Some time back I had written an article on how British people came and changed our lives forever. One such major change is the introduction of English. But as we went ahead and accepted British English, we gradually learned that British and American English have certain differences. Although slowly the differences are getting narrowed down, but as grammar Nazis would say, let us keep it simple and continue with the difference as of now.

If you wish to go back and read my previous article you can do so by visiting: https://www.boddunan.com/articles/education/61-english-language/23844-how-different-is-british-english-from-american-english.html

Let us look at the other differences between British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) in this post.

Difference in the use of numbers:

In BrE it is mandatory to:

  • Spell out the numbers zero through nine. For example, one, two, three and so on.
  • Write numerals for number 10 and greater. For example, I need 10 pencils and 20 erasers.

In AmE, it is mandatory to:

Write numerals even though the number is less than 10. For examples: 10 pens, 5 centimeters

Difference in the use of Serial Comma:

In BrE, serial comma is not used frequently. Whereas, in AmE, it is suggested to use serial comma.

Example of BrE usage: Plants need sunlight, water, oxygen and carbon dioxide to carry out the process of photosynthesis. 

Example of AmE usage: Plants need sunlight, water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to carry out the process of photosynthesis. 

Note the use of comma in both the examples.

  • Serial comma is used when you are inserting a series of list in your writing as given in the example above.
  • Serial comma is placed directly before the grammatical conjunction (and, or, nor) that precede a list of three or more items.

Difference in the use of SUBJECT and VERB Agreement:

In BrE, collective nouns can take either singular or plural verb forms, according to whether the emphasis is, respectively, on the body as a whole or on the individual members.

Let us see the example given below.

The Government are responsible for these developments in the finance sector.

  • Australia have won the final match against India in 20-20 world championship.
  • This company agree to the norms laid down by the state government. 
  • In AmE, collective nouns take singular verbs only.

Let us see the example given below.

  • The Government is responsible for these developments in the finance sector.
  • Australia has won the final match against India in 20-20 world championship.
  • This company agrees to the norms laid down by the state government. 

Guess, we are more used to the American usage, do you agree?

Difference in the use of Tenses: 

In BrE, the present perfect tense is used to talk about an event in the recent past.

For example:

  • Meera has just arrived at the airport.
  • Lily and I have had our breakfast in the morning.
  • They have watched this movie last weekend. 

In AmE, both simple past and present perfect are appropriate to describe the events in the recent past.

  • Meera just arrived at the airport.
  • Lily and I had my breakfast in the morning.
  • They watched this movie last weekend. 

Difference in the use of abbreviations:

Before we jump on to see the difference, let us look at the following definitions, which will help you to understand the concept better.

Abbreviation is any shortened form of a word or phrase.

An acronym is a word formed from the initial parts (letters OR syllables OR arbitrary parts) of a name.

For example: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

Initialism is a group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter being pronounced separately.

For example: BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

Truncation is an abbreviation of a word consisting of the first part of the word OR the first and last part of the word.

For example: Tues. = Tuesday; Dec. = December; Mr = Mister; Dr = Doctor

Difference in the use of period or full stop in Abbreviations:

In BrE full stop is preferred only when the last letter of the abbreviation is not the last letter of the complete word. 

For example:  Mr, Mrs, St, Dr  (No full stop is required) but Tues., Dec. (full stop is required)

An In AmE abbreviation with periods is highly recommended. 

For example: Mr., Mrs., St., and Dr.

In BrE, full stops in abbreviations or spaces between initials, including those in proper names are excluded.

For example: NATO, USSR

Moreover, in BrE, some acronyms, which are pronounced as words are written with just the initial letter in capital.

For example: 

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO 
  • Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission from Radiation - Laser 
  • Radio detection and ranging – Radar 

In AmE, the period is usually added if the abbreviation may be interpreted as a word.

For example: N.A.T.O. and U.S.S.R

However, the U.S. writers also exclude the period contained between the letters. Ultimately, the main consideration in the United States in regard to this issue of punctuation centers more on consistency than anything else at this point in time. 

I will continue to highlight the difference between AmE and BrE in my next post, until then keep reading.


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