What are the main differences between AmE and BrE phrasal verbs?

It seems to me that BrE uses more phrasal verbs than AmE and that the particle of the phrasal verb changes sometimes from AmE to BrE like in the phrasal verb beat on (AmE) to beat on (BrE).

Am I right? Is there any rule to make this preposition change?

closed as too broad by tchrist, MetaEd, John Lawler, J.R., FumbleFingers Jul 28 '13 at 21:22

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  • 1
    You've given the same preposition for both in your question, but you ask about the preposition change. Please clarify. – TrevorD Jul 28 '13 at 19:09
  • I know you're "buzzin' but think more carefully how to phrase the question before posting. :) – Mari-Lou A Jul 28 '13 at 19:11
  • More examples please. – Mitch Jul 28 '13 at 19:58
  • I think they are mainly the same, but there are a few scattered differences. Wikipedia only comes up with four. Besides the beat on example, it says Americans fill forms out, while Brits fill them in, and in the US events are rained out, while in the UK they're rained off. – Peter Shor Jul 28 '13 at 20:23
  • I meant beat on and beat up, sorry – Pedro Jul 28 '13 at 21:07

There is an analysis of this topic here:

Lui, Dilin. "The Most Frequently Used English Phrasal Verbs in American and British English: A Multicorpus Examination." TESOL Quarterly 45.4 (2011): 661-688.

You will need to be a subscriber to TESOL Quarterly or pay for this particular article. However, there is a review of the article on the TESOL blog. Here is an extract from the review:

But, as a teacher who lives in the United States, but has also spent time in the United Kingdom, I was fascinated by the differences found in the frequency of some verbs that are common in American English, but not in British English and vice versa. For instance, Americans use the following terms much more frequently than the British: grow up, figure out, show up, check out, pull out, and reach out.

On the other hand, these expressions were more commonly used in British English: carry on, fill in, hand over, sort out, and pass on. One of the big differences, of course, is that while Americans fill out a form, the British fill in a form.

In answer to your last question, phrasal verbs are idioms, and as such are not rule-governed.

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