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Difference between British and American English usage

American and British English: Differences in Usage Part 2

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Writing

Both and both of

Before a noun with a determiner (e.g. the, this, my), both and both of are both possible in British English. In American English, both of is usual.

  • Both (of) my parents like riding. (GB)
  • Both of my parents like riding. (US)
In after negatives and superlatives

After negatives and superlatives, in can be used to talk about duration. This is especially common in American English.

  • I haven�t seen him for/in months.
  • It was the worst storm for/in ten years.

In British English, in is not normally used with this meaning.

  • I haven�t seen him for months. (GB)
Shan�t

In British English, I shan�t is sometimes used in refusals. This is very unusual in American English.

  • I don�t care what you say, I won�t/ shan�t do it. (GB)
  • I don�t care what you say, I won�t do it. (US)
Shall

Questions with shall I/we are used (especially in British English) to ask for instructions or decisions, to offer services and to make suggestions. This is not common in American English.

  • Shall I open the window?
  • Shall we go out for a meal?
Will

We often use will in threats and promises. Shall is also possible in British English, especially after I and we. In American English, shall is not used in threats and promises.

  • I will/shall give you a teddy bear for your birthday. (GB)
  • I will give you a teddy bear for your birthday. (US)
Have (got) + infinitive

Have (got) + infinitive can be used, like must, to express certainty. This is mainly an American English structure, but it is now becoming more common in British English.

  • I don�t believe you. You have (got) to be joking. (= You must be joking.)
Would and should

After I and we, should can be used in British English with the same meaning as would.

  • If we had a map we would/should be able to get out of here. (GB)
  • If we had a map we would we able to get out of here. (US)

Conditional would is sometimes used in both clauses of an if-sentence. This is common in spoken American English.

  • It would be better if they would tell everybody in advance.

Sections in this article

American and British English: differences in grammar - I
American and British English: differences in grammar - II
American and British English: differences in vocabulary - I
American and British English: differences in vocabulary - II
American and British English: differences in usage - I
American and British English: differences in usage - II
American and British English: differences in spelling