British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
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This post continues exploring grammatical differences between BrE and AmE. Specifically, I would like to focus on nouns. There are two major points of interest in this respect: collective nouns and the use of articles.
First of all, let us deal with collective nouns. In English in general, collective nouns can take a verb in its singular or plural forms. For instance, we can say:
My family is out of town. – the emphasis is on the family as one body (it is possible to say “my whole family … “).
My family are all at table. – the emphasis is on the individual members (it is possible to say “my family members … “).
The difference between BrE and AmE lies in that BrE uses both singular and plural coordination on a frequent basis, whereas AmE is much likelier to use the singular form of a verb:
BrE: The committee were able to cope with the task very efficiently.
or The committee was able to cope with the task very efficiently.
AmE: The committee was* able to cope with the task very efficiently.
Interestingly, in the official setting, BrE always uses the term “the Government” with the plural form of a verb. This use helps to reflect the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet.
BrE usually chooses the plural form of a verb for nouns of multitude expressed by proper names while AmE usually chooses the singular form of a verb:
BrE: Spain (soccer team) are the champions this year.
AmE: Spain is the champions this year.
So far, we have discussed the grammatical differences between BrE and AmE pertinent to collective nouns. Another important group of differences is related to the use of articles before certain nouns. Such institutional nouns as hospital and university do not take any article in BrE (Creamer et al., 1996; ABBY Lingvo, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; OD, 2014),** but take the definite article in AmE (although AmE uses “in college” and “in school” which is similar to BrE):
BrE: Ann is a student now and she is at university all the time.
AmE: Ann is a student now and she is at the university all the time.
Furthermore, dates usually have “the” in BrE in the oral speech, while dates in AmE are pronounced without any article:
BrE: the twenty-second of January = January the twenty-second
AmE: January twenty-second = January twenty-two
BrE distinguishes between “in future” (from this time on) and “in the future” (at some time later), whereas AmE has the same form for both meanings: “in the future“. At the same time, AmE distinguishes between “in back of” (behind) and “in the back of” (in the rear part), but BrE does not recognize the former form and meaning. Notably, BrE requires the definite article in the following phrases, but AmE does not:
BrE: Could you tell me the time please?
AmE: Could you tell me time please?
BrE: Does Mary play the piano?
AmE: Does Mary play piano?
As it has been mentioned above, BrE and AmE nouns differ in two major ways: 1) the form of the verb required by collective nouns and 2) the articles taken by some nouns. However, there are two more features which distinguish these two language varieties: the way they form compound nouns and the suffixes they take. BrE frequently forms compound nouns with the help of the gerund (-ing) and AmE favours the bare infinitive:
BrE: dialing tone, racing car, rowing boat, skipping rope, etc.
AmE: dial tone, racecar, rowboat, jump rope, etc.
BrE: barber‘s shop, cookery book, skimmed milk
AmE: barbershop, cook book, skim milk (AmE tends to use clipped forms)
In summary, this post has focused on grammatical differences related to nouns in BrE and AmE. Collective nouns and the choice of articles as well as formation of compound nouns and suffix use have been shown to be the major grammatical differences. The following post is going to concentrate on grammatical differences between BrE and AmE in connection with prepositions.
See similar posts:
- British English – American English: Pronunciation
- British English – American English: Spelling
- British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
- British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
- British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Creamer, R.W., Dahmen, G.D., Davidson, M.B., Davies, R., Debakey, L., Deloria, V., Jr. et al.(Eds.) (1996). The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
*Bold type is used for AmE forms.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.