What are the differences between American, British, and Australian English?

What are the differences between American, British, and Australian English?

by Cassie Wright

Updated July 5, 2022

What are the main differences between American and British English? It’s one of those questions that makes English learners think. Most of the time, it’s not always important. Other times, the way you learn to speak English can go a long way in determining who can understand you. We will explore the differences of the Australian accent vs the British accent vs the American accent.

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Which English accent should I learn?

It’s one of those questions that makes English learners think. Most of the time, it’s not always important. Other times, the way you learn to speak English can go a long way in determining who can understand you.

As any teacher will tell you, learning a language is so much more than memorizing vocabulary words and grammar rules. Language learners also need to consider culture if they really want to feel comfortable talking to native speakers. But what does that mean for English language learners? More importantly, how different is the Australian English vs the American or Australian English?

How Are British English and American English Different? Why does it sound different?

You probably already know that it’s important to pronounce words correctly if you want others to understand what you’re saying. On the other hand, even native speakers have a variety of accents that make it hard for them to understand each other. This is even more true for native English speakers from different countries.
When it comes to American, British, and Australian accents, there are a few differences that are easy to spot.
For instance, most American English accents pronounce ‘r’ sounds more clearly while most Australian and British accents drop the ‘r’ sound.
You’ll also notice that all three accents emphasize vowels differently. For example, the ‘o’ sound in bottle is pronounced as “aah” in American English, “awe” in British English, and “aaw” in Australian English.

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Vocabulary differences between British, American and Australian English

Strong accents in any language can make things difficult. But what really causes problems is differences in vocabulary and slang words. Put a few different accents together and mix in lots of unfamiliar slang words and chances are you’ll have a bunch of Americans, Brits, and Aussies who just can’t understand each other.

Here are just a few fun vocabulary differences:

American: Afternoon
British: Afternoon
Australian: Arvo

American: Gas station
British: Petrol station
Australian: Servo

American: Candy
British: Sweets /sweeties 
Australian: Lollies

American: Friend
British: Mate / pal
Australian: Mate

American: Flip flops
British: Flip flops
Australian: Thongs

Be careful not to mix some of these up. For instance, in the U.S., the word “thongs” would be used to describe underwear, or G-strings, like those found in a lingerie store.

Spelling differences

Differences in spelling can also cause problems between American, British, and Australian English speakers. Though, in this case, American English is the only odd one.

Australian and British English words are usually spelled the same, but American English has quite a few differences. For example:

  • American English doesn’t have a ‘u’ in words like “colour”. Instead, it’s spelled “color”.
  • Sometimes, ‘z’ replaces the ‘s’ in American English. You’ll see this in words like “realize” and “organize”.
  • ‘R’ and ‘e’ at the end of words like “centre” and “theatre” are switched in American English to “center” and “theater”.
  • American English only used one ‘l’ in words like “traveled” and “traveling”.

When it comes to pronunciation, specific vocabulary words, and spelling, always think about where you’ll be using your English skills. As long as others can understand you and you can understand them, you won’t have a problem.

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