L3. Activity 2.3: English Varieties



What English varieties can you think of?

American, Canadian, Caribbean (Including: Haiti, Guyanese or Jamaican), Irish, Scottish, Welsh, British, South African, Indian, Australian, and the varieties spoken in New Zeland and Hawai.

Provide a brief account of the main differences between British and American English:


Words like color (from colour), honor (from honour), and labor (from labour). Americans dropped the letter u from these words to make the spelling match the pronunciation.

In British English, some words from French, Latin or Greek end with a consonant followed by an unstressed –re. In American English, most of these words have the ending –er. The difference is most common for words ending -bre or -tre: British spellings centre, fibre, littre, saltpeter.


In British English, at is used with many time expressions: “at Christmas/five ‘o’ clock”, “at the weekend”. In American English, on is always used when talking about the weekend, not at: “Will they still be there on the weekend?”


Irregular verb tenses:

You will also find some small differences with past forms of irregular verbs. The past tense of learn in American English is learned. British English has the option of learned or learnt. The same rule applies to dreamed and dreamt, burned and burnt, leaned and leant. In the past participle form, Americans tend to use the –en ending for some irregular verbs. For example, an American might say, “I have never gotten caught” whereas a Brit would say, “I have never got caught.”

Auxiliary verbs:

Another grammar difference between American and British English relates to auxiliary verbs. For instance, When Americans want to express a lack of obligation, they use the helping verb do with negative not followed by need. “You do not need to come to work today.” Brits drop the helping verb and contract not. “You needn’t come to work today.”

In American English, the verb take, rather than have, is used in contexts such as: “Joe’s taking a shower”, “I’d like to take a bath”, “let’s take a short vacation”, “why don’t you take a rest now?”

Collective nouns:

In American English, collective nouns are singular. For example, band refers to a group of musicians and Americans would say, “The band is good.” But in British English, collective nouns can be singular or plural. You might hear someone from Britain say, “The team are playing tonight” or “The team is playing tonight.”


The most noticeable difference between American and British English is vocabulary. There are hundreds of everyday words that are different.  For instance: Americans say go on vacation, while British say go on holidays.


Differences in stress in words such as: adult, brochure or advertisement.

In some words, the letter ‘a’ is pronounced differently in British and American English: bath, laugh or class.

The sound of ‘r’ is stronger in American English: hard, ear or pure.

More information:



English Vocabulary



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