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Difference Between -er and -or

-er vs -or

This article deals with the differences in usage between the suffixes “-er” and “-or” in the English language. “-er” and “-or” are used in both American English as well as in British English. The frequency and acceptability of the words formed by using these suffixes in America and in Britain are different. The dialect difference and the difference in spellings are responsible for the different usages. Let’s take a look at the differences in spelling between American English and British English where “-er” and “-or” are used.

The Differences in American English and British English spellings
American English and British English spellings are different. The Americans deliberately changed their spellings to make their identity separate from the British after independence, and one of the ways of doing that was bringing in changes in the way they spelled their words. Thus, it has been seen that there are many words spelled in America which end with an “-er,” and the same word meaning the same thing ends with an “-or” in British English. For example, “adviser” and “advisor.” Both words mean the same, but in American English it is spelled as “adviser” and in British English spelled “advisor.”

The difference in spellings is not just between American and British English. There are many usages where the variation lies amongst the same country. Sometimes both spellings are acceptable, but some people use the “-er” suffix more, and some like to use “-or” more. For example, simple research shows that the tendency of professors of Northeastern universities of America to use the prefix “-or” was stronger than their counterparts on the West coast. Similarly, the preference given to the use of “-er” was the strongest in the Scottish universities.

Agentive Suffixes
Agentive suffixes are those suffixes which when added to a word turn the verbs into words which are nouns like, “someone” “who + verb.” For example, someone who gives advice is an advisor. “Advise” is a verb here. However, when the suffix “-or” is added, it becomes a noun “advisor.”

The suffixes “-er” and “-or” are both agentive suffixes. It has been seen that an “-or” suffix is mainly seen in the words which have been derived from the Latin language. The Latin words which end in “-ate,” have been seen to take the suffix” “-or” almost always. For example, the word “dictator” does not have a variation.

The suffix “-er” is used at the end of almost any verb which involves the usage of an agent or a “doer” of some action. For example, “preach” is a verb, and it can be converted into “preacher” which is a noun by the addition of the suffix “-er.”
Summary:

1.The suffixes “-er” and “-or” are preferred in words differently by American English and by British English. The variation in spellings is present amongst different regions of the same country also.
2.The suffixes “-er” and “-or” are agentive suffixes, and “-er” is used with almost any agentive verb which is converted into a noun. The “-or” suffix has been seen to be used mostly with Latin words which end with “-ate.”


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