Varieties of English Grammar

This article looks at major grammatical differences between British English and American English. For a list of vocabulary differences between the two varieties of English, see Varieties of English Vocabulary.


Present Perfect vs Past Simple

BrE sometimes uses the present perfect whilst AmE uses the past simple.

BrE: Have you eaten all those biscuits?
AmE: Did you eat all those cookies?
BrE: Have you ever seen the film, Casablanca?
AmE: Did you ever see the movie, Casablanca?

While vs Have

BrE: Have you got new training shoes?
AmE: Do you have new sneakers?
BrE: I’ve got some Wellington boots you can borrow.
AmE: I have some galoshes you can borrow .
BrE: I haven’t got time for a holiday this year.
AmE: I don’t have time for a vacation this year.

Irregular Verbs

There are some differences in irregular verbs between AmE and BrE. Two major differences are:

BrE: dive – dived – dived Last night she dived into the pool.
AmE: dive – dove – dived Last night she dove into the pool.
BrE: get – got – got The baby has got a lot bigger.
AmE: get – got -gotten The baby has gotten a lot bigger.

to/till/until vs through

BrE uses from…to/till/until while AmE uses from…through:

BrE: The optician is open from eight till four.
AmE: The optometrist is open from eight through four.


There are also a number of other differences in BrE and AmE prepositions, e.g. different to/than, at/on the weekend, ten past/after midnight.


Shall vs Should

BrE can use shall for offers and suggestions while AmE uses should:

BrE: Shall I call a taxi?
AmE: Should I call cab?

Question Tags

BrE uses a lot ofquestion tags. AmE does not; instead it uses words like right and ok:

BrE: I’ll park on the verge, shall I?
AmE: I’ll park on the shoulder, right?

Collective Nouns

BrE can use a singular or plural verb for collective nouns while AmE uses only a singular verb:

BrE: The team are playing badly.
AmE: The team is playing badly.


In informal speech, AmE sometimes useadverbs without the -ly ending:

BrE: Autumn was really cold this year.
AmE: Fall was real cold this year.

Double Imperatives

With double imperatives beginning with go, AmE sometimes drops the joining and:

BrE: Go and open the door.
AmE: Go open the door.

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Posted in Vocabulary & Spelling.

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