Questions tagged [british-english]

This tag is for questions related to English as used in Great Britain, and sometimes Ireland.

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79 votes
8 answers
119k views

Is there a reason the British omit the article when they "go to hospital"?

Why do British speakers omit the article in constructions like "go to hospital" or "go on holiday"? Pretty much all American speakers would rephrase those as "go to the hospital" and "go on a holiday",...
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36 votes
9 answers
207k views

"have" vs."have got" in American and British English

I have looked through several questions and answers on EL&U, and often there is an indication that American English prefers "have" while British English prefers "have got". In addition, there are ...
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45 votes
7 answers
32k views

Are the endings "-zation" and "-sation" interchangeable?

What is with words that have forms that end both in -zation and -sation, such as localization and localisation? Many spell checkers recommend -zation.
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  • 595
27 votes
5 answers
37k views

What is the pronunciation of "the"?

I read that the definite article is pronounced differently depending on the word that follows it. Which is the exact pronunciation of the?
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26 votes
5 answers
54k views

Using contracted forms ("don't", "let's") in a formal text

How compelled should I feel to use non-contracted forms (do not rather than don't and so on) when writing in a rather formal text, say an academic paper? In one case I am afraid to seem too stilted, ...
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57 votes
6 answers
291k views

"Oriented" vs. "orientated"

What are the origins of the word orientated? As far as I know, the correct spelling is oriented and orientated is not an alternative spelling but an error that is in common use. Is it for example ...
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23 votes
6 answers
20k views

When will "Present Perfect vs. Past Tense" cases be affected by culture?

Regarding actions taken in the past, besides the differences those two tenses have semantically, my teacher shared that it could be a British vs American English case. When talking about past action,...
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  • 307
23 votes
5 answers
25k views

ON an American street, but IN a British one. Do the twain ever meet?

In the United States, we say that someone lives on a street, whereas I've noticed that British people say in. For instance: Bubba lives on Washington Street. Colin lives in Cavendish Avenue. I ...
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  • 2,624
11 votes
2 answers
27k views

"s" vs. "z" in BE vs. AE

I have trouble understanding why some words change "s"-es to "z"-s from BE to AE and some not. For example: analyse -> analyze characterise -> characterize hypnotise -> hypnotize But: compromise -> ...
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20 votes
9 answers
41k views

Could "them" mean "those"?

Background Nowadays, I see "them" used to mean "those" a lot. I don't know if it was as common in the past. For example, take "one of them people". On researching about ...
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48 votes
6 answers
547k views

"Speak to" vs. "Speak with"

What are the differences between these two phrasal verbs and what are the best situations to use each?
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92 votes
29 answers
25k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom "carrying coals to Newcastle"?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
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3 votes
9 answers
11k views

How do American English and British English use the definite article differently?

I decided to make sure that I know this important difference between American and British English, so I wrote what I have found out so far and I would be grateful to anyone who reads this and tells me ...
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39 votes
4 answers
14k views

How and when did American spelling supersede British spelling in the US?

Considering that Webster published his first dictionary in 1806, is there a recognised tipping point (year, decade, etc.) that marked the move from traditional British spelling to Webster's American? ...
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7 votes
2 answers
4k views

Does modifying a collective noun with a number make the subject plural?

The word dozen is a collective noun, i.e., singular when we think of them as groups and plural when we think of the individuals acting within the whole. So we might say: Talking about eggs: "A ...
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34 votes
3 answers
20k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
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17 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why is American English so wedded to the subjunctive?

In the sentence She suggested that they go to the cinema there is no way of telling from the sentence in isolation whether it means that the speaker gave advice on attending a moving picture show, ...
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9 votes
4 answers
2k views

Omission of 'for' with various quantified time intervals: influence of verb

I came across these two examples, given to illustrate 'a case' where the inclusion of the preposition for is considered optional in the paper "Acquisition of Preposition Deletion by Non-native ...
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34 votes
16 answers
14k views

Words with opposite meanings in different regions

I can't recall it, but there is a word in American English which now means the opposite of itself in British English. What words are there that have opposite (not just different) meanings in different ...
36 votes
12 answers
375k views

What is the difference between "English" and "British"?

As an American, I naively think of British and English as exact synonyms. I know I'm wrong, but I just don't know in what way. I am vaguely aware that people in the UK hold strong opinions about one ...
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18 votes
4 answers
4k views

How do you proceed from pronouncing "t" in the regular way to t-glottalization, as found in various English accents?

It's just strange to me because "t" is pronounced with the front teeth, while the glottalized "t" is produced with the back of the throat; that seems like quite a noticeable journey that couldn't have ...
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6 votes
4 answers
71k views

How do they express the time, in American and British English?

I don't know if this is a good question. But as far as I know, and as I do it, American English also say "after" other than "past" in expressing times. For example, a quarter after six instead of, a ...
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  • 1,866
18 votes
8 answers
180k views

Is there a rule in British English about how to pronounce "either"?

There are two common pronunciations of "either": British /ˈaɪðər/ and American /ˈiːðər/. If Americans are more or less consistent in this regard, then the Brits seem to be freely using both. In fact, ...
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  • 1,079
6 votes
5 answers
4k views

Suggestion for someone who talks a lot but says little [duplicate]

I know many politicians that avoid interview questions by talking a lot but not really communicating anything. You could say that what they were saying was full of banalities or canned answers or ...
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  • 394
5 votes
5 answers
53k views

Which is correct: “I’m done” or “I have finished”?

Which of these alternatives is grammatically correct? I’m done. or I have finished Like I’m done sounds very American, but is it grammatically correct?
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  • 51
21 votes
7 answers
17k views

"Knocked up" to mean "woken up"

I'm reading some Sherlock Holmes stories (don't judge - it's good vacation reading) and Conan Doyle has Holmes saying things like "Sorry to knock you up, Watson..." which I'm finding very... odd. ...
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  • 6,763
12 votes
3 answers
39k views

"Practise" vs. "practice"

As an Australian, I like to follow British forms of words such as license/licence and practise/practice. I have no problem with licence the noun and license the verb, but I find it hard to keep ...
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11 votes
4 answers
13k views

The mysterious, unenunciated "w" in the "-wich" of English place names

Doing some reading lately, I've been pondering the strange pronunciations of English place names — namely, that of the 'w' in the "–wich" suffix, which, as I understand it, is not ...
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  • 21.4k
4 votes
2 answers
7k views

Non-standard British use of possessive "me"

Native North American speaker here. It's fairly common in certain British dialects to substitute "me" for "my" (Shiver me timbers) in informal speech. My impression is that some ...
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80 votes
12 answers
184k views

"Synced" or "synched"

Which is correct: synced or synched? Is one of these American and the other British spelling or are they interchangeable? I have only ever seen sync used in the computing industry.
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33 votes
5 answers
91k views

"right" vs "correct"

Except when we use right to denote direction, what is the difference between these two terms? Also, which one is the preferred construction between these two Am I right? or Am I correct?
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  • 2,551
17 votes
7 answers
148k views

"Haven't you?" or "don't you?"

What is the right question tag (in British English) when we use the verb have? I have interviewed a few native speakers and none of them could explain why sometimes they prefer "haven't/hasn't" and ...
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  • 173
30 votes
13 answers
74k views

American vs. British English: meaning of "One hundred and fifty"

I've noticed that Americans do not say "and" when speaking numbers: for example, 150 would be pronounced "one hundred fifty". I and most other British-English speakers would pronounce it "one hundred ...
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17 votes
2 answers
37k views

Is there any difference between "color" and "colour"?

What is the difference between color and colour?
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  • 1,838
18 votes
2 answers
8k views

Preventative vs. preventive

In this answer about the non-word disabilitated, the word preventative is compared (unfavourably, if my reading of the implication is correct) to preventive. However, I have always used preventative, ...
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18 votes
9 answers
44k views

"to bath" vs "to bathe"

Recently, I came across the verb to bathe written as bath in two English coursebooks used by Italian students. The first time I saw it, I dismissed it as a typographical error and told my private ...
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1 vote
10 answers
14k views

Speaking for the sake of saying something

Is there a word or phrase that describes the act of saying something for the sake of it?
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19 votes
6 answers
12k views

Etymology of "nick" in, in the nick of time?

We have the nick meaning prison, as in "he served time in the nick", then we have the verb to nick, meaning to steal; but if the police catch you red-handed, then "you've been nicked". And if you led ...
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  • 85.6k
15 votes
6 answers
11k views

When and how did "momentarily" come to mean "in a moment", rather than "for a moment"?

"Momentarily" used to mean "for a moment" only, and not "in a moment". Thus, newscasters could be divided into two clear groups: those who would say "we'll be back momentarily," and those who would ...
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  • 464
12 votes
10 answers
18k views

Why is "taking a biscuit" a bad thing in the UK?

So, I'm reading up on a list of English Idioms and I see two that bear a striking similarity. "Take the biscuit (UK): To be particularly bad, objectionable, or egregious. "Take the cake (US)": To ...
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  • 1,390
34 votes
12 answers
20k views

Is there a difference between "cheers" and "thanks" in colloquial British English?

In colloquial British English today you hear "Cheers" (to mean "thank you") more often than "Thanks." Is the choice of one or the other determined by regional, class, or education differences, or is ...
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  • 3,120
43 votes
1 answer
31k views

"Maths" for "Mathematics"; where does the S come from?

So in US English we shorten mathematics to math, and in the UK they say maths. Where does the 'S' come from in the UK version? For some reason I had it in my head that this was just because it's ...
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  • 1,225
34 votes
8 answers
104k views

"Toilet", "lavatory" or "loo" for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
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  • 341
32 votes
4 answers
241k views

Date format in UK vs US

Why is the most common date format in the US like mm/dd/yyyy, whereas in Europe (including the UK) it's more common to have dd/mm/yyyy? Looking around, I found that the US form is actually the more ...
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  • 471
43 votes
7 answers
52k views

Is "used in anger" a Britishism for something?

On a different board, someone referred to a computer language that had achieved popularity beyond the academic world as "used in anger", the way a shot fired in combat instead of on the practice range ...
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22 votes
3 answers
44k views

Why is "can I get" replacing "could I have"?

I noticed the other day when serving the public that when asking for something, people were saying "Can I get an xyz, please". The previous time I had such a job it was "Could I have an xyz", or "May ...
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  • 36.4k
15 votes
6 answers
3k views

"Toward" or "towards" – what would a native speaker use?

In this question we learn that toward and towards are interchangeable, but that the former is somewhat more typical of U.S. English and the latter of British English, although there is some indication ...
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10 votes
3 answers
19k views

Why English pronunciation differs so much from written language, compared to German?

Given that English is derived mostly from German, when Anglo-Saxons (German tribes) migrated to Britain, how do you explain that although German has a strict correspondence between written language ...
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25 votes
4 answers
12k views

The origins and usages of "waffle"

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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  • 85.6k
16 votes
5 answers
19k views

Can "already" be used after a simple past verb in American English?

A British colleague asked if these two sentences are grammatically acceptable in American English: They found already high recognition in Europe and we wish to carry that further. Furthermore, they ...
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