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The Differences Between American, British, And Australian English

By: Amy Nutt

Pronunciation differences

Australia, Great Britain, and America all speak the same language, but you simply have to visit each country to realize that, while they all speak English, it is far from a universal language. The English spoken in Great Britain, America, and Australia has many similarities, but a surprising number of differences as well. The main reason for this is the vast distance between each country. Here are some of the common differences you will find between these three versions of English.

Pronunciation Differences

Pronunciation between the three types of English is very dissimilar. In American English the r at the end of the word almost always affects its pronunciation, whereas in Australian and British English the r is often silent. Also, the emphasis placed on the syllables of the word varies from British, Australian, and American English. In Britain, the world adult has the emphasis on the first syllable, whereas in America it is placed on the second half of the word. Australian English is unique in the fact that many words have sounds that are eliminated. Instead of saying good day, the Australian speaker says g day. The main pronunciation difference between the three, however, is the pronunciation of the vowel sounds.

Differences in Spelling

Not only do the three types of English sound different, but they are also spelled differently. In some ways, the spelling reflects the difference in pronunciation. For instance, Americans use the world airplane to refer to a flying mode of transportation. In Great Britain, the word is aeroplane, and it is pronounced with an audible o sound. Another common difference in spelling is aluminium, which is the UK spelling, and aluminum, the US spelling. Again, the difference shows the difference in pronunciation of the two words. In this instance the Australian spelling is the same as the UK spelling.

Another common spelling difference between UK English and American English is the use of our verses or at the end of the word. For instance, in the UK, colour, flavour, honour, and similar words all end in our, whereas in America they are spelled with the or ending (color, flavor, honor). In Australia, the our spelling is almost universal.

Similarly, the endings re and re are different between the different English dialects. In America you will go to the theater or fitness center, whereas in Britain you will visit the theatre or fitness centre. Again, Australian English follows the British pattern.

There are other common spelling differences as well. For instance, in American English, words that sound as though they end with an ize will always end in an ize. However, in UK English, they typically end in ise (i.e. realize, realise). Also, British English often doubles consonants when adding a suffix when American English does not, such as in the world traveller.

Interestingly, the three languages also have distinct vocabularies. For instance, the hood of a car is called the bonnet in Australia and Britain. Australia has several terms that are not used in either of the other countries, such as bloke (man) and arvo (afternoon). Also, Australians use some phrases that are combinations of British and American terms, such as rubbish truck. Rubbish is commonly used in the UK, and truck is commonly used in America.

Grammar Distinctions

Besides spelling and pronunciation differences, British, American, and Australian English all have some subtle grammar differences as well. For instance, in Great Britain, it is perfectly acceptable to use a collective noun (such as army) as a plural word ( the army are coming ), whereas in America collective nouns are almost always singular ( the army is coming ). British English also uses the irregular form of the past participle of several verbs (learnt rather than learned). Also, British English tends to drop the definite article in some situations. For instance, British English speakers may refer to being in hospital instead of in the hospital. Australian grammar tends to follow British rules.

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