Exchanging English Over the Pond: U.S. and U.K. Part III



We hope you’re enjoying our exploration of U.S. and U.K. English as much as we are. Part I and Part II of our series looked at variations in spelling and word choice between the dialects. Our review continues with a closer look at American and Commonwealth grammar.

Prepositions

Different phrasing involving prepositions between U.S. and U.K. English may not be as pronounced as it once was, particularly as the cultures continue to influence each other. However, when listening to one another from each side of the pond, we might still hear expressions such as:

U.S. U.K.
Are you going to the mall on the weekend? Are you going to the mall at the weekend?
Greg must go to the hospital. Greg must go to hospital.
Greg is in the hospital. Greg is in hospital.
We’ll be open Monday through Friday. We’ll be open Monday to Friday.
She is different from/than the others. She is different from/to the others.
Henry gets along* well with Henrietta. Henry gets on* well with Henrietta.
*In this usage, the preposition is included with the main verb to form a verb phrase; as such, it is a verb particle.

In addition, as we identify in Part I, the U.K. uses the preposition towards where the U.S. often drops the s (toward).

We might also hear similarities between phrases that include a preposition, such as how we refer to our time for rest and relaxation: This summer we are going on vacation (U.S.); This summer we are going on holiday (U.K).

Verb Number

U.S. and U.K. English can differ in whether they use a singular or a plural verb with a collective noun. In Commonwealth English, collective nouns might take a singular verb in some cases, but most will accompany a plural verb to emphasize the members of the collective. Conversely, U.S. English will more often pair such nouns with singular verbs to stress a single entity.

U.K.: The committee are discussing the proposal.
U.S.: The committee is discussing the proposal.

U.K.: The blue team are winning.
U.S.: The blue team is winning.

U.K.: The rock band are on tour.
U.S.: The rock band is on tour.

Dates

10 June 2020: Most of us who are stateside have seen the format before and probably been thrown off by it at least once. The U.K. presents dates as day month year without punctuation, where the U.S. presents them as month day, year (with punctuation).

The U.K.’s date format is the same as that used throughout much of Europe. Some European countries also use year month day without punctuation (2020 June 10).

In Part IV, we’ll conclude our current series on U.S. and U.K. English with a further discussion of grammar.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, at 11:00 pm

If you wish to respond to another reader's question or comment, please click its corresponding "REPLY" button. If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

9 Comments on Exchanging English Over the Pond: U.S. and U.K. Part III

9 responses to “Exchanging English Over the Pond: U.S. and U.K. Part III”

  1. Brian Thompson says:

    As an ex-pat Brit that lives in America I see all grammar variations, but I was taught in England that team/committee/rock band would be singular. However many people have forgotten/never knew/cannot be bothered to get it correct – probably much the same as Americans.

  2. Brenda R says:

    How interesting; I tend to use the European format [year month day without punctuation (2020 June 10)], but as 2020 0610 when storing computer documents by date. This way, everything comes up in chronological order, making it easier to find things. Then again, I tend to insist on using a 24-hour clock, since being confused after waking from a nap and unable to determine whether it’s before dawn or after sunset, especially in winter.

  3. Stephen AuBuchon says:

    The US military uses the English format, i.e., 6 June 1944. If the month is abbreviated, then so is the year, i.e., 6 Jun 44. And we don’t use periods in the abbreviation for “United States.” It might be interesting to have a column on military composition practices. Each service has its own writing manual.

    • Thank you for the information and the suggestion for a future article. Although we prefer U.S. vs. US to avoid misunderstandings, leading reference manuals differ in their approaches. You’re on solid ground as long as you’re consistent.

  4. Jackie Sommerville says:

    Interesting that you have said the following:
    U.K.: The committee are discussing the proposal.
    U.S.: The committee is discussing the proposal.

    U.K.: The blue team are winning.
    U.S.: The blue team is winning.

    U.K.: The rock band are on tour.
    U.S.: The rock band is on tour.

    I was taught (private school education!) that committee, team and band are collective nouns and should therefore use the singular verb! I am from New Zealand.

    • Thank you for that information, Jackie. Apparently, Australia resembles U.S. rather than U.K. usage in the area of collective nouns. And we assume New Zealand resembles Australian usage.

  5. Nour browning says:

    I have come across this sentence in a translated document and I wonder if it is correct.
    They (spouses) declare that they agreed no conditions to this marriage.
    I have never heard “agree no conditions to … ” before. Is this semanctically and syntactically correct?
    Thank you.

    • The sentence is grammatically incomplete. The easiest fix to the original wording might be, They (the spouses) declare that they agreed to no conditions to this marriage.
      A fuller reworking would be They (the spouses) declare they agreed this marriage would have no conditions.

Leave a Reply to Jackie Sommerville Cancel reply

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *