History of British vs. American English:
The English language was introduced to America through British colonization in the early 17th century. It also spread to many other parts of the world because of the strength of the British empire. Over the years, English spoken in the United States and in Britain started diverging from each other in various aspects. This led to a new dialects in the form of American English.
American vs. British accent. Prior to the Revolutionary War and American independence from the British in 1776, American and British accents were similar. Both were rhotic i.e. speakers pronounced the letter R in hard. Since 1776, the accents diverged but English accent in America has changed less drastically than accents in Britain.
Towards the end of the 18th century, non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper class; this “prestige” non-rhotic speech was standardised, and has been spreading in Britain ever since.Most American accents, however, remained rhotic.
There are a few fascinating exceptions: New York and New England accents became non-rhotic, perhaps because of the region’s British connections. Irish and Scottish accents, however, remained rhotic. To be fair, both American and British English have several types of accents and there is no one true American or British accent.
Differences in use of tenses:
In British English, the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment. For example: I’ve misplaced my pen. Can you help me find it? In American English, the use of the past tense is also permissible: I misplaced my pen. Can you help me find it? In British English, however, using the past tense in this example would be considered incorrect. Other differences involving the use of the present perfect in British English and simple past in American English include the words already, just and yet.
British English: I’ve just had food, Have you finished your homework yet?
American English: I just had food, OR I’ve just had food.
I’ve already seen that film, OR I already saw that film.
Differences in Vocabulary:
While some words may mean something in British English, the same word might be something else in American English and vice versa. For example, Athlete in British English is one who participates in track and field events whereas Athlete in American English is the one who participates in sports in general.
Rubber in British English: tool to erase pencil markings.
Rubber in American English: condom.
There are also some words like AC, Airplane, bro, catsup, cell phone etc, which are common in American English and not used very often in British English. Some words widely used in British English and seldom in American English are advert, anti clockwise, barrister, cat’s eye.
Differences in Spelling
There are many words that are spelt differently in both forms of English. Some examples are:
Differences in Pronunciation:
Some words that are pronounced differently in American vs British English are controversy, leisure, schedule etc. There are also some words like Ax (Axe in British) and Defense (Defence in British) which have the same pronunciation but different spellings in both languages.
Time telling in British vs American English:
Both languages have a slightly different structure of telling the time. While the British would say quarter past ten to denote 10:15, it is not uncommon in America to say quarter after or even a quarter after ten.
Thirty minutes after the hour is commonly called half past in both languages. Americans always write digital times with a colon, thus 6:00, whereas Britons often use a point, 6.00.
Differences in Punctuation:
While the British would write Mr, Mrs, Dr, The Americans would write Mr., Mrs., Dr.
British and American English have more similarities than differences, Using one instead of other will not lead to miscommunication. Tell us what style of English are you learning in the comments below.