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Questions tagged [british-english]

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

69
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8answers
81k 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",...
20
votes
7answers
142k views

When is it correct to use “yourself” and “myself” (versus “you” and “me”)?

I'm confused by why people use the following: It's up to yourself. Rather than: It's up to you. Another example of this would be: Please feel free to contact ourselves if you have any ...
52
votes
6answers
44k views

Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries

It seems to have been common practice in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain to capitalise the first letters of nouns in English, e.g. At which Time he prov'd himself the Noah's Dove, that ...
32
votes
7answers
24k 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.
31
votes
9answers
181k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
30k 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?
23
votes
6answers
19k 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,...
52
votes
6answers
228k 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 ...
22
votes
5answers
21k 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 ...
24
votes
5answers
36k 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, ...
36
votes
6answers
395k views

“Speak to” vs. “Speak with”

What are the differences between these two phrasal verbs and what are the best situations to use each?
15
votes
9answers
28k views

Using “them” instead of “those”

Background: Nowadays, I see this usage a lot. I don't know if it was this common in the past. For example: "one of them people" When I did a research about it, some people say it comes from a ...
83
votes
29answers
20k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
14k 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 -> ...
35
votes
4answers
12k 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? ...
30
votes
2answers
18k 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.
6
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
5k 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, ...
32
votes
12answers
287k 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 ...
35
votes
16answers
12k 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 ...
3
votes
9answers
9k 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
45k 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 ...
21
votes
7answers
15k 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. ...
11
votes
4answers
10k 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 ...
5
votes
5answers
37k 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?
30
votes
5answers
66k 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?
52
votes
12answers
117k 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.
11
votes
9answers
141k 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, ...
28
votes
13answers
54k 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
34k views

Is there any difference between “color” and “colour”?

What is the difference between color and colour?
17
votes
4answers
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 ...
13
votes
5answers
17k 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. ...
25
votes
9answers
43k views

Is it proper to omit periods after honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Dr)?

I've been reading the Economist lately and they apparently don't punctuate honorifics like "Mr.", "Mrs.", e.g. The popular rejection of Mr Mubarak offers the Middle East’s best chance for reform in ...
9
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
6k 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, ...
18
votes
6answers
6k 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
9k 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 ...
33
votes
12answers
16k 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 ...
32
votes
8answers
88k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
27k 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 ...
36
votes
7answers
36k 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
197k 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 ...
23
votes
4answers
8k 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: ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Which English language variety is best to use for global e-commerce?

Which variety of English — like American English, British English, and so one — is better to choose when translating to Englis, or building it from scratch, for an e-commerce site which intends to ...
12
votes
5answers
23k views

How to use “you know”

For a non-native speaker like me, I am always wondering how to use you know correctly, as in the following sentence: Alright, well, for example, like on Saturdays, y’know, what I liked to do ...
24
votes
7answers
7k views

Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”?

Dictionary.com lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the term ...
13
votes
6answers
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 ...
17
votes
9answers
34k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
11k views

Answering “Have you got” questions with “I do”

For the question "Have you got any ice cream?" which is correct: Yes I do Yes I have or inversely No I don't No I haven't got any
13
votes
3answers
10k views

Why is “a couple of <things>” often shortened to “a couple <things>”?

I would write a couple of . I often read/hear a couple . I assumed this was an American English thing (I'm British), and just a convenient shortening of the phrase for speaking. It's easier to say a ...