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“England and America are two countries separated by the same language!” This well-known statement is most popularly attributed to influential Irish playwright and commentator George Bernard Shaw. Whoever actually said it, they knew that British people and Americans are certainly different. That also holds true for British vs. American English translation

The language that the British and Americans share is easily understood by each group, but each country has its own particular variations, just as each observes different customs. Let’s explore some of the significant areas where differences occur, and how that poses a challenge for translators. 

British vs. American English Translation – Grammar 

When choosing between British vs. American English translation, some of the most subtle differences are in grammar. Certain tenses are expressed differently, which can change the way a document is translated. Here are some examples: 

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Present-Perfect Tense 

In British English, the present perfect is used to convey an action that occurred recently but has an effect on the present. 

  • British: I’ve lost my dog. Can you help me look for her?
  • American: I lost my dog. Can you help me look for her? 

Both forms are generally accepted in American English translation. 

“Have” or “Have Got” to Express Possession

Both forms are correct usage in British and American English, but British English tends to favor “have got” as the most correct. American English translation generally drops “got” except in certain circumstances or popular phrases. 

  • American: Do you have a job?
  • British: Have you got a job?
  • British: She hasn’t got any friends.
  • American: She doesn’t have any friends.
  • American: He has a beautiful new car.
  • British: He’s got a beautiful new car. 

The Verb “Get”

In British vs. American English, “Have got” is typically used by the British to denote possession, while Americans prefer “gotten” with “have” or “has” as proper usage. Oddly enough, Americans change this in the strange expression, “have got to,” which shows responsibility for something. 

  • American: She’s gotten much better at politics.
  • British: She’s got much better at politics.
  • American: I’ve got to have the car serviced tomorrow.
  • American: I’ve got seven sisters in Sacramento. 

British vs. American English Translation – Vocabulary 

Vocabulary is typically the biggest difference between British and American English. When comparing British vs. American English translation, there are a number of unique words that are used in each language. A reader who may only be acquainted with American or British English may become thoroughly confused if an incorrect or mixed vocabulary is used for translation. 

British                                    American

Boot                                         Trunk (of a car)

Lorry                                       Truck

Pram                                       Stroller

Anorak                                   Coat

Pilar box                               Mailbox

Hire purchase                     Installment plan 

Motorway                            Highway

Chips                                    French fries 

Dustbin                               Garbage can

Broom cupboard              Closet 

Lift                                      Elevator 

Flat                                     Apartment 

Backhoe                            Digger, or excavator 

British vs. American English Translation – Spelling

Most Americans pride themselves on being unique, and it is that attitude that resulted in the differences in spelling in some words shared in both British and American English. The originator of Webster’s American Dictionary, Noah Webster, thought Americans should be distinct from the British, even down to our spelling. 

Even these minor variations, illustrated in the examples below, can be confusing to readers who expect American or British English. At the very least, mixing British and American English spellings and words is sloppy and reflects poorly on the company that allows it in their communications. 

British Spelling                American Spelling

Colour                                                   Color

Armour                                                Armor

Humour                                              Humor 

Colorise                                              Colorize 

Theatre                                               Theater

Centre                                                 Center 

Spoilt                                                  Spoiled

Leant                                                  Leaned 

Because of its numerous complexities, translating to and from English, both British and American varieties, can be a challenge. ILS is a professional translation services team that’s familiar with both versions of English as well as over 180 other languages and can help optimize your translation outcomes. When it comes to getting it right with British vs. American English translation, trust ILS with your important business translations. Contact us today to learn more. 

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