Miscellaneous Grammatical Differences
Learn the differences in noun-verb agreement, verb auxiliaries and complementation in American and British variants of the English language.
Miscellaneous Grammatical Differences

Verb agreement with collective nouns

Collective nouns are nouns that refer to a certain group of people, for example, committee, team, family, government, police, etc.

In British English such nouns can be followed by the verbs both in singular and in plural depending on how the noun is viewed: as one whole idea, or as a collective noun for a group of individual items/people. For example,

My family is on vacations.
My friend’s family are all very religious.

In American English, however, a collective noun usually takes a singular verb, such as in the sentence:

miscellaneousThe police in the area checks the streets every 2 hours.

Whereas in British English this sentence would sound

The police in the area check the streets every 2 hours.

Verbal auxiliaries

The differences in auxiliary verbs touch upon several aspects.

• In the usage of shall vs. will, there is a tendency to substitute shall with will for all the persons even in British English today. However, sometimes I shall and we shall is still used in British English, while in American English will is always used for all the persons.
• In reply to a question, do can often substitute the verb in British English, but not in American English:
- Are you coming with us?
- I might do (BrE).      - I might (AmE).
• In BrE needn’t can often be used as a substitute to don’t need to (We needn’t go to school today and We don’t need to go to school today). In AmE don’t need to is the only usual form (We don’t need to go to school today).
• Be going to in relation to the future is used much more frequently in American English than in British English.


In American English the verbs prevent and stop are used in the construction “prevent/stop someone from doing something”.

In British English there is another possible construction for the usage of these words, namely, “prevent/stop someone doing something”.

The use of the verbs have and take

In British English in such collocations as to have a bath, have a nap, have a quick shower, in which the verb itself doesn’t have meaning but is used with a  noun denoting some action, have is common.

In American English, on the contrary, take is used: to take a bath, take a nap, take a quick shower, etc.

Be aware of such differences when doing a grammar assignment of the TOEFL test.