Irregular Verbs in British Vs. American

Though originated from the same source, British and American English language have some differences. These differences are so acute, sometimes British people even claim that Americans don’t speak English, they speak American. So what are those differences? Apart from the obvious pronunciations, there are differences in spelling, vocabulary, collective nouns, auxiliary verbs, and irregular verbs. Here we discuss how irregular verbs change with these versions.

pointing handWhat are Irregular Verbs?

The verbs whose conjugations don’t follow regular patterns are irregular verbs. For example, ‘go’ is an irregular verb. Its past is ‘went’ and past participle is ‘gone’. On the other hand, regular verbs follow a pattern for past and past participle, like ed, -d,-ied. In English, verbs like ‘play’ is regular as it follows the ‘-ed’ pattern in past simple, ‘played’. Some irregular verbs remain the same in both past simple and past participle, let-let, fed-fed, etc.

pointing handHow are British and American Irregular Verbs Different?

Some verbs that are regular in American English can be irregular in British English. The opposite also happens. Regular verbs in British English can become irregular in American English. For Example-

check markRegular in American, Irregular in British-

The flowers smelled nice. (American English)- Regular with -ed

The flowers smelt nice. (British English)- Irregular with -t

I hope you have learned from your mistake. (American English)- Regular with -ed

I hope you have learnt from your mistake. (British English)- Irregular with -t

This transition between learned and learnt is only possible if it is used as a verb. If you use it as an adjective you have to stick to learned.

In these cases, the British prefer -t while Americans use -ed form of the verb. Other examples can be -burnt- burned, knelt- kneeled, spelt- spelled, leapt- leaped, spoilt-spoiled, dreamt- dreamed, leant- leaned, etc.

check markRegular in British, Irregular in American-

The lifeguard dived into the pool to save the little boy. (British English)- Regular with -ed

The lifeguard dove into the pool to save the little boy. (American English)- Irregular with -o

She wetted her hair in the rain. (British English)- Regular with -ed

She wet her hair in the rain. (American English)- Irregular with remaining the same form

Other examples can be quitted-quit, fitted -fit, etc.

Americans also use -en form for past participle. For example-

He has gotten what he deserves. (American English)

He has got what he deserves. (British English)

The American tendency to make irregular verbs is influencing even British English. Americans often tend to ditch the past participle form of the verb. These differences don’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Neither version is inferior to others. You shouldn’t get caught up in these differences. People from both versions usually understand what the others are saying. But it is wiser to be consistent and stick to just one form rather than mixing them up.

On a final note, As American culture is spreading in every corner of the world; American English is being infused with British English. While counties that were under British colonization still sticking with British English, it is hard to say how long the picture will remain the same. With the dominance of American culture, American English may outrun British English.

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2 thoughts on “Irregular Verbs in British Vs. American”

  1. There are plenty of differences between British and American English. It is specially confusing when it come to irregular verbs. Very informative blog!


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