While English is technically one language, many words (especially slang) vary across American, British, and Australian English. These common English words have different meanings in different countries. Students can keep this helpful resource in mind when learning English, regardless of which dialect is studied.
While spelling varies in all three countries, there are common changes to be aware of. Words that end in “or” in American English, such as “flavor” and “honor,” are spelled with “our” in both British and Australian English (“flavour and honour”). Words that end in “ize” in American English, such as “fantasize,” are often spelled as “fantasise” in Britain and Australia.
There are slight differences in the way that sentences are structured in the three countries, which can be challenging to a person just learning English. Commonly, prepositions are used differently. For example, if asked when you are going somewhere, in the United States it would be correct to say “I’m going on the weekend,” whereas in Britain or Australia a person would say, “I’m going AT the weekend.” Britains and Australians are more likely to say “have got” rather than just have; for example, “I have got to go to the store,” instead of “I have to go to the store.”
Specific Word Differences
There are many words used in America that are not used or used differently in British and Australian English. The following are just a few examples that new English speakers might come across as they are learning English.
– In America, the “hood” of a car is the part of the automobile covering the engine. This is called the “bonnet” in both Australia and Britain.
– Similarly, the large storage area in the back of a vehicle is known as the “trunk” in American English, but is called the “boot” in the UK and Australia.
– While “man” is used in both American and British English, Australians use the term “bloke” to mean “man.”
– An “elevator” in American is referred to as a “lift” in both Australian and Britain.
– A diaper, the cloth that covers a baby’s bottom, is called a “nappy” in the UK and Australia.
– The UK and Australia call a shopping cart a “trolley.”
– The sweet treat Americans call a “cookie” is a “biscuit” in England and Australia. Americans use “biscuit” to describe a flaky bread eaten for breakfast.
When learning English, it’s normal to make mistakes. These details can help students distinguish the subtle changes between British, Australian, and American English.