What is American English
Listening
What is American English?

Whether you're living in the USA or not, you'll no doubt be familiar with American English through movies and TV shows or perhaps through watching or reading the news on an American channel. I was too when I visited the USA a few years ago but unfortunately this wasn't enough to make all routine tasks easy, which was quite a surprise given that I'm from an English-speaking country! So, to help you avoid the problems I had, here are some features of American English that will be useful if you're taking IELTS to study, work or live in the USA. They’re also important if you’re taking IELTS for another reason as the IELTS test includes texts/accents from around the English-speaking world, including the USA.  Pronunciation I thought it would be easy to order a sandwich when I visited America but it wasn’t. The American pronunciation of ‘tomato’ /təˈmeɪtəʊ/ is different from the British English pronunciation /təˈmɑːtəʊ/, and no one understood me when I asked for tomato on my sandwich. I had to resort to pointing! ‘Tomato’ is one of many English words that are pronounced differently in American and British English.   Other common words that are pronounced differently in American and British English are ‘herbs’, ‘vitamins’, ‘yoghurt’, ‘leisure’, ‘advertisement’, ‘mobile’ and ‘garage’. You can check the differences by listening to the British and American pronunciation of these words in the Cambridge Dictionary. Vocabulary  Keeping to the theme of routine tasks, there are also many differences between American and British English vocabulary. Learning these differences could prevent you from asking for the wrong food, clothes and shops or even knocking on the wrong door! (Click to enlarge) Spelling I know that you may be worried about spelling for your IELTS test but the good news is that both American and British spellings are accepted in IELTS.  If the answer to an IELTS Listening question was color, for example, both the American spelling ‘color’ and the British spelling ‘colour’ would be marked as correct. Having said that, if you’re planning on studying or working in the USA, it would be a good idea to learn the American spellings now. Some of the most common differences are: ‘centre’, ‘litre’, ‘metre’ and ‘theatre’ in British English are spelled ‘center’, ‘liter’, ‘meter’ and ‘theater’ in American English. most words with two or more syllables ending in ‘our’ in British English end in ‘or’ in American English (e.g. color, behavior, labor, neighbor). verbs that can end in ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ in British English end with ‘ize’ in American English (e.g. ‘organize’, ‘realize’ and ‘recognize’). the verbs ‘practise’ and ‘license’ in British English are spelled ‘licence’ and ‘practice’ in American English (like the nouns in British and American English) As with all rules though, there are always exceptions! The American spelling of ‘advertise’, for example, is the same as the British English ‘advertise’. Grammar  While there aren’t as many differences between American and British grammar, there’s one very important one. American English speakers often use the past simple form of verbs (e.g. didn’t + verb) in situations where British English speakers use the present perfect (e.g. haven’t + verb-ed), especially with words such as ‘already’, ‘just’ and ‘yet’. So, if you’re asked about the date of your IELTS test, you could use the past simple (American English) or the present perfect (British English) to answer it: Question: When is your IELTS test? Answer (in American English): I didn’t book it yet. Answer (in British English): I haven’t booked it yet. You can read about more grammar differences and test your understanding in this lesson from the British Council. Have a good one (a way of saying ‘Goodbye’ in American English). Pete  

Pete Jones

28 May, 2020

What is American English?

What is American English

Whether you're living in the USA or not, you'll no doubt be familiar with American English through movies and TV shows or perhaps through watching or reading the news on an American channel.
I was too when I visited the USA a few years ago but unfortunately this wasn't enough to make all routine tasks easy, which was quite a surprise given that I'm from an English-speaking country!

So, to help you avoid the problems I had, here are some features of American English that will be useful if you're taking IELTS to study, work or live in the USA.

They’re also important if you’re taking IELTS for another reason as the IELTS test includes texts/accents from around the English-speaking world, including the USA. 

Pronunciation

I thought it would be easy to order a sandwich when I visited America but it wasn’t. The American pronunciation of ‘tomato’ /təˈmeɪtəʊ/ is different from the British English pronunciation /təˈmɑːtəʊ/, and no one understood me when I asked for tomato on my sandwich. I had to resort to pointing!

‘Tomato’ is one of many English words that are pronounced differently in American and British English.
 

TOMATO

Other common words that are pronounced differently in American and British English are ‘herbs’, ‘vitamins’, ‘yoghurt’, ‘leisure’, ‘advertisement’, ‘mobile’ and ‘garage’.

You can check the differences by listening to the British and American pronunciation of these words in the Cambridge Dictionary.

Vocabulary 

Keeping to the theme of routine tasks, there are also many differences between American and British English vocabulary.

Learning these differences could prevent you from asking for the wrong food, clothes and shops or even knocking on the wrong door!

American and British Vocabulary

(Click to enlarge)

Spelling

I know that you may be worried about spelling for your IELTS test but the good news is that both American and British spellings are accepted in IELTS. 

If the answer to an IELTS Listening question was color, for example, both the American spelling ‘color’ and the British spelling ‘colour’ would be marked as correct.

Having said that, if you’re planning on studying or working in the USA, it would be a good idea to learn the American spellings now.

Some of the most common differences are:

  • ‘centre’, ‘litre’, ‘metre’ and ‘theatre’ in British English are spelled ‘center’, ‘liter’, ‘meter’ and ‘theater’ in American English.
  • most words with two or more syllables ending in ‘our’ in British English end in ‘or’ in American English (e.g. color, behavior, labor, neighbor).
  • verbs that can end in ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ in British English end with ‘ize’ in American English (e.g. ‘organize’, ‘realize’ and ‘recognize’).
  • the verbs ‘practise’ and ‘license’ in British English are spelled ‘licence’ and ‘practice’ in American English (like the nouns in British and American English)

As with all rules though, there are always exceptions! The American spelling of ‘advertise’, for example, is the same as the British English ‘advertise’.

Grammar 

While there aren’t as many differences between American and British grammar, there’s one very important one.

American English speakers often use the past simple form of verbs (e.g. didn’t + verb) in situations where British English speakers use the present perfect (e.g. haven’t + verb-ed), especially with words such as ‘already’, ‘just’ and ‘yet’.

So, if you’re asked about the date of your IELTS test, you could use the past simple (American English) or the present perfect (British English) to answer it:

Question: When is your IELTS test?
Answer (in American English): I didn’t book it yet.
Answer (in British English): I haven’t booked it yet.

You can read about more grammar differences and test your understanding in this lesson from the British Council.

Have a good one (a way of saying ‘Goodbye’ in American English).

Pete
 

Pete Jones

Pete has been helping IELTS test takers and teachers for many years and really enjoys helping people improve their English and their IELTS band score.

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