UK or US English. Which “U” would U choose?

NOTE: You might think the writing is simple. This article was written for both native English-speakers and for ESL students.

which english

Standard French. Standard Spanish. Standard Chinese.

There are French dialects, Spanish dialects and Chinese dialects and languages. However, one dialect was chosen from each language to be the “standard” vernacular to RULE THEM ALL.

The “standard” versions of languages are taught in schools and language institutes. Each standard language has a standardised grammar, spelling, pronunciations and set words in their dictionaries. These standards are usually governed by a language institution or committee. When I learned French, I didn’t learn French from Belgium or Quebec, Canada. I learned Standard French. It’s also called Metropolitan French which is the dialect that became Standard French.

However, there are actually two main standards of written English: British English and American English.

Even though, there are hundreds of English dialects in the United Kingdom and hundreds of English dialects in the United States, both countries each have one written standard for everyone in both countries to follow.

Which English is learnt in other English-speaking countries

Other English-speaking countries have their own dialects of English that is based off either the two. Former British colonies (e.g. India, Singapore, South Africa) and countries part of the British Commonwealth (e.g Australia, New Zealand, even Canada) use English that is closer to British English.

While other sovereign states including the Philippines, Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Liberia use English that is based off American English because of American influence.

Both Canadian and Australian English have a mix of both British and American English. For more information about Australian English, click here.

Which English is learnt in non-English speaking countries?

In the TESOL industry, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Brits, Irishmen and South Africans usually teach their own English in other countries.

However, schools in some countries have preferences in teaching students either British or American English. Usually schools in European countries, Middle East, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Brunei learn British English. Countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel and Latin American countries learn American English.

Comparisons between the two English’s

Spelling

One major difference between British and American English is spelling.

For some words spelt as -our in British English, it is spelt as -or in American English.

British American
colour color
favourite favorite
flavour flavor
glamour glamor

For some words spelt as -ise in British English, it is spelt as -ize in American English.

British American
criticise criticize
minimise minimize
organise organize
realise realize

One exception is the word size which is spelled as it is in both UK and US English.

For some words spelt as -re in British English, it is spelt as -er in American English.

British American
fibre fiber
centre center
litre liter
metre meter
sabre saber
theatre theater

Here are other words in British English spelt different to American English.

British American
analogue analog
cheque check
dialogue dialog
mum mom
programme program

Grammar

Both dialects have different ways of spelling past participles.

British American
burnt burned
dreamt dreamed
learnt learned
spelt spelled

Examples:

UK I have burnt my breakfast.
US I have burned my breakfast.
UK You have learnt nothing.
US You have learned nothing.

Vocabulary

I have already shown this in my article about Australian English, but I will show it to you again.

British American
4-wheel drive (4WD) special utility vehicle (SUV)
biscuit* cookie
chips fries
crisps (potato) chips
football soccer
gridiron football
(garbage) bin (garbage) can
holiday** vacation
lift elevator
lorry truck
petrol gasoline
postman mailman
primary school elementary school
take-away food take-out food
tap faucet
tomato sauce ketchup
torch*** flashlight
university college
*Americans refer to biscuit as what the British call scones
**Americans refer to holiday as public holidays like Christmas while the British refer to it as any kind of day-off including vacations. Any day with no work to me is a holiday.
***Americans refer to torch as the handheld cauldron with a fire on top while the British refer to torch as both the fire-powered and the battery-powered types

There is so much to compare. It all wouldn’t fit in this article. I don’t think I can show the differences in pronunciation as simple as I can. The obvious differences between the two, for now, are vocabulary and spelling.

Does it matter?

I will say this now. It does not matter, whether you learn British English or American English.

Yes, there are differences in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, but speakers of either British or American English can still understand each other. Like German from Germany and Austrian German or European Spanish and Latin American Spanish.

If you learn American English and you have a conversation with a British person, you will still understand each other. In fact, you will learn more about the culture of the English language when you learn about how British people talk.

Personally, for me, I may write using either British or American English. Even though, I mainly teach British English because I grew up in Australia.

If I get a chance, I will talk about this topic again in another article.

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One thought on “UK or US English. Which “U” would U choose?

  1. I too use a mix of British and US Englishes; the Latinist in me wants to preserve the spellings of “color” etc. without the extraneous ‘o’, while the Hellenist likes to keep the ‘-ize’ ending in lieu of the more common ‘-ise’ in British English. As a Scot, I gravitate toward British terminology for everyday words, but am not averse to throwing in an “Americanism” every now and then, as I’m exposed to these a lot through reading, whether books or online or what have you. The differences do make for interesting conversations with friends across the pond; as they say, ‘Variety is the spice of life’!

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