Interesting differences between British and American English

Do you know about the differences between British and American English? If you’re thinking of internationalizing your company or need to translate a project into English, you need to consider that, although they’re the same language, they’re not spoken and written the same everywhere.

This article explains some of the nuances and key differences between American and British English.

Differences between American and British English that are surprising to both

/Color/ or /colour/? Which one should you use? It depends on whether you’re addressing a Londoner or a New Yorker. Both are correct, and this is just one of the differences or nuances between these two dialects of the same language.

In case you didn’t already know it, English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with some 1.35 billion speakers. Although they all start from the same foundation, each community has created its own variant and established its own characteristics that differ in pronunciation, grammar, spelling and vocabulary. In fact, it is estimated that only 379 million are native speakers. The rest learned English as a second language.

The use of different words in British and American English can lead to major misunderstandings or mistakes. For example, the term /holiday/ means “vacation” in British English, while in American English it indicates a day of observance, such as Christmas Day or the Fourth of July. That’s something to keep in mind when planning your calendar.

Some mistakes can be especially serious. In the economic and legal fields, translators work with very specific and precise terms. For example, referring to shares and shareholders, in the United Kingdom they tend to use shares / shareholders, while in the United States it would be stocks / stockholders. That’s why it is sometimes important to have a sworn translation service specialized in this field.

On top of that, the meaning of a single word can change depending on the country. In the United States, the term “indirect and consequential losses” implies that the party in question assumes no liability, including lost profits, whereas in the United Kingdom, the term does not exclude this specific liability.

So, when it comes to translating a company’s website, translating a professional manual or localizing marketing and advertising copy for a product or service, professional knowledge of all these nuances is essential if you’re to obtain a quality result and avoid misunderstandings or questionable expressions.

Different words in British and American English and other interesting details

There are many differences in terminology between British and American English. Here are some of the most significant differences between British and American English.


  • Accents and pronunciation change. In the United Kingdom the letter /r/ is not usually pronounced, while in the United States it is.


  • Words that in British English end in /ise/ or /our/, end in /ize/ or /or/ in American English.


  • In the United States, double consonants are eliminated from some words. For example: /traveling/ instead of /travelling/ or /canceled/ instead of /cancelled/.


  • When it comes to vocabulary, there are certain words that can give away the translator’s origin. Examples include mailbox (USA) / postbox (UK) – drugstore (USA) / chemist’s (UK) – sneakers (USA) / trainers (UK) – band-aid (USA) / plaster (UK).


As you can see from these simple examples, the differences between British and American English can make a translation strange and foreign, or even, as we’ve seen, lead to major mistakes. Only a professional translation agency like Linguaserve has native translators specialized in any sector who are capable of translating your project into the most appropriate form of English.

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