Comparison of American and British English

linguistic comparison

American English and British English are the two main dialects (types) of the English language. American English is spoken in the United States, while British English is spoken in the United Kingdom. Both types of English are different to each other in some ways, for example in spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary.


Spelling of some words in American, Canadian, British and Australian English

There are many words that sound the same in both American and British English but have different spellings, due mainly to the spelling reforms of Noah Webster. British English often keeps more traditional ways of spelling words than American English. For example:

  • Most words that end in -our in British English (colour, labour) end in -or in American English (color, labor).
  • Most words that end in -re in British English (metre, centre) end in -er in American English (meter, center).
  • Most words from Greek and Latin that are written with ae or oe in British English (anaemia, diarrhoea) are written with an e in American English (anemia, diarrhea). But the British spelling archaeology is still common in American English, while the American spellings encyclopedia (from Latin encyclopaedia) and medieval (from Latin mediaevalis) are common in British English.
  • Verbs that may end in -ise or -yse in British English (analyse, realise) always end in -ize and -yze in American English (analyze, realize). The Oxford English Dictionary (a dictionary for British English) use verbs end in -ize and -yse (analyse, realize).
  • Nouns that end in -isation in British English (organisation, realisation) end in -ization in American English (organization, realization). The Oxford English Dictionary use nouns end in -ization.
  • Most words of French derivation which end in -ogue in British English (analogue, dialogue) end in -og in American English (analog, dialog). However, some words in British spelling, for example dialogue, demagogue, are still common in American English.
  • Inflected words that are written with double l in British English (cancelled, travelled) are written with a a single l in American English (canceled, traveled). This spelling change is not always followed in American English (cancellation).
  • Some inflected words written with a silent e at the middle in British English (ageing, judgement) are written without the silent e in American English (aging, judgment). This spelling change is not always followed in American English (changeable).
  • Some past tense verbs end in -t in British English (learnt, spelt) end in -ed in American English (learned, spelled). The final letter is usually pronounced in both cases.

Because some chemical elements have different spellings in American and British English, IUPAC has to use only one spelling of a word in their papers. For example:

  • Aluminium in British English becomes aluminum in American English. IUPAC uses the British spelling aluminium.
  • Caesium in British English becomes cesium in American English. IUPAC uses the British spelling caesium.
  • Sulphur, sulphate and sulphide in British English becomes sulfur, sulfate and sulfide in American English. IUPAC uses the American spelling sulfur.



Punctuation is the name for the marks used in writing text. Punctuations, for example brackets/parentheses, full stops/periods, quotation marks/inverted commas, have different rules in American and British English.



In British English, "( )" marks are sometimes called "brackets", "[ ]" are called "square brackets" and "{ }" are called "curly brackets". In formal British English and in American English, "( )" marks are "parentheses" (singular: parenthesis), "[ ]" are called "brackets" or "square brackets", and "{ }" can be called "curly brackets" or "braces".[1] These marks are used in the same way in both dialects.



The rules on quoting a text is different in American and British English. In American English, " and ' are called "quotation marks". In British English, " and ' are called "inverted commas" or "speech marks". In American English, it is common to use the double quotation mark ( " ) in direct speech. In British English, it is common to use the single inverted comma ( ' ).[2][3] In American English, periods and commas almost always go inside the last quotation mark "like this." In British English, they go inside or outside depending on whether they are pointing to the whole sentence or only the words inside the quotation marks.[4][5]



Grammar differences between American and British English encompass various aspects, reflecting their separate linguistic developments and cultural influences.[6] One notable distinction lies in verb usage: while American English often uses the simple past tense ("I just ate"), British English favors the present perfect ("I have just eaten").



  1. Crystal, David (2003), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (second ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 278, ISBN 0-521-82348-X "It also gives ... clues about the prosody ... through such features as question marks, exclamation marks and parentheses".
  2. "What are inverted commas?". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on 2020-03-28. Retrieved 2021-03-07.
  3. "How to use inverted commas". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  4. Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. Cambridge University Press. 2002. p. 180. ISBN 9780521471541. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  5. The Associated Press Stylebook, p. 337; The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition 6.9, pp. 242–243; Strunk, William Jr., and White, E. B. The Elements of Style. Pearson Education Company, 4th edition, p. 36; The Globe and Mail Style Book. McFarlane and Warren Clements, 9th edition, p. 237; Brinck, Tom; Gergle, Darren; Wood, Scott D. Usability for the Web. Morgan Kaufmann, 2002, p. 277; Punctuation, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed February 17, 2010.
  6. "7 Terrific Tips to boost your Grammar Skills!". Ask Filo. 1 March 2023. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 1 April 2023.

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