Learn English: Seven Things You Need to Know About British and American English

There are lots of lexical differences between British and American English. Only the other day I was confused when one of my young Japanese students told me that she ‘finished school last year’… school = college / high school / university? I guessed correctly that it meant ‘university’ to my British brain! There are so many vocabulary differences that I have focussed here on pronunciation and grammar. Here are my 7 ‘must haves’ to help you with your learning:

1. First, in words like “demand,” “laugh,” and “dance,” most Americans use the sound /æ/ (think of the “a” in “fat”) in places where RP speakers use the sound /a/, sometimes called the “ah” sound, as in the word “father.”

2. Another significant pronunciation difference is in the sound /r/. In RP, the sound /r/ disappears when it’s followed by a consonant or appears at the end of a word, such as in the words “cart” and “father.” Think of words like iron: in British English it sounds like ‘eye on’!

3. For speakers of British English, the American tendency to change the sound /t/ to the sound /d/ in front of an unstressed syllable can be confusing. Most Americans pronounce “butter” as “budder” and “united” as “unided”.

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