uk english vs us english

There are some notable differences between American English and British English. We pronounce things differently, spell them differently and even have different words for the same thing.

I know this can be difficult for English learners to wrap their head around. There are so many differences, which to learn? How to tell the difference?

The good news is, is doesn’t matter which words you use. If you use the British term: Lift as opposed to the American term: Elevator. Everyone will still understand!

The bad news is, memorizing all of these different phrases and being sure you actually understand the person you are speaking with. This will be the major hurdle to overcome.

It won’t be easy to memorize several different words for one thing, but hopefully this mini list of words that are the most common will help.

British English / American English


  • Trousers / Pants
  • Trainers / Sneakers
  • Nappy / Diaper
  • Waistcoat / Vest
  • Knickers / underwear (male or female) or panties (for female only)

Shops and buildings:

  • Flat / Apartment
  • Chemists / Pharmacist
  • Bungalow (one story=one level) / House


  • Bill / Bill or check (while at a restaurant)
  • Sweets / Candy
  • Crisps / Chips
  • Chips / French fries
  • Starter / Appetizer
  • Sorbet / Sherbet

Around the house:

  • The toilet or the loo / Bathroom or restroom
  • Tap / Faucet
  • Garden / Backyard or yard
  • Wardrobe / Closet
  • Bin / Trash can


  • Policeman or Bobby / Policeman, but more commonly used: Cop
  • Mum / Mom
  • Mate or Friend/ Friend
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Another notable difference is the spelling.  Usually, the spelling differences are:

UK vs US English

ou vs o   –   re vs er   –   s vs z


  • Favourite vs favorite
  • Colour vs color
  • cosy vs cozy
  • realise vs realize
  • theatre vs theater
  • centre vs center


  • traveller vs traveler
  • cheque vs check
  • tyre vs tire

Accents are of course a whole new story and one that can be explained more through listening, not reading. A great tip is to mix up your teachers so you can get used to both accents.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the difference between these two because the differences are not so big that we have difficulty understanding one another. The feat you will need to make is collecting the differences so you can understand Brits and Americans equally.

So which have you been practicing lately? Did you know some of these differences? Do you find one to be easier than the other? Which way do you use for spelling?

Speak to any American or British teacher and ask about the differences and practice using English in both ways!

Sign up for our complimentary ENGLISH SURVIVAL CRASH COURSE and we’ll send all this info to your email — plus a bunch of free audio files and PDFS to get you learning English fast!

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