Divided by a common language
Divided by a common language
Very few words and expressions are used exclusively in either British or American English, and you
are likely to hear and read words from both varieties.
Streets and roads
Street has a wider range of meaning in American English.
American speaker: Let's cross the street here; there's more traffic further down.
However, a British speaker would normally say cross the road, especially in a busy city.
Here are some more examples of American English words and expressions not used in British English.
The British English expressions are given in square brackets.
Go two blocks down and the car rental office is kitty-corner to the gas station. [diagonally opposite;
informal] [petrol station]
You should always use the crosswalk to cross the street. [pedestrian crossing / zebra crossing]
There's a trail that leads down to the creek. [path] [stream, small river]
Take a left here and you"ll come to the Interstate after about three miles. [turn left] [major motorway in
the US connecting different states]
After the intersection, look for a sign saying
"International Airport". [junction]
I hit a shopping cart in the parking lot when
I was backing up. [trolley] [car park] [reversing]
Look for the overpass and then take the next
exit for downtown Chicago. [flyover, i.e. bridge
In British English road numbers use the; in
American English no article is used.
British English: Take the M4 as far as Newbury,
then turn off on to the A34 for Oxford.
American English: Take I-45 north for about
20 miles, then take 25 west.
that carries one road over another]
My older brother never went to college.
My older brother never went to university. (college in
Britain usually means a place for specialised education for
people over 16)
What courses are you taking next semester?
What modules are you taking next semester/term?
Are you a freshman?
No, I"m a sophomore.
Are you a fresher / first year (student)?
No, I"m (a) second year.
Most of my friends are juniors.
Most of my friends are third years / third year students.
She's majoring in French.
She's doing honours in French. / She's doing a French
My professors are all very friendly. (used as a
general term for university teachers)
My lecturers are all very friendly. (used as a general term
for university teachers - a professor is a person with the
highest academic rank)
I want to be an elementary school teacher.
I want to be a primary school teacher.
My years in high school were not very happy.
My years in secondary school were not very happy.
Around the home
This cable is the ground (US) / earth (UK). [cable that takes electricity safely into the ground]
We need a dumpster (US) / skip (UK) to put all this old stuff in. [large metal container for rubbish]
The faucet (US) / tap (UK) in the kitchen never stops dripping!
I have to cook for five people, so we need a big stove (US) / cooker (UK). [piece of kitchen equipment to
I fried the fish in a skillet (US) / frying pan (UK).
Who do you think is most likely to be speaking, an American or a British person? What
would someone who speaks the other variety probably have said instead?
I lost my way at the big intersection just south of the city.
Why are there always so many shopping trolleys left in the car park?
Cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, then turn left.
You can't drive any further; you"ll have to back up, the street is very narrow.
You"ll see the petrol station just after the flyover on the A34.
Once you get on to the Interstate, it will only take you two hours to get there.
The office is kitty-corner to the Chinese restaurant.
There's a creek at the end of the trail. It's about three miles from here.
Match the words on the left with their equivalent on the right, and write US for American
English and UK for British English in the boxes.
3 frying pan
Answer the questions.
1 Who do you think is more likely to get homesick, a fresher or a junior?
2 Does a primary school teacher teach at more or less the same level as an elementary school
teacher or at a different level?
3 How might calling someone "Professor" in the US mean something different from calling someone
"Professor" in Britain?
4 Where are you more likely to register for a module, the US or Britain?
5 What year of study are you in if you are a sophomore?
6 If someone says they are majoring in psychology, what do they mean?
7 If an American says they"re going to college next year, does that necessarily mean the same as if a
British person said it?
8 If someone says they"re a secondary school teacher, are they more likely to be British or American?