemia — anaemia;

The endings — ue and — in the words of French origin are often omitted, e.g. prolog — prologue, program — programme, catalog — catalogue, chech — cheque;

-          Most Americans write tho instead of though, thru instead of through.

Further study will reveal the differences in pronunciation between American and British English.

Pronunciation is the greatest difference. Students who master the English, often face the characteristic difficulty during the first dialogue with the American. And this is not due to the language but to the pronunciation. Independently from the qualities of the American Speech, there is a group of the main distinguishing features between American and British pronunciation: [7, p. 277]

1)        Americans often say [r] in cases where it is not pronounced in British English: hare, car, and port;

2)        Americans instead of [a:] pronounce the sound «a«, as [æ] in words: answer, past, ask, can't.

3)        In the words dew, news, duke American pronunciation is as follows: [du:], [nu: z], [du: k];

4)        Americans say [nΛt], [hΛt], [tΛp], [Λn], ['kΛmon], in the words not, hot, top, on, common;

5)        Words “butter”, “better”, “city” are pronounced as [bΛdə], ['bedər], [' sidi];

6)        Address, tomato andschedule are also pronounced differently: ['ædres], [tə'meitəu], [' skedju: l];

7)        Words ending in — ory and -ary in the American language are stressed on the last syllable in the following: laboratory, secretary;

8)        [h] is omitted, usually in the beginning of the word: him, his, her, humidity, humor, history.

The other reason why the British think Americans are careless in terms of language is that Americans do not use Perfect form in colloquial speech. Instead of it they use Simple (Indefinite) Tense Form.

There are verbs that in the British and American English have different verb forms in such tense forms as Past Perfect and Past Simple: [8, p. 48]

a) For example verbs like “to learn”, “to burn”, “to lean”, as a rule, in American English are regular: learned, burned and leaned, but in British English they are at the same time regular and irregular.

b) The similarity of verbs: “to ride”, “to say”, “to wet”, “to forget”, “to dream”,”to give” are regular in the American, but irregular in the British language.

In addition, in American English there is a tendency of the English verb “to do” to force out form of a third person singular “does” in spoken language. It also concerns the negative form of the verb. A considerable part of irregular verbs (e.g. to spoil, to burn) are regular in American language.

c) In the American version of the language “should” is not used after verbs “insist”, “demand”, “require”, and others, for example, “I insisted that he pay” instead of “I insisted that he should pay” in the British version.

d) Articles are used in a different way. For example, in the American version — «to / in the school», but in the UK it is used without an article «to / in school».

e) Often, in the same terms instead of one preposition another can be used, for example, “on weekend — on the weekend” instead of “at the weekend — at weekend” in the British version; “on a street” instead of “in a street”.

f) Most set expressions in the American language are subjected to change. Here is an example, instead of “have a shower/a bath”, they say “take a bath / a shower”. Instead of “need not” complex form “do not need to” is used.

Adjectives “real” and “slow” are used as an adverb: “He hates to eat slow (instead of slowly)”. “He's real nice (instead of really)”.

In comparison with the British, Americans do not use so often the plural form of the verb with collective nouns (the audience were… public were…, the government have…).

Yet, at the moment all of the above grammatical features of American English do not have the status of a standard.

It is possible to conclude that the U. S. speech is very fast and is not always easily understood, and the American English is a flexible language. American English is called a “careless” language. The Americans, respect the British variant of English.The Americans call British English “eloquent” as they have never had such a language, and what is called «English culture and tradition». Therefore, the British version is more suitable for learning at school. Contrary to the fact that American English is not much different from the British English, for successful communication people should not forget about the differences in spelling, vocabulary, intonation, pronunciation, grammar and word stress.


1.         D. Crystal English as a global. — M., 2001–240. p

2.         G. V. Chernov American version. English-Russian and Russian-English dictionary. — M., 2010–1088

3.         M. A. Goldenkov “Beware! Hot dog! Modern active English.” — M., 2000–272 p.

4.         E. Koptelova Speak English! / The Foreigner, 2000, — № 25

5.         V. L. Burov Intercultural Communication in the context of cognitive linguistics./ Lingvodidactic problems of learning foreign languages in school and in college. Interuniversity collection of scientific articles / Ed. L. N. Borisova. MY. 3. Belgorod — 2003

6.         Webster's High School Dictionary: A Dictionary of the English Language. Year of publication: 1993. Pages: 336

7.         «Theoretical Phonetics of English (English phonetics, a Theoretical course)», M. A. Sokolov, K. P. Gintovt, I. Tikhonov, R. M. Tikhonov — M.: VLADOS, 1996, — 286 p.

8.         New in English Grammar Author: G. A. Veyhman Year of publication: 2000 Publisher: Astrel. Pages: 127.


Социальные комментарии Cackle