“How not to be gutted when talking to a Brit!” A guide to American vs British English

Translating American to British EnglishSo, your suitcase is packed with this season’s jumpers, and you made sure you didn’t forget your knickers. You’ll arrive early at the airport so you have time to pick up some fags in Duty Free, and you’re just chuffed to bits to get on the piss with your friends when you land in London.

If you have no idea what I mean, it’s a good thing you saw this post before your trip!

While we may speak English on both sides of the pond, anyone who has travelled across it or encountered a native speaker from the other side knows that sometimes we need translators to understand each other.

First, you can learn some basic terms that have substantially different meanings in America and Britain.

Also, it may be a good idea to review this short video “How to understand the differences between British and American English” produced by the British Council:

Now that you have some general ideas of what is different, you need to understand how many British people perceive Americans. Check out British actor Ricky Gervais’ “10 stupid things Americans say to Brits” as featured on David Letterman’s Late Show:

If you think you can understand the British accent and key words that are different, maybe you are ready for some British slang? Again, we’ll start slowly with “The Wanted translates British slang to American English”:


Brilliant! Ready to quiz yourself on some terms that haven’t been explained yet in this post? Play along with Hugh Laurie and Ellen DeGeneres to test your skills…

Blimey! As if it wasn’t enough to battle the British accent and different meanings for words, you also need to prepare for a bit of British prejudice towards the US. Perhaps watching this video which features Russell Brand discussing his experience in America with Craig Ferguson will help?

Crikey! Could it get more complicated?


Finally, there is the element of the British use of understatement that can really throw you out of sorts! See this chart below from oxfamblogs.org for a humorous, but absolutely true, translation of the meaning behind common phrases used in Britain.

Translating American to British EnglishHopefully, now you have a better understanding of what to expect. It’s quite simple really. 😉

Oh- and one more thing- if you are a New Yorker heading to London, be prepared for some abuse in the morning. Brits find the “Can I get a KWAAAAAFEE?” incredibly annoying.

Thank you for reading this guide for understanding American vs British English. If there are any words you wish to add, funny stories you can share, or tips of advice you can leave for either a sunny Brit or American mate, please do so below in the comments.

Best of the British to you!

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  1. That’s hilarious! I work for an American company and often have some hilarious conversations involving rubbish (trash); bum (fanny); holiday (vacation) – not all one same conversation of course! It really is like another language!

  2. This is very funny. My dad grew up in South Africa and therefore uses quite a bit of British terminology, so some of the Anglo-EU translations sound exactly like phrases he uses.

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