Word differences between British and American English

In the IELTS speaking test sometimes candidates try to mimic an accent. But it is always a wise idea to use your natural tone and neutral accent. You won’t get a good score if you try to mimic a British accent but can’t show the fluency.

British vs american words

IELTS Candidates often get confused whether to use the American spelling or British spelling, especially in the writing test. But you should not worry about it. Either spelling and words are accepted. But maintaining a consistency is better according to some teachers.

Following is a list of word differences that we observe in British and American English:

     American                  British

  • Cell Phone                      Mobile Phone
  • Math                                Maths
  • City hall                           Town hall
  • Sidewalk                          Pavement
  • Movie/ Film                     Film
  • Pharmacy                        Chemist
  • Parking garage/ lot       Car park
  • Movie theater                 Cinema
  • Antenna                           Aeriel
  • Airplane                           Aero-plane
  • Counter-clockwise         Anti-clockwise
  • Fall                                    Autumn
  • Cookie                              Biscuit
  • Hood                                 Bonet
  • Trunk                                Boot
  • Automobile                     Car
  • Janitor                              Care taker
  • Potato Chips                   Crisps
  • Intersection                    Crossroads
  • Closet                               Cupboard
  • Trashcan                          Dustbin
  • Term paper                     Essay
  • Apartment                       Flat
  • Overpass                         Flyover
  • Yard                                  Garden
  • Purse                                Handbag
  • Vacation                           Holiday
  • Assignment                     Homework
  • Jelly                                   Jam
  • Pitcher                              Jug
  • Attorney                           Lawyer
  • Elevator                            Lift
  • Truck                                 Lorry
  • Diaper                              Nappy
  • Bulletin Board                Notice Board
  • Mail                                  Post
  • Zip Code                          Post Code
  • Bar                                    Pub
  • Dessert                            Pudding
  • Line                                  Queue
  • Railroad                           Railway
  • Call                                    Ring
  • Eraser                               Rubber
  • Couch                               Sofa
  • Underpass                        Subway
  • Candy                                Sweet
  • Cab                                    Taxi
  • Check                                Tick
  • Schedule                           Timetable
  • Can                                    Tin
  • Flashlight                         Torch
  • Vest                                   Waistcoat
  • Windshield                       Windscreen


Apart from the above word differences, British and American English have some spelling differences as well. Since IELTS test is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment, many teachers advise candidates to follow the British spelling. However, you won’t be negatively scored if you use American English.

Here are some spelling differences between British and American English, which we presume are already known to you.

Some US words take -er while it is -re in British English.

      US            British

  • center         centre
  • fiber            fibre
  • liter             litre
  • theater       theatre

Some verbs in US English that end in -yze while it is -yse in British English.

      US             British

  • analyze        analyse
  • paralyze       paralyse
  • catalyze       catalyse

A very common spelling difference between American and British English is using -or in American spelling and -our in British spelling. Here are such few commonly used words.

      US             British

  • labor            labour
  • flavor           flavour
  • color            colour
  • humor         humour
  • neighbor     neighbour
  • candor         candour
  • clamor         clamoour
  • demeanor   demeanour
  • armor          armour
  • behavior     behaviour

Some verbs in American English always take -ize while in British English both -ise and -ize are acceptable.

      US             British

  • apologize     apologize or apologise
  • agonize        agonize or agonise
  • organize      organize or organise
  • authorize     authorize or authorise
  • recognize     recognize or recognise

Some verbs with a preceding vowel end with ‘l’ in American spelling but take double l (‘ll’) in the past and ‘ing’ form.

      US             British

  • fuel               fuel
  • fueled          fuelled
  • fueling         fuelling
  • travel           travel
  • traveled       travelled
  • traveling      travelling
  • traveler        traveller

Some nouns that end with -og in American spelling but takes -ogue in British spelling.

      US           British

  • analog      analogue
  • catalog     catalogue
  • dialog       dialogue

Some nouns are spelled using -ense in American English but they end with -ence in British English.

      US            British

  • license        licence
  • defence     defense
  • pretence    pretense
  • offence      offense

Some words only take e in American English but have oe (double vowel) in British English.

      US               British

  • maneuver     manoeuvre
  • leukemia       leukaemia
  • pediatric       paediatric
  • estrogen       oestrogen


You can find a comprehensive list of spelling differences between American and British English at www.tysto.com/uk-us-spelling-list.html


One thought on “Word differences between British and American English

  1. I spelled garrage instead of garage. These type of minor mistakes should be avoided in IELTS.

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