Like any language, English words and phrases are adapted and change over time in different regions and cultures. For example, although Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and the US are all made up of populations that mainly speaks English, each area has varying ways of greeting one another, and different words and phrases will have different meanings.
Why learn British expressions?
When you are learning a new language, you will usually begin with the basics rather than focusing on informal slang or words and phrases that are location or culturally specific. This means you might struggle to understand British people you meet in your day-to-day, even if you are beginning to get to grips with the language!
In the UK, slang is a common part of most people’s vocabulary and learning some common British expressions will help you understand others in conversation more easily and also communicate your own needs more easily.
How can I learn British expressions?
The key to learning British English is exposure, which means reading and hearing the language as often as possible to familiarise yourself with different words and phrases.
Although your standard English classes may not focus on British slang, there are plenty of other resources you can use to gain an understanding of common words and phrases.
The best way is to get out there into the city and talk with people directly! If you haven’t made many British friends yet, or you are nervous starting up conversation, you will still be able to pick up words and phrases while walking around the city, ordering a coffee or sitting in a restaurant and hearing people talk around you.
British expressions VS American expressions
As we have mentioned, popular English phrases will differ depending on location and culture and they can change and adapt over time too.
Perhaps most famously, there are several differences between English in the United Kingdom and English in the United States.
If you’re using films, books, and online resources to help improve your English, you will probably come across a mix of UK-English and US-English study materials. However, it can be useful to learn which words are specific to each country to avoid any confusion.
Below are some common words and phrases used in both the UK and the US.
Top 10 British expressions
- ‘Fancy a cuppa?’ – Would you like a cup of tea?
- ‘Alright?’ – How’s it going?
- ‘I’m gutted!’ – I’m disappointed
- ‘It’s mental’ – It’s crazy
- ‘He’s in a mood’ – He’s in a bad mood
- ‘I’m pulling your leg’ – I’m just joking with you
- ‘That’s rubbish’ – That’s not good
- ‘I’m chuffed!’ – I’m happy
- ‘It’s half-past four’ – It’s 4:30
- ‘What are you going on about? – What are you talking about?
Top 10 American Expressions
- ‘What’s up?’ – How‘s it going?
- ‘Awesome’ – Great
- ‘Hey dude’ – Hey bro/man
- ‘It’s a piece of cake’ – It’s easy
- ‘Break a leg! – Good luck
- ‘I don’t buy it’ – I don’t believe it
- ‘To plead the 5th’ – To use the right to remain silent
- ‘That’s a bummer!’ – That’s a shame/that’s disappointing
- ‘Are you for real?’ – Are you being serious?
- ‘For sure’ - Definitely
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it important to learn British expressions?
Yes – it is important to learn British English so you can integrate more easily into British culture and communicate better with others.
- What are common British expressions?
We have listed a few common phrases above. However, these will vary dependent on region, age group and the social setting you find yourself in. Some expressions will be appropriate to use in an informal gathering with friends, but could be deemed inappropriate in a job interview or work environment. You can learn more about when to use certain phrases by asking native British speakers or watching films and researching online.
- Are American and British expressions the same?
No – there are many English words and phrases that are region-specific. There are lots of online resources such as blogs and YouTube videos which will provide you with examples of different phrases for each region. YouTube videos are a good option as you can hear the phrases being used in conversation and make sure your pronunciation is correct.
- Are British expressions easy to learn?
Yes – if you practise often enough, you will easily pick up British phrases just like any other part of learning a language. Luckily, if you are living in the UK this process will come even more naturally as you will be surrounded by others using these phrases in your day to day.