In this Issue
Letters to the Editor
Write to Us
Spread the Word
Tips for the CD-ROMs
Getting around in American and
in a series of articles on differences
Some of the most obvious differences between American and British English are in vocabulary related to transport, or, as we Americans would say, transportation. Speakers of American and British English both use the same verb, transport, to mean to move people or things from one place to another, but when it comes to talking about the business of moving people around, the corresponding noun forms are different. What the British call transport travel by rail, plane, coach, bus, ferry, metro and tram is called transportation by the Americans.
This is especially true for areas of transportation that developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, the vocabulary related to cars and other motor vehicles varies significantly. An American car has a hood, whereas a British car has a bonnet, and what the British call a lorry we Americans call a truck. This article takes a look at some of the major differences in vocabulary and usage related to automotive and rail transportation and travel.
When British speakers arrive in the U.S. by plane, they need a different vocabulary just to get into town. Whereas in Britain people often have the option of taking a coach into town, in the U.S. they would take a bus. And if you want to get into town faster in America, you take the subway, whereas in Britain you take the Underground. If you are planning to use public transportation to travel around an American city, the following terms will be useful.
Because of the great distances to be covered in the U.S., flying is a very popular way of getting around the country. However, some Americans prefer to go from city to city by train or railroad - the American equivalent of the British term railway. Here are some examples of American and British differences in vocabulary and usage related to travel by train.
Note that the terms one-way and round-trip are sometimes used in Britain, but they are not as common as single and return.
While there are differences between American and British English in all areas of transportation and travel, the most striking ones are in the vocabulary associated with the parts of a car. Listen to Americans describe their cars, and you'll hear an amazing number of differences. Here is a list of the most common ones:
There are also differences in the words speakers of American and British English use to describe different types of motor vehicles. The following is a list of examples in which different words and expressions are used for the same type of vehicle.
Some styles of American motor vehicles, however, are described by names for which there are no exact British equivalents. This is the case with the following terms:
Americans use a wide variety of terms to describe the many different types of roads that are part of the national and state highway systems in the U.S. In only a few cases are there direct British equivalents for the American terms. The following is a list of examples in which the American and British English use different terms to indicate essentially the same type of road.
Sometimes, however, there are no exact British equivalents for the American terms, as is the case with the following:
There are a few things found on or near a road that have the same names in American and British English. For example, the terms parking meter, pedestrian and traffic are shared by both varieties of English. However, there are a number of other things that have different names in American and British English. Here is a list of the most common ones:
Note that while American and British English show significant differences in vocabulary related to motor and rail transportation and travel, vocabulary concerning more recently developed means of travel transportation aviation and rocket science are relatively minor.
The next article in this series will discuss American
and British differences in clothing and shopping terms.