3 Main Differences between British and American English

Andrijana Ikonic
Andrijana Ikonić looks at the principle differences between the American and British varieties of English, with some useful examples.
Differences between British English and American English

Do you speak American English, British English, or just English?

There’s no denying: British English and American English are very different.

Of course, it is the same language, but you’ll be surprised by how many differences there are.

If you speak English fluently, the chances are high that you will be able to interact with both British and American people easily; it’s not like you will misunderstand anything or get lost in your conversations.

However, we should always aim for perfection, so why not try to learn all the differences and similarities?

Today, I want to talk to you about the three main ones, and you can check this ultimate guide British English vs. American English for more details.


If a British person tells you ‘I’ll wait for you on the first floor,’ and an American person tells you ‘I’ll be on the first floor waiting for you,’ my question for you is: Will all three of you meet on the same floor?

The likelihood of that happening is rather small.


Well, in British English, there’s the ground floor, then the first floor and then the second floor.

But in American, there’s the first floor, second floor and third floor.

ground floor in British English = first floor in American English

And this is only the start… You wouldn’t believe how many more words are different in British and American English.

Here’s a few more.

  • autumn (British) / fall (American)
  • trainers / sneakers
  • crisps / chips
  • chips / fries

Past tense verbs

If you’ve ever wondered whether the correct form is learned or learnt, don’t worry because they are both correct.

Americans have only one option, and that is learned, while on the other hand, the British are open for both learned and learnt.

Not only with this verb, but with all other regular verbs, you will notice that Americans tend to use -ed for the past tense.


We cannot disregard spelling, one of the biggest differences between American and British English.

For example, while the British will write centre, Americans will write center.

More differences in spelling are:

  • fibre / fiber
  • litre / liter
  • theatre / theater


There are a lot more differences between British English and American English.

The point is, you don’t need to worry that much about it; it will come to you with time.

British and American people won’t get mad because you are using the other nation’s variety of English. They might educate you, but that’s for your own good.

What you can do is work on your English skills, practice them, and learn from your mistakes.

Written by Andrijana Ikonic for EnglishClub December 2019
Andrijana is a language enthusiast and content manager at Justlearn. She speaks English, French and Serbian; and writes about the most effective language tips and tricks.


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