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George Bernard Shaw famously said that the British and the Americans were "two nations separated by a common language".

Below are some examples of different usage in British and American English. You may already be aware of some of these differences, others may surprise you.




Jour férié

bank holiday

legal holiday

15 jours


two weeks

assemblée générale ordinaire/extraordinaire

Ordinary/extraordinary general meeting (of the shareholders)

regular/special shareholders' meeting


(memorandum and) articles of association

(articles of incorporation and) bylaws

compte de résultats

profit and loss account

income statement




Directeur général

managing director

chief executive officer

agent immobilier

estate agent


bureau de change

bureau de change

currency exchange



real estate

code postal

post code

zip code

prison/maison d'arrêt



poser sa candidature (politique)

stand (for office)

run (for office)

fonds (FCP)

unit trust

mutual fund

Chèque (bancaire)



Compte courant

current account

checking account

These are just a few examples. It is often worthwhile establishing whether your audience / the recipients of your document would prefer British or American terminology, as although many US terms may be understood by a British person and vice versa others may cause confusion and a need for time to be spent on further explanations/clarifications.

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