In most cases Americans and Britons have the same words for speaking about food. A steak is a steak, apples are apples, and potatoes are potatoes. Most of the time it doesn’t matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on – you’ll be understood when you order your food and buy your groceries.
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But watch out – sometimes there are differences. Let’s look at the most common.
Sweets vs. candy
We in the UK say sweets but the Americans call it candy. It’s also worth noting that sweet is a countable noun (plural sweets), while candy is both countable and uncountable.
Chips vs. French fries
Chips is British English, French fries American. If you ask for chips in the US, you’ll get what we call crisps in Britain! Confusing, eh?
British people often use the word fries, too because fast food chains in the UK such as McDonald’s and Burger King advertise the product as fries, not as chips.
(above) ‘Crisps’ in Britain, (below) ‘chips’ in the United States.
Biscuits vs. cookies
A biscuit is British, a cookie American.
Aubergine vs. eggplant
Like much food terminology in Britain, the word aubergine was borrowed from French. The Americans say eggplant, which sounds funny to British people. Just to add to the confusion, it’s also known as brinjal.
Courgette vs. zucchini
Once again, there’s a difference. The British say courgette (from French). The Americans say zucchini (watch out for the spelling!), which you’ll also hear in Australia and New Zealand.
Want to test yourself on some other differences between British and American English? Try this quiz: British vs. American English: different words quiz
By Stuart Cook
Stuart is an English teacher and runs the les-grizzlys-catalans.org website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 25 years. ⎜Contact Stuart
Richard MacDonald - February 7, 2014, 2:50 pm Reply
Good post but I would make one minor alteration: Chips (thick cuts of deep fried poatao) in Britain are quite different from fries (thin cuts of deep fried potato). Although sometimes fries will get called chips, chips would never get called fries.
William R. Cousert - September 19, 2014, 8:36 am Reply
How do chips compare with wedge cut or mojo potatoes?
Menny - July 2, 2016, 12:29 pm Reply
And a biscuit in America is a bun made with milk! Wtf?And chips is all over the world only in America people call them french fries, sad to hear people in uk are losing their english culture for American rubbish.
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