Improve your English: American vs. British English

Have you ever watched an American movie or a British television show? Well, if you have, you will notice the accents are very different, and you might have spotted that each country has its own vocabulary and expressions.

Whether you are more familiar with British English or the American version, it is useful to know both. Here is a handy list showing the American English word, its British English counterpart, and a definition of what that word means.

Whether you are travelling to these two countries or meeting a business partner from either country, you do not want to have an awkward situation where you say the incorrect word. I can tell you from experience, it can be embarrassing!

American English

British English




A trip that you take to another city or country. (A ‘holiday’ in American English is a major day such as Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving.)



A person that assists in legal issues and attends court.


Chemist Shop

A store where you can buy medicine.



Clothes that cover your body from the waist to the ankles with a separate area for each leg. ‘Pants’ in British English are undergarments like boxer shorts.



The season between summer and winter.



A building that contains many different units that people live in. Each unit is called an ‘apartment’ or a ‘flat’.



A device used for raising and lowering people or goods.

Aside from different vocabulary, even the spelling of many words is different depending on which side of the pond you’re on. For example, words ending in ‘-or’ in American English end in ‘-our’ in British English, for example ‘color/colour’ or ‘humor/humour.’ And words ending in ‘-ize’ in American English will change to ‘-ise’ for British English, for example ‘recognize/recognise’ or ‘realize/realise’.

Hopefully this will help you to get started speaking both American and British English!

image: buggolo