American English vs British English "We (the British and Americans) are two

"We (the British and Americans) are two countries separated by a common language." -G.B. Shaw

Though they share a common root, American English and British English have grown apart over the years. In modern usage there are now many differences between the two, some subtle, some not so subtle. Depending on who you ask, they may even be classed as two completely different languages.

One of the subtle differences is the use of the present perfect tense. In British English the present perfect form is used to talk about an action that has occurred in the past that affects the present situation, e.g. 'I've lost my house keys, could you help me look for them''. In American English, the same sentence is perfectly acceptable, but you are much more likely to hear it expressed using the simple past, e.g. 'I lost my house keys, could you help me look for them''. Use of the American form is considered incorrect in British English.

The same principle applies to the adverbs already, just, and yet. A British English speaker uses these words almost exclusively in the present perfect tense, e.g. 'I've just eaten breakfast.', whereas an American English speaker is far more likely to use the simple past, e.g. 'I just ate breakfast.' Generally speaking, American English is the mor tolerant form, as either sentence is acceptable in American English, but only the first is acceptable in British.

More subtle differences include use of words to express possession and the word 'got'. The British are much more likely to ask, 'Have you got any...', while American English simplifies to, 'Do you have any...'. In British English the word 'got' does not change when converted to its past participle, while in American English, 'got' becomes 'gotten', a word that simply does not exist in British English!

Spelling is another subtle difference. Words like flavor, color, and humor are often points of contention between American English writers and British English writers, because British English ends all three words in '-our'. Likewise, American English writers would take issue with the spellings of recognise, patronise, and organise because American English ends all three with '-ize'.

The most overt difference between American English and British English is choice of vocabulary. In some cases, American speakers and British speakers simply use completely different words to refer to the same object or phenomena, e.g. 'lift' versus 'elevator' or 'loo' versus 'bathroom' or 'toilet'. To add confusion to the matter, there are some words which are used in both forms, but carry completely different meanings, connotations, and implications. For example, a 'wing' is a bird's appendage in both forms, but in British English it is also the fender of a car. 'Rubber' is a material in both forms, but in British English a rubber is an eraser, and in American English a rubber is a condom!

To conclude, British English and American English have come a long way from their common root to become distinct and robust languages. Considering the hundreds of dialects and sub-languages of English as it is spoken in America, England, the British Isles, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is amazing that English speakers of the world understand each other at all!

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