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Australian English vs. American English vs. British English

When you’re learning English in a classroom, online or offline, it’s easy to forget that there’s not just one universal English. Even for native speakers, these different “Englishes” can be really confusing!

Australian English vs. American English vs. British English
Australian English vs. American English vs. British English

Take Australian English, for example. I’m originally from the United States and I moved to Australia over seven years ago. I remember when went to the drugstore for the first time to buy some shampoo. Well, first of all, when I checked Google Maps for “Drugstores”, there were no results. That’s when I found out that in Australia, they’re called chemists or pharmacies. So I found the nearest one, picked out my shampoo and took it to the register. The girl working there asked me about my day … or at least I thought she did! Even though we both spoke English, after being in Australia for only a day I couldn’t understand her accent or some of the words she was using!

Like a lot of native English speakers, I expected the differences between our versions of English to be small and easy to ignore, but it’s important for us — and for students — to remember that these differences can be challenging (and fun)!


The most obvious difference between Australian English, American English, and British English is in the accents or pronunciation. This difference is especially noticeable in vowel sounds. Check out Korean Billy’s excellent YouTube videos for great explanations (and demonstrations!) of the different accents.

The letter can also be very tricky! American English is famous for its clear /r/ sounds, whereas British or Australian English lose the /r/ sound if it’s at the end of a word or syllable. For example, the word “smarter” is pronounced /smɑrtər/ in American English, but /smɑːtə/ in British and Australian English.

In addition to the pronunciation of words, the intonation (the pitch of your voice) can be very different in different countries. For example, if a person asks a yes/no question in American English, their voice goes up at the end. But if a person asks that question in Australian English or British English, their voice would go down!

Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Pronunciation
Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Intonation

And it gets even more confusing when you remember that in each country, there are many different accents! There’s not just one “Australian English” pronunciation, there are several! For example, a person from Melbourne will sound slightly different to one from Cairns.

Vocabulary (especially slang)

Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Vocabulary

The next difference you’ll probably notice is in vocabulary. Lots of everyday words are different in different English-speaking countries, like candy (USA), sweets (UK) and lollies (AU).

There are also huge differences in slang! Casual words like “sanga” may be perfectly clear in Australia, but no one in the USA would know that they’re talking about a sandwich! Check out these fun resources for more interesting slang differences:

Australian words that mean something different in the US
British words that mean something different in the US


Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling
Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling

Spelling is the next major difference between these different varieties of English. The good news is that here, there are only two spelling systems, not three! The UK and Australia share the same spelling, while the United States decided to create their own spelling system. (We’ve always been a little rebellious…) Here are some examples:

Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling Table 1
Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling Table 1


Probably the least noticeable difference between American English, Australian English and British English is grammar. There are only a few small examples, like collective nouns or past tenses.

Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling Table 1
Australian English vs. American English vs. British English Spelling Table 1

One other difference is the use of the Present Perfect (for example, I have eaten dinner already). This is much more common in Australian English and British English. In the United States, people will use the past simple more often — they would say, “I ate dinner already.”


Sometimes the differences between Australian English, American English and British English can be frustrating and difficult. But you should remember that overall, these three varieties of English are more similar than different, and the little differences are what give a language its unique “flavor”!

Written by: Lucy

All Comments 39
  • Very interesting. I’m Canadian, and we in Canada have a spelling system that’s sort of in between Britain’s and the United States’. For instance, we’ll write “organized labour” rather than “organized labor” (US spelling) or “organised labour” (British or Australian, for that matter) – as far as I know, there’s no jurisdiction where they would write “organised labor.” The fact is that even though we’re a Commonwealth country – our coins have the Queen on them, for example – we’ve become very Americanized due to our proximity to the US. So that makes us probably the least “Anglo” of all the Commonwealth nations, including Australia.

    • gregory brandy says:

      like wise in the Caribbean, we switch between spellings and there are no penalties for it, i was surprised when i researched and was told that one should stick to either language form when writing. very informative article though now i have to readjust and train myself over (im 17, in college so you might figure. lol)

  • I’m English and need to say that not all English accents lose the hard “rr” sound. It depends where they live. West Country accents, such as Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset all have the hard “rr” sound. Many of them also pronounce their “T” like a lot of Americans, almost like an “L” sound. For example, if they are saying “See you later”, for someone from where I live in Devon, they pronounce it, “See you layl’rrr”, almost dropping the “e” after the “l” sounding “t” but then they say a strong “r” sound. There is a place in Devon called Exeter, which is how I pronounce is, as I’m not originally from this area, but someone from Devon will usually pronounce it “Exel’rrr”, again tending to drop the third “e” and pronouncing an “L” sounding “T” and hard “rrr” sound. The Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America from Plymouth where a lot of them were from and that’s partly how American’s got the hard “r” in their accents and the almost “L” sound in their “T”. For instance someone from Devon would usually pronounce ghetto as ghello.

    Some Nort West English, such as Lancashire sometimes have the “rr” sound, though a totally different accent to South West Country Devon, etc, accents.
    I’m half Irish but am English born with a London, almost Cockney accent. I don’t pronounce the hard “r” and I quite often drop the “t” as in ghetto becomes “ghe-o” (say gheh and and o together quickly then you have it).
    There are a lot of similarities between some Australian accents and some London accents. I’ve had people asking me in the past if I’m Australian because of some of my vowel sounds are similar.

    With regards to forgot/forgotten, I personally say either, “I forgot about it” or “I had forgotten about it”, not “I had forgot about it”.

    • Leonie Cent says:

      Hi K ! When you say that sometimes the /t/ sound becomes more like an /l/ sound, I kinda get that, although it’s the first time I’ve heard of it being that way. Also, would you say that the /t/ sound also becomes kinda like a soft /d/ sound ? /l/ and /d/ could sound very similar, when you’re using it in the example you gave i.e. layl’rrr. Thanks 👍

    • Charles Russell says:

      I’m American (age 66) and i can’t imagine pronouncing “later” as “layl’rr”. A “t” like the one in Exeter is quite often slurred into the “d” sound here, if not pronounced as a “t”. Almost all of us use the rhotic “R” everywhere.

    • Me being German and having friends who are British, as well as friends in the USA made me always take care to cater to their individual speling rules, which at times is tedious.

      You writing that Canadian is a mixture between Brititsh and US English, made me install the Canadian English language pack as a compromise now, and I will let my friends know that they have to tolerate the Canadian compromise.

  • watching a tv show made in AU I noticed they shorten many words like mosquito to mozzie (sp?)
    generator to genny, presents to prezzies. Is that a correct observation? I’m from US, love to hear different accents!!

    • David J. Hamilton says:

      I’m an Australian, and as such, am proud of my heritage, and proud indeed also of a good education from “Villa Maria” school at Hunter’s Hill, NSW, run by the Marist Brothers. My question in regard to American English, is why do all Americans pronounce the word *process* , sounding as though there is an *S* before the letter C. They will of course write it correctly with no letter S, so while I realise that some words will be spelt differently, where they’ll use the letter Z instead of S, I admit to being somewhat peeved to hear them pronounce the word *process* like they do. The word pros-ti-tute is an example, whereby the first syllable, *pros* , will be the exact sound, as when you hear them say process. But then, when they say the words, protester, professional, promote, prohibit, profound, prolapse, and programme, they’ll pronounce those the same as we do. So, if there is an American out there who can fully explain as to why you were taught to pronounce the word *process* the way you do, then I’d be truly grateful. Thank you in advance, cheers…

      • Charles Russell says:

        I’m American, and I can’t understand what you mean. Since the c in “process” is pronounced like an “s” anyway, how would you hear an “s” pronounced just before the “c”? Do you pronounce the word “prokess”?

  • DaveInAlabama says:

    Not all American accents have a hard R at the end of a word. I left the USA to live in Australia from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I talked like a Kennedy! Aussies would always look puzzled when I talked, as they understood I spoke like an American and something completely different–dropping R’s as they do. I’d constantly be asked where I was from. I’ve been living in Alabama for almost 30 years now, so my Massachusetts accent is mostly gone, but sometimes a word is so strong… I’ll still drop the R, or put one on the end, like JFK’s Cuber for Cuba.

  • Correction sorry: We Australians really would never say ‘I’d forgot’. We would most likely say ‘I forgot’, ‘I forgot that’, or ‘I’d forgotten about that’.

  • There are certainly many USA accents. I was raised in the USA Upper Midwest, and
    even there there are subdivisions. The most obvious is the accent that was parodied
    so well in the movie “Fargo.” There is a definite Scandinavian and German influence
    on English spoken there, and the accent is strongly rhotic (r’s are pronounced).
    English, at least in the USA is also slowly evolving, and there is the current
    “Great Vowel Shift” going on in the eastern half of the USA.

  • This is really interesting. I am not a native speaker but now living in Melbourne. I love Australian accents and even signed up an online Australian English course to help me know more about Aussie English.

    My 7-year-old son is now studying in Australia and obviously, he is learning and speaking Australian English. But I am a grown-up who has been taught American English since school. That being said, American pronunciation and spelling system is what I am familiar with. So the situation is my son and I have been coming across the difference in the pronunciation and spelling when I am talking to him and teach him school work. My question is since I’m living in Australia and my little son is studying here, should I try to only use Australian English? Any suggestions?

    • Hi Rita,

      Thanks for your comment. This is a tricky one and ultimately the decision is up to you! I wouldn’t say that you have to change your accent but when it comes to spelling, you may like to encourage your son to spell in Australian English otherwise, his teacher’s may mark him as incorrect. This could lead to confusion if he has been taught a different way by you. His friends will also speak in Australian English which may lead to him naturally tending towards Australian English without you needing to change your accent.

      Best wishes,
      Maree from your E2 team

  • What about the word “The”? Example: He was taken to hospital (Australian & British) vs He was taken to the hospital. (American).

    Why do the Aussies and Brits drop the word “The”?

    • E2Language Team says:

      Hi B, thanks for your comment! Yes, this does seem confusing! This is because in British English,’the’ refers to a specific example. So if you are talking about a specific hospital, you would say ‘he was taken to the hospital,’ however if talking about hospital in general, you would say ‘he was taken to hospital.’

      Best wishes,
      Maree from your E2 team.

  • Hello everyone. I’ve always wondered about the difference in intonation between A.E and B.E. Can someone give me the answer. Thank you.

  • Australia does not fully use British spelling. It’s analog, not analogue, program, not programme, fetus, not foetus, and I could go on

  • Used to work in a mine in Nevada, USA. Our workers were from Australia, US, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa. We all spoke English but with a difference. After a bit you adapted a bit in your own speech.

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