Different Englishes: The House

houseDifferent Englishes: The House is an essential entry for anyone planning to talk about the house with Brits or Americans, as some of the terms are completely different. Additionally, if ever you intend to rent or buy a place in an English-speaking country this can offer useful guidance for understanding what to look for.

Key: UK vs. US word

Block of flats vs. Apartment building

  • Although we have gradually adopted ‘apartment’ in the UK, the most common way to call a one floor building is a flat and when there are many we call them a block of flats. In the US this is referred to as an apartment building. These are particularly common in big cities.

 Council estate OR council housing vs. Housing project

  • An area where there is lots of social housing – housing subsidised by the government. This could also be called ‘the projects’ in the US.

Note: in the UK “the Council” simply means the local government.

 Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Agent OR Realtor

  • The person who finds you a house for a fee. Realtor is the commonly used term in the US, but this refers to the specific company they are from.

Show home vs. Model home

  • In a new housing development there is often a house that the estate agents furnish to look like a home for potential buyers to visit.

Note: In the UK we call it a show home because we show it to buyers, and in the US it’s a model home as it’s supposed to show how other houses in the development could potentially look.

 Ground floor vs. First floor

  • The bottom floor of a building (as long as not underground). In the UK the first floor is above the ground floor i.e. one floor off of the ground, whereas in the US this would be called the second floor, and so on.

Note: This one confuses even native speakers so it is worth remembering!

Cellar / Basement– the room underground a house. This is more commonly found in the US.

Loft / Attic– the room or storage space in the roof, above the top floor of a house. Usually you would use a ladder to reach this area of the house.

Garden / (back) yard – the outdoor area where plants are grown. Usually at the back of the house.

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Speak English Like an Australian: Common Australian Idioms

australiaIdioms are unique, fixed expressions that are natural for native speakers  but devilishly difficult to translate from one culture to another. In fact, in English many idioms are often unique to a country and following list of Common Australian Idioms should give you some insight into some of the most common idioms used Down Under.

To talk the legs off an iron pot
Someone who talks a lot or excessively.

  • My grandpa can talk the legs of an iron pot.

Note: ‘Talk the legs off an iron chair’ is also used and means that same thing.

To pull somone’s leg
To trick or to fool someone.

  • I don’t believe what you are saying. You’re pulling my leg!

Note: this is also a way of saying to someone that they are joking.

Piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.

  • That maths test was a piece of cake.

To spit the dummy
To throw a tantrum and lose one’s temper. Often accompanied with an outburst of anger. The phrase to ‘have a hissy fit’ is similar.

To feel under the weather
To say that someone is tired, weak, sick or unwell.

  • I am feeling under the weather. I cannot be bothered going to the gym to workout today.

To hit the nail on the head
To get something right or to do something very effectively and efficiently.

To speak of the devil
This phrase is said when someone appears just after you have been talking or speaking about the same person.

To hit the road
To leave, depart or to begin a journey.

  • We will be waking up early tomorrow, as we need to hit the road before sunrise.

Note: In Australia, it is common to say this as you depart on a journey, adventure or road trip.

Beat around the bush
When someone is talking and doesn’t get straight to the point.

  • Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want!

Note: The opposite expression is ‘to cut to the chase.’

Visit our Different Englishes page for extra practice!

Different Englishes: Baking  

bakingBesides pretty much having no idea how to work out each other’s measurements (Fahrenheit to centigrade, cups or ounces to milligrams) there is also a great deal of confusion over the difference between UK and US baked goods.

The two countries seem to have a similar style of baking and yet cannot agree on the terms. It’s as if someone was playing ‘match the word’ and they mixed them all up, because foods such as muffin and biscuit exist in both languages but mean completely different things. Fortunately for you, Different Englishes: Baking is here to help!

Key: UK vs. US word

Biscuit vs. Cookies

  • Biscuits and cookies are generally seen as the same thing described by different words. Simple, right? Wrong. Whilst this is true, in the UK we refer to American style biscuits as cookies – usually chocolate chip. In addition, a biscuit in America is a savoury food that looks like a scone (yes it gets more confusing) that can be eaten with gravy (meat sauce). Probably best to stick to it’s French origin and assume ‘a biscuit is an English cookie’.

Pancake vs Pancake

  • In the UK pancakes are made more like the French crepe, whereas in America they’re smaller and thicker and often sweeter. Brits refer to these as American Pancakes. They’re eaten in a similar way, with sweet toppings such as syrup or lemon and sugar, however in the UK they’re less likely to be eaten for breakfast.

Note: The UK has ‘pancake day’ on Shrove Tuesday, before lent, where it is tradition to eat pancakes for dinner. This is one of the culinary highlights of the year.

English muffin vs Muffin

  • An English muffin is known globally thanks to McDonald’s egg/bacon etc. McMuffins. Is it a heavy, savoury, bread-like food, whereas a regular muffin is a cake. A muffin is similar to a cupcake but larger and often contains chocolate or blueberries. This is actually the more popular style of muffin in the UK despite being the American version.

Note: A English Crumpet is often mistaken by Americans for an English muffin, much to the despair of the Brits. A crumpet is a savoury bread-like food with the consistency and appearance of a sponge. This sponge-like quality makes it the perfect vehicle for butter. They can be eaten for breakfast or Sunday tea, often with butter and jam. Whilst there is no real equivalent in America, it should not be confused with an English muffin or an American biscuit.

Fairy cake vs. Cupcake

  • Finally, a simple one! These are the same thing (give or take regional arguments) meaning that fairy cakes are the UK term for cupcakes.

Note: The word cupcake is now more widely used than fairy cakes due to the recent cupcake boom. Brits think of the cupcake as a more extravagant version of the fairy cake as they often come in exotic flavours with colourful icing/frosting.

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Different Englishes: Babies

babiesWhen it comes to babies it seems to be a whole different language. That is where Different Englishes: Babies comes in. While I mostly learnt the American English terms from watching the The Rugrats when I was little, the recent obsession with the Royal Family and Downton Abbey has turned things on their head. Here is your guide to “adult” baby language.

Key: UK vs. US word

onesieBaby Grow vs. Onesie

  • This is the all-in-one outfit that babies wear. A piece of clothing that covers them from head to toe and can include a hood to keep them cosy.

Note: unfortunately we have become very familiar with the US term ‘onesie’ in the UK as adult onesies have become more popular. Often themed like animals and worn by students or for being lazy at home, however some people have gone so far as to wear them to the supermarket, as you can imagine looking like overgrown babies.

snapbuttonPoppers vs. Snaps OR Buttons

  • The metal buttons that pop/snap together when pressed, and open by pulling them apart rather than undoing them like normal buttons.

 strollerBuggy OR Pushchair vs. Stroller

  • The vehicle that babies sit in to be pushed around from place to place – hence ‘pushchair’.

pramPram vs. Stroller

  • While the US term remains the same, however in the UK a pram refers to an old fashioned pushchair that the baby can lay in, rather than sit, to be pushed around. Used particularly for young babies.

cribCot vs. Crib

  • The bed, often wooden, that babies sleep in. It typically has a bed area with high sides all around so the baby cannot fall.

Note: In the US a cot is used to refer to a roll-away guest bed.

pacifierDummy vs. Pacifier

  • The plastic and rubber object that babies suck, often given to them by parents to stop them crying.

Milk teeth vs. Baby teeth

  • The teeth that babies grow before they lose them for their adult teeth.

diaperNappy vs. Diaper

  • The material or paper that is wrapped around a baby’s bottom/behind (another UK/US difference!) so that he or she can go to the toilet without making a mess.

 Whinge vs. Whine

  • The noises and words used when a baby or child complains about something.

Don’t forget, there is always more practice at our English Language Differences page.

Speak English Like an Australian: Australian Camping Vocabulary

campingCamping is a great way to explore the Australian outback, countryside and white sandy beaches. This entry on Australian Camping Vocabulary will give you a brief guide of the typical Aussie phrases and terms you might here along your camping adventures.

Slang phrase for a ‘long way away,’ a ‘very remote place,’ or the ‘middle of nowhere.’

  • I’m going for a drive out woopwoop.

A swag is a roll out canvas bed for sleeping. Generally they are made out of canvas and are water and insect proof.

Note: Nowadays, most people travel with swags rather than hike with a swag because modern day tents and sleeping bags are much lighter.

Slang term for a small aluminium boat. If you are camping in Australia, you may notice tinnies on the rooftops of 4WDs that are travelling around Australia. These small boats are used in rivers, dams and ocean, particularly for fishing.

Australian slang term for toilet. Usually a dunny refers to a toilet that is outdoors, but it can also refer to any type of toilet.

Note: When camping, you may use a ‘drop dunny,’ also called a ‘long drop,’ which is simply a toilet seat over a large hole in the ground- otherwise known as a pit toilet.

This is an Aussie slang term for mosquitos – avoid them if you can!

A metal pot used for cooking, boiling water or for brewing tea over a campfire.

Damper is a type of bread prepared with wheat based flour and water and cooked in the coals of an open campfire. It is also known as traditional bushmen’s bread. Many people still prepare and cook damper when camping in the outback.

Scroggin is a term used in Australia and New Zealand. It simply means trail mix: a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate pieces and others nibbles. Scroggin is a popular snack among hikers and bush walkers as it is high in energy.

Bush tucker
Refers to bush foods that are native to Australia and that are used by Indigenous Australians for food or for other purposes. This includes food from animals including kangaroos, emus, snakes etc., food from plants and seeds and insects including grubs.

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Speak English Like an Australian: Australian Transport Terms

transportationIn Australia there are different names (and slang references) for cars, car parts, road rules and other terms related to transportation. This entry on Australian Transport Terms is intended to give you a brief overview of some of these terms and if you are thinking of taking a road trip in Australia. If so, pay close attention!

Key: Oz vs. US word

Motorbike vs. Motorcycle
In Australia, both terms are used interchangeably while in the US motorcycle is much more common (and powerful).

Truckies vs. Truckers
The two countries use these terms to refers to a truck driver, particularly one who drives long distances transporting freight in a semi-trailer.

Ute vs. Pickup truck
Ute is an Australian term, historically used to describe a two-door vehicle with a cargo tray in the rear.

Note: Examples of Utes include Holdens and Fords

Caravan vs. Trailer/Recreational vehicle (RV)
In Australia, a caravan is towed behind a car. It is a vehicle equipped for living in with amenities that may include beds, a kitchen sink and a bathroom. They are used on vacations and are popular in Australia. RVs in the US are similar to caravans, but they are vehicles made for living in (not towed) and are usually bigger in size and contain more amenities.

Bonnet vs. Hood
Refers to the hinged cover on a motor vehicle, which covers the engine. Bonnet is used most often in Australia and it is referred to as a protective cap or cover over a machine.

Boot vs. Trunk
Refers to the storage compartment located in the back of most standard cars.

Windscreen wipers vs. Windshield wipers
Refers to the device used to remove rain and other liquid fragments from the windscreen of a vehicle.

Note: It goes without saying that the front window itself has a different name in the two countries!

Indicators vs. Blinkers / Turn signals
Both terms are used interchangeably in Australia. Refers to the amber colour signal lights at the rear, side and front of vehicle, depending on the type of automobile. They are used to show what direction the vehicle is going (e.g., turning left or right).

Overtake vs. Pass
Refers to the action of going around another car on a highway or freeway by speeding up to overtake them.

Prang vs. Car crash
Prang is a British term for a motor vehicle crash or accident. This term is also often used in Australia.

  • I will be late for lunch. There was a bad prang on the highway and the traffic is banked up.

Servo vs. Gas station/Service station

  • Servo is an Aussie slang term for service station or gas/petrol station. Many are accompanied with shops and fast food outlets, particularly on Australian freeways and highways.

Bowser vs. Gas pump

  • Bowser is an Australian slang term for a petrol pump.

Note: Some Australians also refer to petrol/gasoline as juice (slang)

Yewy vs. U-turn
Ywey (pronounced U-ee) is a slang term for U-turn; the action of turning around the car and going back in the opposite direction.

  • We are going the wrong way mate! Quick, do a yewy here!

Don’t forget, there is always more practice at our Different Englishes page!

Different Englishes: Vegetables

vegetablesAs anyone who has spent time in the both the US and the UK can tell you, the two countries have a unique gift for complicating even the simplest things. Food is no exception, and indeed, this has been the cause of many arguments (and no small amount of confusion) between Americans and Brits. Part of the problem stems from the UKs proximity to France and mainland Europe (they take a lot more words from the Continent than the US does) but worry not – Different Englishes: Vegetables is here to help!

Key: UK vs. US word

Courgette vs. Zucchini

  • This is the green vegetable that looks like a cucumber but is generally eaten cooked (it is, for example, delicious when steamed with butter).

Note: With the English term taken from French and the American from Italian this one can baffle even native speakers!

Aubergine vs. Eggplant

  • No matter the name, this is the big purple vegetable with a soft skin that is often fried (as in eggplant parmesan).

Note: Even the most patriotic American will admit that a purple eggplant looks nothing like an egg but its name comes from the fact that the original variety of this vegetable was white/yellow in colour and therefore appeared more like an egg than it does now.

Rocket vs. Arugula

  • A green, jagged leaf that is considered a popular leafy green, no matter the name this vegetable is included in many salads and is quite popular in Italian cooking.

Swede vs. Rutabaga

  • Less common in the UK than in the US, this root vegetable is similar to a turnip but is orange in colour and worth knowing because of the dramatic differences in names.

Pepper vs. Bell pepper

  • Don’t let the pepper fool you. No matter the continent this is the hollow vegetable that comes in red, orange, yellow, or green and can be eaten cooked or raw.

Sweetcorn vs. Corn

  • Although the connection here is obvious, when talking about the yellow vegetable from the maize plant it is worth nothing that the “sweet’ is dropped in the US.

Note: “corn on the cob” refers to the fresh corn you eat straight from the hard central body.

Coriander vs. Cilantro

  • While this is not technically a vegetable, the fact that this spice is often used in Indian and Mexican cooking and that many people have a love or hate relationship with it means that you should be very careful when you order.

Note: Cilantro is taken from Spanish.

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Speak English Like an Australian: Vital Australian Slang

australiaIf you are headed Down Under there are a few expression you must know before you go so we are dedicating this entry in our Speak English Like an Australian series to the most vital Australian slang.


Mate is an informal word for friend and it is common to hear ‘G’day mate’ in Australia. This expression is seen as being friendly and represents equality. Men particularly use the word ‘mate’ amongst male friends or when passing another male on the street and casually acknowledging them. Women hardly ever say mate, but they may say it to their male counterparts.

The term mate also can mean dude, man or buddy.


A: What are you doing tomorrow? Want to go to the skate park?

B: Yeah sure, mate. See ya then.

Note: Don’t say ‘G’day Mate’ to a woman. Ever.

Fair dinkum

The term ‘fair dinkum’ can be used in a few different ways depending on the context of the conversation.

  1. Fair dinkum means true or genuine
    A: Peter is a fair dinkum guy. He’ll help you out.
  2. Fair dinkum is also used to assess whether someone is being genuine or not.
    A: I saw a shark down at Rainbow beach this morning!
    B: Are you fair dinkum?
  3. Fair dinkum can also be used to express surprise or question something someone is telling you.
    A: I sold my house and quit my job. I’m moving up north!
    B: Fair dinkum!?

Note: In this example, fair dinkum means: ‘Are you for real?’ or ‘are you serious?’

How ya goin’? 

This literally means ‘How are you?’ Australians are known for shortening their words and abbreviating everything and this is a perfect example. In this case, ‘ya’ is said instead of you and ‘goin’ is used instead of saying going. This expression also has nothing to do with going somewhere.

Alternatively, you may also hear the expression ‘How are you doing’? or ‘How’s life’?

If you want a little more practice before your trip be sure to visit our mainpage!

Different Englishes: The Education System

uk v us

While there are not as many differences between UK and US words relating to education as there are in other areas of the language, there are a few significant ones. Fortunately, this entry on Different Englishes: The Education System is here to help if ever you want to study in either of the two English speaking countries – or just want to understand the difference in references between Harry Potter and Mean Girls!

Key: UK vs. US word

Primary School vs. Elementary School

  • While both refer to the first school a child attends (starting around age 5), it would be very unusual to say primary school in the US or vice versa!

Note: In the US, Preschool (age 4-5) and Kindergarten (age 5-6) refer to the transitional years when a first child first starts attending school. In contrast, in the UK, these years are included under the general term primary school.

Secondary School vs. High School

  • Another big difference. While both refer to the school attended before college/university (more on that later), in the UK secondary school is the school you go to from age 15-18. In contrast, students in the US typically go to middle school from ages 11-14 first.

Sats (test) vs. SAT (test)

  • These may look the same – and in fact they both refer to the standardised test taken by students across the country prior to entering college/university – but in the US they say the individual letters S.A.T and in England people say ‘sats’ as a word. A little difference that makes a big difference!

Uni/University vs. College

  • Both refer to a school for higher education which students attend after finishing high / secondary school but the term “college” is the chosen term in North America.

Term vs. Semester

  • A portion of the academic year. In the UK a term is divided three ways (e.g., September – Christmas, January – Easter, May – Summer holidays/vacation) while in the US a semester is just two.

Finally, here a few school subjects that are referred to differently. Although a lot of these are simple distinctions, you might not be understood if you say the wrong one in the wrong country!

UK                                            US

Maths                                      Math

P.E. (Physical Education)      Gym

Politics (Political Science)     Poli Sci (Political Science)

As always, be sure to check out Different Englishes mainpage for more examples!

Different Englishes with Clothes

sneakersThought you had English down? That you were pretty fluent and could combat just about any conversation? Think again. There are different names (and different meanings for the same names!) between even the most commonplace items in the UK and the US. With this in mind we present you with Different Englishes with Clothes.

Key: UK vs. US word

Trainers vs. Sneakers

  • Trainers in the UK but Sneakers in the US, but in either case they both refer to exactly the same thing: the shoes you wear when you play sport (e.g. Nike, Adidas, etc.).

Wellington Boots (Wellies) vs. Rubber/Rain boots

  • Wellies and Rain boots are different names used to refer to the long rubber boots that you wear to splash around in puddles or keep the mud off you when walking the dog in the countryside. The US name is pretty descriptive while the UK term is derived from a popular English brand but this is one difference worth knowing: as you’ve probably heard, it rains a lot in the UK.

… and it only gets more complicated from there! For example:

Handbag. vs. Purse

  • This is a longstanding cause for confusion, as Americans call a bag that a woman carries on her shoulder a purse, while in the UK it’s a handbag. However, a purse in the UK is a small wallet that you put money in; for them a purse is carried inside the handbag!

Jumper vs. Sweater

  • Both of these refer to the warm item of clothing that you put on over your top. Although it’s a sweater in North America and Jumper in the UK, they are nevertheless made of the same material: wool or polyester.

Pants vs. Trousers (vs. Underwear!)

  • Okay, this one is big. In the US, the item you wear on your legs that aren’t jeans are called pants (or dockers or slacks, but I digress) while the same item is called trousers in the UK. While that may sound simple, the same word – pants – is used in the UK to refer to underwear.

Note: when this mistake it made it can be very funny! I remember someone telling me that their friend was wearing white pants and wondering “why would she know the colour of his pants?”. This is perhaps the most important difference to learn as far as clothing is concerned, so consider your audience when you pick your term.

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