Business Writing Tip #79—UK versus US English—Part One

After a comment on my blog earlier this week, I felt it was worth addressing, albeit briefly, some of the major differences between UK and US English. There are, of course, other variations (Australian English, Indian English …) and they are all legitimate forms of the language. English changes. It adapts. It borrows and shifts. New words are added, words change meaning. So when you see ‘organise’ where you expect to see ‘organize’ or ‘centre’ where you are used to ‘center’ remember that different people use the language differently.

somewhere in Cornwall low res (800x536)

(For those of you who are interested, this photo is one I took in Cornwall, UK, some years ago.)

Anyway, here are some of the major differences (I’ll give you some more next time!).

  British (UK) American (US)
Spelling Travel -Travelling/travelledCancel – cancelling/cancelled Travel – traveling/traveledCancel – canceling/canceled
Preposition use Do up a room, etc. (redecorate or renovate)This building looks great now that it has been done up. Do over a room, etc.i.e. This building looks great now that it has been done over.
Definite article use Three people were taken to hospital. Three people were taken to the hospital.
Have vs take Have a bathHave a shower

Have a break

Have a holiday

Take a bathTake a shower

Take a break

Take a vacation

Present perfect use Present perfect is used with just, already and yetI’m not hungry. I’ve just had lunch.

 

What time is Mark leaving? He has already left.

Have you finished your work yet?

Use either present perfect or past simpleI’m not hungry. I’ve just had lunch. OR I just had lunch.

What time is Mark leaving? He has already left. OR He already left.

Have you finished your work yet? OR Did you finish your work yet?

Past participles Burn – burned or burntSpell – spelled or spelt

Get – got (Your English has got much better.)

Burn – burnedSpell – spelled

Get – gotten (Your English has gotten much better.)

Get on vs get along 

 

 

Get on = progressHow are you getting on with that task?

Get on (with somebody)

I get on really well with the new boss.

Get on ≠ progressGet along (with somebody)

I get along really well with the new boss.

 

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