Divided by a Common Language

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All writers will know that some clients want their text in American English but some most certainly do not. Many software packages checking grammar and spelling default to American usage so is American English different to British English?  It certainly is and it goes beyond simple spelling into sentence construction, grammatical usage and a wholly different vocabulary – here are some of these differences provided by https://www.theteflacademy.com

  • Americans use adjectives differently to the English. “You did good” is one such example whereas the English would use the adverb and say, “You did well.”  Another example is the American use of ‘real’, “you did real good” where ‘real’ is an adjective which an English person would change to, “you did really well” which is the adverb form
  • Another popular substitution is the use of nouns instead of adjectives by American speakers. “Can I have some ice water?” instead of “can I have some iced water?”, the latter being the English version.  Where English speakers would finish a word with the suffix, ‘ed’, the Americans tend to drop this.  This appeared in common parlance and text as early as the 19th century in the States and the writer, Mark Twain, observed it and complained about it which was rather ironic as he was an American himself.  Some substitutions are more glaringly obvious to English speakers than others – “skim milk” is one of these.  Their usage is beginning to creep into common English usage
Img source: lingualearnenglish.com
  • Americans use the past participle of a verb as a form of the past tense, so we would say ‘saw’ instead of ‘seen’ – “I seen it with my own eyes” does sound very American. And the title of the movie, “Honey, I shrunk the kids” just wouldn’t seem to work now in English parlance, “Honey, I shrank the kids”!
  • Americans also use the same formation sometimes for both the past and present tense of the same verb. For instance, ‘spit’ instead of Engish past tense of ‘spat.  The Americans are also not above making up new forms of past tenses as well, note ‘dove’ for ‘dived’ and a recent invention which is beginning to appear which is ‘drug’ for ‘dragged’
  • Americans will substitute what is called ‘the gerund’ where English people would use an infinitive. A gerund is a verb form acting as a noun.  “Nice seeing you” is one example which in straight English (whoops!) would be, “nice to see you.”  Sometimes this appears in British English as a term used after the event, i.e. if people had met up and were leaving each other’s company.  So there is an element of retrospective commentary and British English speakers shortening the phrase and replacing the verb with the gerund.  This is more unlikely and uncommon however upon greeting someone where the difference between the two languages is perhaps more obvious
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It was the famous author, George Bernard Shaw, who said that the British and Americans were two peoples divided by a common language.  Never was a truer word spoken.  The preferred form for TEFL students is a matter of debate and may depend upon whether your target destination speaks English as a native language or not.  The British Council is a good source of information for prospective TEFL students about this and many other aspects of teaching English as a foreign language.

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