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British and American English 3 main differences

British and American English

British and American English 3 main differences

So… British and American English, which one? Are you thinking about heading to either the UK or the US and you’re looking to sound either a wee more British or a little more North American? Here are 3 things you can do in either of these countries to spice up your accent and sound more like a local.

1) You guys = United Kingdom; Y’all = United States

In English, “you” in the singular is the same as in the plural, so we can use words like “guys” and “all” to make the plural, but you can still just use “you” (it’s just more formal). So, when it comes to the Brits, (or in most English speaking countries), we tend to use “you guys” (which is more informal than just “you”).

For instance, 

  • You guys are the nicest people ever!
  • Do you guys have any idea where to go? 

More formal: 

  • You are the nicest people ever!
  • Do you have any idea where to go?

On the other side of the sea, in the good ol’ USA, and more specifically, in the Southern United States, the people there tend to make use of “y’all” when using the plural “you”. 

  • Y’all are the nicest people ever!
  • Do y’all have any idea where to go? 

This use of “y’all” is primarily in the southern part of the United States, however, you could also hear people using “you guys”. 

2. Have = United Kingdom; Have got = United States 

In the US, it’s more common to use “have” + “got” when you want to express possession.

For instance, 

  • Our buddies have got a cool car. 
  • You’ve got a good book. 

Whereas, in the UK, people tend to just use “have”, 

  • Our buddies have a cool car. 
  • You have a good book. 

While we are on this topic, when it comes to asking questions and making negatives about possession or things you own, there are 3 three ways of doing this: 

  1. “To do” + subject + normal verb = more British. 
  • Do you have a nephew? – I do not have a nephew. 
  1. “To have” + subject + “got”  = more American. 
  • Have you got a nephew? – I haven’t got a nephew. 
  1. “To have” + subject = British and less common
  • Have you a nephew? – I haven’t a nephew. 

Remember, we use the verb “to have” to talk about possession. In this case, “nephew” is the person being possessed. But he’s not actually possessed though! 

Everything said, we live in an increasingly globalised world, and don’t be surprised if you find both forms not just in the USA. Also, if you’d like to know more about the differences between British and American English when it comes to the spelling, we have got your covered!

3. To pronounce or not to pronounce the “r”

In the USA, Canada as well as Scotland, they have what linguists call a “Rhotic Accent” – this basically means that people in these countries always pronounce the letter “r”, whereas speakers from countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand all have a non-rhotic accent, which means speakers from these countries tend not to pronounce the “r” (with the exception of “r” being at the beginning of a word). 

Check out these words with a rhotic accent (USA, for example): 

  • Hard – /hɑrd/
  • Water – /ˈwɔtər/
  • Nicer – ˈnaɪsər/ 

British and American English – In a nutshell

Basically, just pronounce that “r” if ya wanna sound more American. And if you wanna sound hardcore educated, start saying “I speak with rhoticity” or “I have a rhotic accent”. People will be impressed! Or maybe they’ll be a little weirded-out… So on the other hand, maybe don’t actually say this…

When it comes to England, Wales, Ireland ( but not Scotland), Australia, New Zealand, India and probably a bunch of other countries, rhotic accents are not really a thing. So, people tend not to pronounce the “r”.

This is how everyone else does it (In UK English, for example): 

  • Hard – /hɑːd/
  • Water – /ˈwɔːtə/
  • Nicer – /ˈnaɪsə/ 

Lesson summary

So, there you have it folks, those are our 3 main differences for sounding either more British or more American, oh, and please, for the love of English, I beg you, subscribe to English Reservoir if you liked this video.