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Which is more formal – American or British English?

British vs American English
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Which is more formal – American or British English?

Is spoken English the same in every Anglophone country? There are a lot of similarities, but the more fluent you become, the more differences you will notice. If you’re studying Medical English, you may wish to work in one of these places. If so, you’ll need to understand formal English.

As you’ve discovered, the UK is culturally a lot less formal than you might expect. This goes for the spoken language too. The USA, on the other hand, might be more formal than you thought. American English is based on a much older version of the language than the one in current use in the UK. The same goes for other Anglophone countries, such as Nigeria and India, but US English goes back even further, to the early 17th century.

As an example, Americans use the adverb quite to mean very. They will say, It’s quite cold out. This is the original meaning of the word, and yet these days, the British use it to mean fairly or a little. This is how the word has evolved over the centuries. However, in very formal English, quite retains its original meaning. The Queen would say It’s quite terrible, for example.

It’s part of the reason why American English can sound quite (= a little) formal. There’s another reason too. British people tend to drop into informality more quickly than Americans, at least in a professional scenario.

What have you noticed about the differences between American English and the English of other countries? Do you agree that Americans sometimes use more formal language? What do you know about other English-speaking countries, such as Ireland, Australia and India?

If you’re a medical professional, and you’re interested in learning how you can gain a qualification to work in an Anglophone country, discover more about SLC here.

Stephanie Lam
About the author

Stephanie Lam is a writer, journalist, and English teacher. She specialises in writing fabulous words for the wellbeing and health industries.

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