British English

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British English

British English (BrE, BE, en-GB) is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere in the Anglophone world. British English encompasses the varieties of English used within the UK, including those in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and to some extent, those spoken in the former British Empire. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

In written English there is a certain uniformity within the United Kingdom, while the forms of spoken English vary considerably. So there are different dialects and accents not only amongst the nations of Great Britain, but also within the countries themselves. There are also some differences in the English spoken by different socio-economic classes in any particular region.


The most common form of English used by the British ruling class is that originating from southeast England (the area around the capital, London, and the ancient English university towns of Oxford and Cambridge). This form of the language is known as the "Received Standard", and its accent is called Received Pronunciation (RP), which is improperly regarded by many people outside the UK as "the British accent". Earlier it was held as better than other accents and referred to as the King's (or Queen's) English, or even "BBC English". Originally, this was the form of English used by radio and television. However, there is now much more tolerance of variation than there was in the past; for several decades other accents have been accepted and are frequently heard, although stereotypes about the BBC persist. English spoken with a mild Scottish accent has a reputation for being especially easy to understand. Moreover, only approximately two percent of Britons speak RP, and it has evolved quite markedly over the last 40 years. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Other important dialects spoken in the southeast area are Cockney and Estuary English.

Cockney is a London dialect spoken by the working class. It includes grammatical variations, such as the double negative and variations in accent and pronunciation such as the dropping of the letter “h” (e.g. ouse for house).

Estuary English is a new form of accent that has been gaining prominence in recent decades: it is a combination of Received Pronunciation and Cockney.

Other important dialects are :

Scouse is a Liverpool dialect which tend to slur words.

Geordie is spoken in northern England and shares many features with Scottish English

Brummie is an urban dialect of the Midlands and it is another dialect which shares features with northern dialects

American English

There are more speakers of American English than of British English and this is due to the leading position of the US in the world affairs, cinema, telecommunication, etc.

  • American English (AE) is the form of English used in the United States.

  • British English (BE) is the form of English used in the United Kingdom. It includes all English dialects used within the United Kingdom.

Historical background

The English language was introduced to the Americans by British colonization in the early 17th century. During the centuries the language used in the USA has changed in many ways since it developed independently of the British English. Some words were taken from the Native Americans, other words were added, others were influenced by the Dutch and French setters’ language. The fact that the a lot of immigrants from all over the world have arrived in the USA has contributed to the development of American English.

Differences between BE and AE

The main differences between British English and American English lie in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary (lexis), spelling, punctuation, idioms, formatting of dates and numbers. Oscar Wilde once wrote, "We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, the language" (The Canterville Ghost, 1888).

Examples of the differences between BE and AE


Differences in pronunciation between AE and BE can be divided into:

  • Differences in accent (i.e. phoneme inventory and realisation). Accents vary widely within AE and within BE, so the features considered are mainly differences between General American English and British Received Pronunciation.

  • Differences in the pronunciation of individual words in the lexicon (i.e. phoneme distribution). In this article, transcriptions use RP to represent BE and GA and to represent AE.


GA is rhotic while RP is non-rhotic; that is, the letter r is only pronounced in RP when it is immediately followed by a vowel.

RP has a marked degree of contrast of length between "short" and "long" vowels. In GAE this contrast is much less evident, and the length symbol is often omitted.

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