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Language tip of the week: programme

Learn English with Macmillan DictionaryIn this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, usage, etc.

This week’s language tip helps with the differences in how people use the words programme and program in American and British English.

In the UK, a programme is usually a set of plans to develop or improve something. If this is arranged by the government, British speakers might call it a scheme: the government’s new grant scheme.
In the US, program can have the same general meaning, but it is also often used to refer to a group of related services or projects organized by a government or a non-governmental organization: the Food Stamp Program.
In the US, program can also mean a plan of activities organized by an educational institution: the Asian Studies program.
When an American speaker says scheme, they usually mean a plan to do something bad or illegal: a scheme to import illegal foreign goods.
The word for a series of instructions that make a computer do something is spelled program in both British and American English.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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