Many different variations of English are spoken around the world. Here we’ll consider three. GrammarCheck highlights 63 spelling and terminology differences between British and American English. Some are as simple as marvelous and marvellous; or as complex as boot and trunk. When it comes to understanding what your friends in Canada or Great Britain really mean takes a little bit of study.

Three languages, multiple differences

There are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences in language between American English, British English, and Canadian English. Though many things come from the British origin, America and Canada have adopted their own versions. Many times, Canadian English is a cross between the two, but leaning heavier toward the British side. According to the BBC, it is a “Separate variety of English, with subtly distinctive features of pronunciation and vocabulary.”

The Writer emphasizes that “the main differences” are in spelling and punctuation:

  • You will see many words in American English end with -ize, such as customize, realize, and agonize. British versions of these words use -ise, as in customise, organise, and recognise. Stackexchange says that in Canadian English, “Words with Greek roots end in ize while those with Latin roots end in ise.”
  • The classic ending of “our” in Britain and in Canada puts the colour in color, the humour in humor, and the flavour in flavor.
  • Going to the theater in America is really the same thing as going to the theatre in Britain or Canada.
  • However, getting some extra fiber in your diet in American English is the same as Canadian English, while British English thinks that you need more fibre.
  • Quoting a person in American English who says “I am not a crook” requires two quotation marks, while the same declaration in British American simply needs only one: ‘That’s the truth.’
  • The Oxford comma is often well-used, well-loved, and well understood in American English. Not so much in British English, Canadian English and anyplace else we can think of.

What you are saying depends on where you are saying it

Some simple word-swaps can make a difference in what you are saying depending on where you are saying it. For example:

  • In American English, you go to the restroom; in British English, you head to the public toilet, and in Canadian English, you would never utter the word toilet in public, but would head to the washroom.
  • When getting some exercise in American English, you put on your sneakers. British English calls for your trainers. And Canadian English requires that you wear your runners.
  • You can deposit a check into your bank account in American English, but in British and Canadian English, you’ll be depositing a cheque.
  • If you are going to college in the U.S., or University in Canada, you will likely take an exam. But, you might also write an exam in Canada or sit an exam in Britain.
  • Travelling by train means that you can take the railroad across America, or the railway through Europe. If you are in Canada, you can take either, though the railway is the common name for any companies that travel by track.

These are just a few of the common differences that we can explain to you at ITC Global Translations. To find out more about how to decipher between chips, crisps, French fries, or poutine, give us a call or fill out a form for a free quote today.

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