British vs. American English (continued) English Grammar translation jobs
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British vs. American English (continued)

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As well as the differences in vocabulary we looked at in an earlier article, it is also possible to spot differences in grammar and country-specific structures in 'British' and 'American' documents. Often there are no hard and fast rules, it is simply a question of usage and a result of how the language has developed in each country.

Dates are one well-known example:



29 September 2003

September 29, 2003



Helpful Hint It may be worth writing a date out in full, to avoid confusion:

3/9/2003 – 3 September 2003 or March 9, 2003 ?

The use of the comma in a list is also different. Note the extra comma in the US version of the following sentence:


The company has not issued any shares, bonds, stock options or securities this year.


The company has not issued any shares, bonds, stock options, or securities this year.

The next table shows some grammatical differences:



I will write to him next week

I will write him next week

It was nice to talk to you

It was nice to talk with you

I am meeting the union representatives tomorrow

I am meeting with the union representatives tomorrow

I live in Main Street

I live on Main Street

Let's go and see a film

Let's go see a movie

Different from / different to

Different than / different from

I have already eaten

I already ate

Look out of the window

Look out the window

River Thames

Hudson River

Another interesting example is the third person singular form 'one':

"one does what one is told to do".

This is still in use in the UK in formal language, but is very rarely heard in the US .

Familiar speech forms can also differ greatly. Whereas Americans might say "I sure could use a drink", the British would say "I really need a drink" or even "I'm dying for a drink".

You are much more likely to hear an American say "sure can" or "will do" when asked to do something, while a British person might say "yes, of course" or "leave it with me".

Although such usage may be specific to one country, in most cases it is readily understood in the other. Indeed, with today's increasingly 'global' culture, many British people are now using 'Americanisms', although the opposite is rarely true!

Lastly, words are often spelt differently in American and British English. For instance:








favour, behaviour


favor, behavior

Mistakes can easily be avoided by selecting the appropriate language (British or American English) in your word processing software and running a spell-check … it sounds obvious, but is easy to forget!

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