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Answered 2013-02-16 21:34:52

The pronunciation is different and so is much of the vocabulary. For example, Americans pronounce words such as 'herbal' without the 'h'. One can easily notice that the accents are much different.

Some words are slightly different. For example, in American English the undergarments of a person is called "underwear." However, in British English, it is simply called "pants." Those who speak British English would say 'jam' for what Americans call 'jelly', and 'jelly' what Americans call 'Jell-O'.

Thus, some words can be easily confused in the opposite cultures.

There are also some reasonably consistent spelling differences.

There are some common rules for American English.

  • Where UK, Australian and NZ English often use the letter group of our, in American English the u is omitted. In the following examples, the first is UK English and the second is American English:

favourite / favorite

neighbour / neighbor

colour / color

  • UK English uses an s where American English often substitutes a z. In the following examples, the first is UK English and the second is American English:

capitalisation / capitalization

recognise / recognize

  • In word building, UK English doubles the final consonant where it is preceded by a vowel, whereas American English does not. For example:

traveller / traveler

labelled / labeled

  • Some words which are spelt with a 'c' in the noun form but an 's' in the verb form of some words are not spelt with the 'c' in American English - both noun and verb forms retain the 's'.

practice/practise in U.K. and Australian English is always practise in American English.

licence/license is always license in American English.

  • Some words ending in 're' in U.K. and Australian English are spelt with 'er' in American English.


kilometre/ kilometer

  • U.K. English retains the old style of retaining 'oe' and 'ae' in the middle of some words, whilst American English uses just an 'e'.



  • Some words in U.K. English retain the 'gue' at the end, as opposed to just the 'g' in American English.



In essence, it could be said that the American English has opted for a simpler style, whilst the U.K./Australian/New Zealand English usually retains the older, more complex spelling rules.

British English is more influenced by French/Latin and American English is more influenced by Germanic Languages.

The basic difference is British English shows signs of influence from French and Latin in general, while American English shows signs of influence from Germanic Languages.

The reason for the spelling differences is in large part due to the "reforms" of Noah Webster who felt some words looked better or had unnecessary letters as in the "colour" cited above. Words like theatre, spelled "theater" in the US, in no way reflect any difference in pronunciation, except for allowing for the more rhotic American pronunciation, and the British spelling reflects the origin of the word, which is from the French theatre from Latin theatrum, so the British spelling reflects the etymology of the word, one reason why archaic spellings are kept.

See the Related Link below for examples of the different usage of words.

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