“Not long after the American Declaration of Independence, Noah Webster had reasons to believe that British and American English would in the long run drift apart: ‘several circumstances render a future separation of the American tongue from the English, necessary and unavoidable’ (Webster 1789: 22). These expectations havenot been confirmed, and there are at present no signs that this will happen even in the distant future. ”(G. Rohdenburg, J Schluter, One Language, Two Grammars?:01).
Although we talk about the same language, English, we notice that it is slowly evolving into two different languages, with two different grammars. On one hand the grammar of British English, which tends to be more conservativeand less open to accepting new rules or to changing the old ones, and on the other hand the grammar of American English, which, on the contrary, is tolerable concerning changes, yet exceptions may always occur. In order to underline the differences between British and American English grammar, we will talk mainly about the verb, especially the irregular verbs and the way in which the verbal tensesand the moods are used in both languages.
Regarding irregular verbs, unlike British English, American English is an amazing mixture of innovative and conservative tendencies. We noticed that in the cases in which the past tense, as well as the past participle, ends with a -t, the final -t disappears and an –ed form is added, yet this occurs only in American English, in British Englishverbs keep their irregular form. For instance, if in British English we have the forms bust-bust-bust, kneel-knelt-knelt, leap-leapt-leapt, in American English we have bust-busted-busted, kneel-kneeled-kneeled, leap-leaped-leaped. This tendency of regularization of irregular past tense and past participle can also be noticed in verbs like: burn-burned, lean-leaned, or spell-spelled.Rohdenburg and Schluter stated in their book “One Language, Two Grammars?” that regular verb forms were frequently used in British English before they started spreading in American English; obviously the number of irregular forms in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, was considerably smaller than the number of regular forms. “In the second half of thetwentieth century, irregular verb forms gain ground again in British English. It may well be the case that the currently more conservative nature of British English with respect to this variable has to be attributed to an avoidance strategy treating the regular forms as a morphological Americanism. American English initially lagged behind British English in this ongoing trend towards regularizationof irregular verb forms; from the second half of the nineteenth century, however, it has been clearly in the vanguard of change.” (G. Rohdenburg, J Schluter, One Language, Two Grammars?:25)
As we can see from the table below, in the eighteenth century American authors had a tendency to use the irregular form more often that the regular form, while, on the other hand, British authors usedless irregular forms, displaying a visible preference for the regular ones. However, in the nineteenth century, preferences change, as we now notice a decrease in the usage of irregular forms regarding American writers, while British writers become more interested in irregular forms.
It is also worth talking about the past participle of the verbs “get”, which is “got” in BritishEnglish and also “gotten” in American English; and “prove” which is regular in British English while the American English uses the form “proven”. Firstly we will discuss about the form “got/gotten”. While some people claim that the form “gotten” is somehow an inheritance from the old British language, in other words a colonial lag, as in the spontaneous spoken conversations some instances of...