I'm a little confused over which regions of the world these terms are really referring to. Also, when is it appropriate to refer to someone as British vs. English?
closed as off topic by Jim, Bravo, jwpat7, FumbleFingers, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 30 '12 at 15:03
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England is a country, one of the constituents of the United Kingdom, located on the island of Great Britain. Scotland and Wales are also on that island, bu are separate countries, though also in the UK. People from England, or of descent from there, are English. English can also refer specifically to the part of the population that is of Anglo-Saxon descent.
Britain is short for Great Britain. It's the name of that big island mentioned above. By extension it can also refer to the UK as a whole. British therefore usually means a person who is from the UK. But British can also refer in historical usage to the ancient Celtic people of England and.Brittany.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign monarchy of the union of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ulster. It extends to part of Ireland as well as other territories.
EDITED TO ADD: For reference, I submit the style guidelines of the Guardian:
and the UK Permanent Committee on Geographic Names PDF:
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This is confusing to most, mainly because of historical reasons. The best answer would be a pointer to an excellent video on youtube by CGP Grey.
England is... England. To the north is Scotland, and to the west is Wales. The three together form Britain. This is the 'mainland' as it were.
Further west, across the sea, is Ireland. Ireland is split into two. Nothern Ireland (AKA Ulster), and Southern Ireland (AKA Eire, or unofficially Republic of Ireland/Irish Republic). Northen Ireland is governed from Britain but with substantial devolved powers, and Britain + Northern Ireland are basically the United Kingdom.
I generally refer to myself as 'British' when I am abroad, and 'English' when I am at home.