Friday, May 7, 2010

Different Prepositions in British and American English

The many differences in the pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling of British and American English are well-known. However, the two dialects of English also exhibit a few differences in their use of prepositions. These differences only apply to a limited number of expressions.

In both British and American English, it is common to use the preposition "to" in a phrase such as "Monday to Friday." However, American English also allows the use of "through" as in "Monday through Friday." British English does not allow "through" in this context.

Americans play on a team, but Britons play in a team. In this case Americans use "on" while Britons use "in." In other situations, the situation is the opposite- Americans use "in" and Britons use "on." For example, Britons enroll on a course but Americans enroll in a course. Also, Americans say that the British Prime Minister lives on Downing Street but Britons say he lives in Downing Street.

In the case of the word "weekend", Americans say "on the weekend" but Britons says "at the weekend." Americans use the same preposition that is used with days as in "on Friday." Britons use the same preposition that is used in the phrase "at the end of the week."

The contrast between "on" and "at" is also true for telephone numbers. Americans phone at 521-2906 and Britons phone on 521-2906. Americans say, "You can reach me at this number" while Britons say, "You can reach me on this number." This difference is also true for polls. For example, Britons say, "She is on 30% in the polls and Americans "She is at 30% in the polls."

Another difference concerns the use of "to." Both Britons and Americans use "I'm writing a letter to Mark," but Americans can delete the preposition as in "I'm writing John." This is unacceptable in British English which only accepts "I'm writing to John." In British English, "I'm writing John" is only acceptable if it means that the person is actually writing the word "John." This can then be rewritten so that "John" is enclosed with quotation marks- "I'm writing 'John'."

Many of the differences between British and American English are familiar. However, differences in the use of prepositions are less so. The reason for this may be largely that these differences are only limited to a few prepositions.

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