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Spelling differences between American and British English

Spelling differences between American and British English

-or vs. -our
American British
color colour
favorite favourite
honor honour

 

-ll vs. -l 
American British
enrollment enrolment
fulfill fulfil
skillful skilful

 

-og vs. -ogue 
American British
analog analogue
catalog catalogue
dialog dialogue

 

-ck or -k vs. -que
American British
bank banque
check cheque
checker chequer

 

-ense vs. -enze
American British
defense defence
license licence
-ze vs. -se 
American British
analyze analyse
criticize criticise
memorize memorise

 

-er vs. -re 
American British
center centre
meter metre
theater theatre

 

-e vs. -oe or -ae 
American British
encylopedia encylycopaedia
maneuver manoeuvre
medieval mediaeval

 

-dg vs. -dge (or -g vs. -gu) 
American British
aging ageing
argument arguement
judgment judgement

 

Other 
American British
jewelry jewellery
draft draught
pajamas pyjamas
plow plough
program programme
tire tyre

Base Word American British
counsel counseling counselling
equal equaling equalling
model modeling modelling
quarrel quarreling quarrelling
signal signaling signalling
travel traveling travelling
excel excelling excelling
propel propelling propelling

Spelling of verbs

This is related to formation of the past participle for verbs. For a complete list of irregular verb spellings, see Susan Jones’ Complete List of English Irregular Verbs at this web site.  Below is a sampling of the three main categories of differeneces with verbs.

-ed vs. -t

The first category involves verbs that use -ed or -t for the simple past and past participle.   Generally, the rule is that if there is a verb form with -ed, American English will use it, and if there is a form with -t, British English uses it.  However, these forms do not exist for every verb and there is variation.  For example, both American and British English would use the word ‘worked’ for the past form of ‘to work’, and in American English it is common to hear the word ‘knelt’ as the past tense of ‘to kneel’.

Base form American British
to dream dreamed dreamt
to leap leaped leapt
to learn leareded learnt

base form vs. -ed

The second category of difference includes verbs that use either the base form of the verb or the -ed ending for the simple past.

Base form American British
to fit fit fitted
to forecast forecast forecasted
to wed wed wedded
irregular vs. -ed

The third category of difference includes verbs that have either an irregular spelling or the -ed ending for the simple past.

Base form American British
to knit knit knitted
to light lit lighted
to strive strove strived

So what does tall his mean for learners of English?  In the beginning, unfortunately, it means a lot of memorization (or memorisation) and of course, a few mistakes.  For spoken English, the differences are barely audible, so forge ahead and don’t be too concerned with whether a word is spelled ‘dwelled’ or ‘dwelt’.  With written English, however, if you are unsure about the spelling, better to ask your teacher or look the word up in the dictionary and see what the experts say.

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