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Most of the differences between the English of the UK (which we shall call BrE) and
the English of North America (which we shall call AmE) are vocabulary differences and
differences in pronunciation and spelling. However, there are some differences in the
way grammar is used. Almost all of the structures in this book are used in both varieties,
but there are often differences in how common a structure is in one variety or the other.
There are fewer differences in writing than in speaking.
Grammar is always changing, and many new ways of using grammar in BrE come from
AmE, because of the influence of American popular culture, American media and the

1. British and American English: verbs

 Be going to

Spoken English:
AmE speakers often use be going to (and the informal short form gonna) when giving
street directions, which is not a typical use in BrE. BrE speakers normally use
imperatives (with and without you), and present simple or future forms with will:
 You’re gonna go three blocks and then you’re gonna see an apartment
building on the left with 1228 above the door.
A: Take this street here on the right, then go about two hundred yards till you come
to a set of traffic lights.
B: Okay.
A: You turn left at the lights, go about another hundred yards and you’ll see the
B: Great. Thanks very much.

 Burn, learn, dream, etc.

In BrE, we can spell the past simple and -ed participle of verbs such as burn, dream,
lean, learn, smell, spell, spill with either -ed (learned, spilled) or -t (learnt, spilt). AmE
prefers the -ed ending:
 She had dreamt of being a dancer when she was young. (or She had
dreamed …)
 As a boy, he had dreamed about being on the basketball team.
 He learnt to speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese.(or He learned …)
 She learned to play the violin.

 Fit
In BrE, the past simple form of fit is usually fitted. In AmE, the past simple form of fit is
most often fit:
 The sweater fitted her perfectly.
[ a woman is remembering her poor childhood, AmE ]
But we always looked nice. You know. We were always very clean. The clothes were
clean and they fit.

 Get
In BrE, the three forms of get are get (base form), got (past simple) and got (-ed form).
In AmE, get has an -ed form gotten:
 The weather has gotten colder this week and we’re expecting snow.

Get + to-infinitive is common in AmE to refer to achievements, meaning ‘manage to’ or

‘be able to’. This usage is less common in BrE:

[ talking about American football, AmE ]

A: Did you get to go to very many games?
B: I went to four games this year, actually.
[ talking about a camping trip in the forest, AmE ]
We got to see a lot of deer.

 Have and have got

The present simple form of have got referring to possession or relationships is much
more common in spoken BrE than in AmE. AmE speakers often prefer to use the
verb have on its own:
 I’ve got a picture of you when you were a teenager. Do you want to see it?
 I have two cousins in Ohio.

 Have got to and have to

Have got to is much more common in BrE than AmE. Have to (without got) is more
common in AmE than in BrE:
 We’ve got to take my mother back to the hospital a week on Friday.
 We have to be back in San Francisco next Sunday to fly home again.

 Shall
BrE speakers often use shall with I and we in statements when referring to the future,
especially in more formal situations. AmE prefers will:
 I shall be back in a minute. (formal)
 We shall be talking about this in detail tomorrow.

 I’ll call you early tomorrow morning.
 We will see what happens after the new company takes us over.

 Subtitute verb to
BrE speakers often add the substitute verb do to short clauses with modal verbs,
especially in short answers. AmE speakers prefer to use the modal verb on its own:

[a group of students talk about the grades they might get in an exam, BrE]
A: I don’t reckon I’ll get all As this time.
B: No.
A: I might do, but I doubt it.

A: Yeah, so you think you might get an exercise bicycle?
B: Oh, I might. I have a regular bicycle out in the garage, but it’s been kind of raining
and stuff around here lately.
2. British and American English: verb tense forms

 The present perfect

The present perfect is less common in AmE than BrE. AmE speakers often use the
past simple in situations where BrE speakers use the present perfect, especially with
words such as already and yet:

 We’ve already booked our holiday for next year.

A: What do you do with your free time? Did I already ask you that? (BrE: Have I
already asked you that?)
B: I work!

 Have you had a reply from the bank yet?
 Did they pick the golf team yet? (BrE: Have they picked the golf team yet?)

 Past perfect
The past perfect is more common in AmE than in BrE, especially in situations where
the speaker sees one event as happening before another in the past:

[talking about a TV series shown over several nights, AmE]

A: Did you watch it?
B: We had watched it, uh, I guess Sunday night and Monday night, but we didn’t get
to watch it tonight.

 We watched the news, then we watched a documentary.

[A is asking B about his past, AmE]

A: You had said your family is from back east?
B: Yeah.
A: Then they’ve moved out here for business reasons?
B: Yeah. My dad’s in banking. He got moved to Seattle and then moved here.
[A is asking B about his past, BrE]
A: You said your father died when he was quite young?
B: Well, he was, as far as I can remember, he was thirty-eight.

3. British and American English: prepositions

 At the weekend/on the weekend

BrE prefers at the weekend; AmE prefers on the weekend:
 What are you doing at the weekend? D’you want to get together for some
A: So we’ll get together and barbecue on the weekend.
B: That sounds good.

 In + period of time after a negative

AmE uses in + a period of time after a negative verb in situations where BrE prefers for:
I haven’t really read anything like that in years. (BrE preferred form: for years)
I haven’t talked to my brother in three years. (BrE preferred form: for three years)

 In and on with street names

BrE uses in with street names. AmE prefers on:
 They were a lovely family. They lived in Walton Street.
 I used to live on Perot Street.

 Through
AmE uses through in many situations where BrE prefers to or till when referring to the
end points of periods of time:
A: Actually she leaves the house at eleven and gets home at four so …
B: And that’s Monday through Friday? (BrE preferred form Monday to Friday)
A: Yeah.
[an elderly woman is talking about her working life, BrE]
A: I was doing twelve hours a day from Monday till Friday and twelve and a half on a
Saturday. (AmE preferred form Monday through Friday)
B: And how old were you?
A: Fourteen years old.

4. Adjectives and adverbs

 Really, real
In informal spoken AmE, speakers often use real instead of really before an adjective.
This is considered non-standard by many AmE speakers:
 That’s real funny! (BrE preferred form really funny).
 I thought it was a real good movie. (BrE preferred form really good film).

 Well and good

AmE speakers often use good where BrE prefers well. However, the AmE form is
becoming more common in BrE, especially after greetings such as How are you?,
How’s it going?:
A: How are you?
B: I’m good. (BrE preferred form I’m well or I’m fine)
It all worked out real good. (BrE preferred form really well)

 Likely
AmE allows the use of likely as an adjective (in the same way as probable, possible,
etc.), or as an adverb (in the same way as probably, possibly, etc.). In BrE, likely is
normally only used as an adjective:
 There will likely be other announcements before the end of this year. (likely as
an adverb; BrE preferred form There are likely to be)
 The focus on the economy will likely continue when the new President takes
office. (BrE preferred form is likely to continue)
 And what’s likely to happen? (likely as an adjective, also common in BrE)

Question tags are much more common in BrE than in AmE, but a wide range of
question tags are used in both varieties:

 She’s Swedish, isn’t she?
 Elvis wasn’t your favourite rock star, was he?
In informal situations, AmE speakers often use a tag with rising intonation in responses
which show surprise or emotional involvement. The tag has the same form as the
statement the speaker is responding to (affirmative statement → affirmative tag;
negative statement → negative tag). This is not common in BrE:

A: I took the Chinese course last semester.
B: Oh, you di↗d? (BrE preferred form Oh, did you? with fall-rise or rising intonation)
A: Yeah.

A: My sister still lives with my mom.
B: She does? (BrE preferred form Does she?)
A: Uh-huh.

 Tags at the end of affirmative statements which have an affirmative form occur
in both varieties but are quite rare in AmE:
 He works really hard, he does.
 And so when she went to a nursing home, in the beginning, I think she kind of
liked it. She did art work there, she did, yeah.

 Both varieties use the tag right, but it is more common in AmE:
A: She’s studying geography, right?
B: Yeah, geography.

1. Breadcrumber noun [C] UK /ˈbred.krʌməʳ/ US /ˈbred.krʌmɚ/ someone who

contacts another person very infrequently
For anyone who’s ever dated, or maintained any kind of relationship in the digital age,
you have probably known a breadcrumber. They communicate via sporadic non-
committal, but repeated messages – or breadcrumbs – that are just enough to keep
you wondering but not enough to seal the deal (whatever that deal may be.)

2. Inconvenience
fee noun [C] UK /ˌɪn.kənˈviː.ni.əns.fiː/ US /ˌɪn.kənˈviː.n.jəns.fiː/ an amount of
money paid to make up for causing someone problems or trouble
Mariah Carey is demanding a $50 million dollar inconvenience fee from her ex-fiancé
James Packer. Now that the couple has broken up, Mariah feels as though she
wasted her time with the Australian businessman and wants to be compensated for
the time she lost.

3. Sleep divorce noun [U] UK /ˈsliːp.dɪ.vɔːs/ US /ˈsliːp.dɪ.vɔːrs/ an arrangement

where a couple chooses to sleep in separate beds or bedrooms
Relationship counsellor Dr Nandini Roy says, “I’ve seen many women and men say
that though they love their partners a lot, sometimes they … would love to sleep
separately. To keep your relationship going, you should consider sleep divorce
whenever you feel the need to sleep alone.”

4. Broga™ noun [U] UK ˈbrəʊ.gə US ˈbroʊ.gə a type of yoga designed to appeal

to men
Men who crave the benefits of yoga, but recoil at sharing the experience with a room
full of women are turning to Broga, a rugged take on the 3,000-year-old practice of
movement and breath.

5. AFOL noun [C] UK eɪ.ˌef.əʊ.’el US eɪ.ˌef.oʊ.’el abbreviation for adult fan of

Lego™: an adult who enjoys building models from Lego™
Chrys B. of Heathcote, Australia had an interest in LEGO in her early teens but
endured a Dark Age that lasted a number of decades until she discovered the Star
Wars LEGO range. It was after attending Brickvention 2012 that she decided she
really was an AFOL.

6. Droneboarding noun [U] UK ‘drəʊn.bɔːd.ɪŋ US droʊn.bɔːrd.ɪŋ the activity or

sport of moving over snow standing on a snowboard and being pulled by a
Droneboarding is the newly developed practice of using a drone to drag around
someone on a snowboard. [A] video filmed in late January shows a standard-sized
human being dragged around on a snowboard by a very large drone.

7. The internet of me noun [S] UK ˌɪn.tə.net əv ‘miː US ˌɪn.t̬ ɚ.net əv ‘miː a

system of objects with computing devices in them that are able to connect to
each other using the internet and exchange personal data about their owner

eBay’s founder has invested in a startup that claims to use data aggregation to create
the “internet of me” … The startup’s app collects data from its users’ social networks,
including pictures and posts.

8. Device mesh noun [S] dɪˈvaɪs meʃ a network of electronic devices that can
find information and communicate with other people and organizations using
the internet
We’re still using mobile devices, but we’ve now added tablets and smart watches to
the ever-multiplying list of end-points we use to access applications and information.
[Analyst Company] Gartner refers to this trend as ‘the device mesh’…

9. Trust score noun [C] UK ‘trʌst ˌskɔː US ‘trʌst ˌskɔːr a way of communicating
with a computer to prove who you are without the need for a password
Google wants to get rid of your password. The company has proposed a system it
calls “trust scores” to remove the need to remember usual numerical and linguistic
credentials using a ‘Trust API’ … The API would factor in a number of personal
identifiers including the way your voice sounds, facial recognition, location in relation
to known Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices and typing speed.
10. FOLO noun [U] UK ˈfəʊ.ləʊ US ˈfoʊ.loʊ abbreviation for “fear of living offline”:
the feeling that you have to post attractive photos of yourself on social media
to make your life seem interesting
This year however it’s all about FOLO (fear of living offline) which is the need for us
to digitally validate anything we do (likes, shares and comments) otherwise it feels
like it never took place.

11. Digital divorce noun [C or U] UK ˌdɪdʒ.ɪ.təl dɪˈvɔːs US ˌdɪdʒ.ə.t̬ əl dɪˈvɔːrs an

online process to end a marriage legally
The new process of digital divorce will allow couples to end their marriages online,
without the need for either the couple in question or the judge to physically attend
court in relation to the case.

12. Social eating noun [U] UK ˌsəʊ.ʃəl ‘iːt.ɪŋ US ˌsoʊ.ʃəl ‘iːt.ɪŋ a practice that
involves filming yourself while you eat and posting or streaming it on a social
media website
There is a new way to connect on social media: Watching people eat. Social Eating
is a live streaming platform on Twitch … Twitch’s public relations director [said] social
eating has been a popular part of South Korean culture for years.

13. Nutricosmetics noun [plural] UK

/ˌnjuː.tri.kɒzˈmet.ɪks/ US /ˌnuː.trikɑːzˈmet̬ .ɪks/ substances, especially in the form
of a liquid or a pill, that are intended to improve your appearance
Nutricosmetics – beauty products you ingest rather than apply – promise everything
from firmer skin to thicker hair. That’s the future, according to trend forecasters …
these powders, drinks and pills are set to radically change our beauty routines.

14. Blood spa noun [C] /ˈblʌd ˌspɑː/ a place where blood is analysed and special
beauty treatments given according to the results
Blood spas aren’t as gory as you’d think. While blood is at the heart of the treatment,
your plasma and platelets won’t actually be used in your facial or massage – at least not
all the time.
15. Microblading noun [U] /ˈmaɪ.krə.bleɪd.ɪŋ/ a method of making eyebrows look
thicker that uses a special tool to inject ink under the skin
Eyebrow trends come and go, from thin and sharp to bold and bushy à la Cara
Delevingne and basically every other model who’s been hot in the past few years. But
the latest trend we can’t get enough of is microblading, a new tattoo technique that fills
brows out or reshapes them by drawing on tiny lines that look like individual hairs.

16. Glass wall noun [C usually singular] UK /ˌglɑːs ˈwɔːl/ US /ˌglæs ˈwɑːl/ a barrier to
becoming accepted or included at work, usually affecting women or minority
The ‘glass wall’ that divides men and women they argue, is the new glass ceiling. Women
aren’t just being overlooked for the next promotion; they are being shut out behind a
glass wall by male-oriented office culture.

17. Brass ceiling noun [C usually singular] UK /ˌbrɑːs ˈsi:lɪŋ/ US /ˌbræs ˈsi:lɪŋ/ a
point after which someone, usually a woman, cannot reach a higher position in
the military
Mariette Kalinowski, a former Marine, writes in the New York Times that while the “brass
ceiling” is cracked, it is not gone because the military culture of hypermasculinity has not
yet changed.

18. Man tax noun [C or U] /ˈmæn ˌtæks/ a tax that has to be paid only by men
Owners of a New York City independent pharmacy recently imposed a one-day, 7%
“man tax” in their efforts to raise awareness of the ongoing nationwide debate over taxes
on feminine hygiene products and the gender inequality women experience when
purchasing personal health products.

19. Sneakerhead noun [C] UK /ˈsniː.kə.hed/,US /ˈsniː.kɚ.hed/ someone who owns,

buys and sells sneakers (UK= trainers), especially those with rare or unusual
With celebrities from Kanye West to Pharrell Williams now designing their own styles for
Nike and Adidas, respectively, sneakerheads have gone from a subculture to dominating
the culture.

20. Glunge noun [U] /glʌndʒ/ a type of fashion that combines glamour and grunge
What do you get if you merge glamour with a dose of grunge a la X Factor’s Rita Ora?
Glunge, duh!

21. Shacket noun [C] /ˈʃæk.ɪt/ a light jacket, similar to a shirt

Step forward the shacket: the shirt-come-jacket. The shacket … is heavier than a
cotton shirt but lighter than say, a denim or utility jacket.

22. Socialating noun [U] UK /ˈsəʊ.ʃə.leɪ.tɪŋ/,US /ˈsoʊ.ʃə.leɪ.tɪŋ the practice of

combining a romantic date with a social outing with friends
Socialating means pretty much what it sounds like – sociable dating – and is a growing
trend amongst people who like to mix meeting new people with hanging out with their

23. Ghosting noun [U] UK /’gəʊs.tɪŋ/, US /’goʊs.tɪŋ/ the practice of ending a

romantic relationship by suddenly breaking off contact with the other person
There’s now officially a word for that weird phase out/disappearing act that people can
do to end a relationship before pretty much ceasing contact all together – and it’s called

24. TWAG noun [C] /twæg/ tech wife and girlfriend: the wife or girlfriend of a
entrepreneur in the technology industry
Silicon Valley has become the new Hollywood, as moguls and social media barons take
over from film stars and sportsmen not just on rich lists, but as alpha men. Being a co-
founder of a company is this decade’s equivalent to being a rock star or a chef. If their
attractiveness to models and actresses proves anything, then being a TWAG […] is a

1. Adulting noun, informal. The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a

responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
With an increase in usage and countless memes, adulting is hugely associated with
this year. Adulting and the related verb to adult shift the noun adult into verbal use.
Such ‘verbing’ of nouns is often criticized, but it is a common source of new words in
English (it’s how we got the word parenting, which adulting is probably modelled on).
The word adulting was used from time to time during the 20th century in various
meanings, but the modern meaning—associated especially with millennials, known
for their ambivalent relationship with the trappings of adulthood—seems to have
begun to appear on social media in 2008.

2. Alt-right noun. An ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or

reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the
use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.
The term alt-right is shortened from the fuller form ‘alternative right’, which was first
used by self-described paleo-conservatives in 2008 and was the title of a far-right
online publication founded in 2010. The alt-right abbreviation was in use among the
movement’s adherents by 2011, but it was rarely used outside that circle until the past
year. Usage of the term alt-right surged during the spring and summer of 2016, with
30% of usage this year in August alone, as the movement became associated with
support for the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and was widely discussed in
the American media.

3. Brexiteer noun, informal. A person who is in favour of the United Kingdom

withdrawing from the European Union.
Brexit has been one of the major political/cultural talking points of the year. The
word Brexit itself was on Oxford’s word of the year shortlist in both 2014 and 2015;
for 2016, we opted to highlight one of the many spin-off words it has spawned. We’ve
chosen Brexiteer because it is the most widely used of the various Brexit coinages
we’ve investigated, including items such as Bregret, Bremain, Brexodus, and even
the very similar Brexiter. It was rarely used before 2016 but shows no signs yet of
retreating from the English lexicon.
4. Chatbot noun. A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human
users, especially over the Internet.
The use of chatbot has skyrocketed in 2016, with some tech commentators dubbing
this ‘the year of the chatbot’. The word has been used to refer to programs designed
to simulate conversation with humans since the 1990s, however the Oxford
Dictionaries corpus shows a surge in evidence beginning in March 2016, when
Microsoft launched and then quickly withdrew its chatbot ‘Tay’ on Twitter after it
began to produce offensive tweets. Usage of the word continued to rise in the
following months, as high-profile announcements were made about
new chatbot applications and platforms.

5. Coulrophobia noun. Extreme or irrational fear of clowns 2016 saw a perturbing

trend of people dressing as scary clowns. Coulrophobia encapsulates the feelings
people have towards this trend. It originated in the 1980s: from the Greek
kōlobatheron (‘stilt’, apparently with allusion to stilt-walking as a form of popular
entertainment) and ‘phobia’.
The phenomenon of clown fear is apparently common, but the word coulrophobia is
relatively rare, although its use surges occasionally in response to contemporary
events. Prior to the creepy clown hysteria of 2016, where there was a brief but marked
increase in use, the biggest spike in usage of the term was in October 2014, when
the US television programme American Horror Story: Freakshow featured a killer

6. Glass cliff noun. Used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member
of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances
where the risk of failure is high.
The psychologists Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam coined the term glass cliff in 2004.
Their research identified a phenomenon in which women or minorities were more
likely to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ to achieve leadership positions in situations
where there was an increased the risk of failure and criticism. The appointment of
Theresa May and candidature of Hillary Clinton have brought glass cliff to greater
cultural prominence in 2016

7. Hygge noun. A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a

feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish
Fascination with hygge first arose in the United Kingdom, which has been gripped by
enthusiasm for Scandinavian culture for several years now, but it has also recently
begun to make an impact in the United States. English does not have a word for this
precise concept, which is, after all, grounded in Danish culture. As is often the case
when a word is initially borrowed from another language, much of the evidence
for hygge in English publications so far is self-conscious, and is accompanied by
explanations of what it means. However, there is growing evidence of contextual use
on social media, where hygge has been used as a hashtag for photos of candlelit
tables and embraced as the ultimate respite from the year’s more serious events.

8. Latinx noun. A person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral

or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).
Latinx arose in response to a fascinating quandary: how can a language like Spanish,
in which nouns and adjectives have grammatical gender, be used in a gender-neutral
way? In contexts where gender is mixed or unspecified, the masculine form is typically
used, but some people have objected to this convention, arguing that it excludes
women, as well as people who identify as neither male nor female. Latinx replaces
the gendered -a or -o ending with -x. Latinx was being used online in Spanish by 2009,
and had made its way into English use by 2012. It is still uncommon in mainstream
English publications, but is widely used on American university campuses.

9. Woke adjective, US informal [originally in African-American usage]. Alert to injustice

in society, especially racism. This usage of woke, appearing especially in the phrase
‘stay woke’, is novel in general US English but has existed in the variety known as
African American Vernacular English (AAVE) for decades. In some forms of
AAVE, woke is used as an alternative to ‘awake’ or ‘woken’. By the mid-20th century,
that adjectival use of woke was appearing in metaphorical contexts relating to political
awakenings, as well as in a more general slang meaning of ‘well informed’.
It was the use of the phrase ‘stay woke’ by supporters of the Black Lives Matter
movement that introduced the word to a broader audience, especially on social media.
Eventually, alongside earnest uses of woke to denote vigilance about systemic
racism, trivial and humorous uses also appeared. As more and more non-black people
began to appropriate ‘woke’ to describe their own political awakenings, the use of the
word became both more common and more fraught. In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries
witnessed a tenfold increase in use in the press, including a flurry of opinion pieces
about woke’s proliferation outside the black community.
Web pages:

New Words: About words (2016 August 16). Retrieved from

British and American English from English Grammar Today. Retrieved from

Oxford dictionary words of the year 2016 (2016 November 16). Retrieved from