Member only
Episode
25

What's The Difference Between Great Britain and The United Kingdom?

Feb 11, 2020
Geography
-
18
minutes
UK politics
England
Life in the UK

Confused about the difference between Great Britain and The United Kingdom, and always wondered when to call someone British instead of English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish?

Let's clear it up, and explain how we got to this, admittedly, pretty complicated situation.

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login
Subtitles will start when you press 'play'
You need to subscribe for the full subtitles
Already a member? Login
Download transcript & key vocabulary pdf
Download transcript & key vocabulary pdfDownload transcript & key vocabulary pdfDownload transcript only available after your trial

Transcript

[00:00:05] Hello hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:13] I'm actually recording this podcast on February the first. 

[00:00:18] Why am I telling you this at the start of the show? 

[00:00:21] Well, because the UK technically left the European Union at midnight on January the 31st, yesterday, and that might prove to be a very relevant thing for what we are going to be talking about today. 

[00:00:38] In today's podcast, we are going to talk about the difference between the UK, Great Britain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the British Isles.

[00:00:59] Now, you might be sort of aware of this already, but I guess for you this is probably a point of confusion and me just listing out all of the countries just now probably hasn't made life any easier and you aren't any clearer on the difference.

[00:01:19] If I asked you now, what's the difference between the UK and Great Britain, would you be able to tell me? 

[00:01:29] It's certainly something that lots of people in the UK are confused about, and if you were to stop someone on the side of the street in London, Manchester, or Liverpool, I would imagine the majority of people wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what the difference was.

[00:01:50] So the difference between the UK and Great Britain is a bit of a tricky one. I'll explain exactly why and what the difference is in the little bit. 

[00:02:00] An easier one is the difference between England and Great Britain, or Scotland and the UK. I imagine that you might know this already or maybe you don't.

[00:02:13] Believe it or not, it's not just native speakers who don't know there's a difference. It's something that lots of Americans frequently get wrong using Britain and England interchangeably

[00:02:29] Now, of course, I shouldn't generalise about Americans and obviously there are many, many who don't fit this, but it is a little bit of a theme, a bit of a stereotype.

[00:02:41] So today let's clear things up and explain how there are four different countries and sometimes even five different countries that people put together as one, so if you weren't 100% sure on the difference, by the end of this podcast, you'll know exactly what the difference is, how this happened, and we'll take a minute just to think about how long this explanation may stay relevant for in light of the UKs decision to leave the European Union.

[00:03:19] So let's start by explaining exactly what the differences are and then I'll explain how we got to this admittedly pretty confusing situation. 

[00:03:30] The UK and Great Britain are often used as synonyms, people use them interchangeably, assuming that they mean the same thing. 

[00:03:42] But this isn't actually correct. 

[00:03:45] They are two different things. 

[00:03:48] A useful thing to do here is to pull up a map of Britain on your phone, or if you don't need to do that, just picture, just imagine the British Isles, the collection of islands to the North of France that form England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

[00:04:07] Of the two larger islands, Great Britain is actually just the big one on the right, and it's not technically a country, it's an island. 

[00:04:19] So Island with an I S not Ireland as in I. R. E L. A. N. D.

[00:04:27] Great Britain isn't actually a country. 

[00:04:30] The country, the sovereign state is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which includes Northern Ireland, so that's the six counties to the north of the Republic of Ireland. 

[00:04:46] So the country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is formed of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which are all themselves countries. 

[00:05:04] Huh? 

[00:05:05] I wouldn't blame you for being a little bit confused. 

[00:05:09] You can't normally have a country within another country, so how does this work? 

[00:05:16] Well, the way to think of it is probably something similar to how different states work in the United States of America. There are some different laws that apply. 

[00:05:30] Scotland and Wales, for example, have their own parliament and have power over things like health and education, but they ultimately fall under control of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is normally shortened to the UK.

[00:05:51] So how did this all come about? 

[00:05:54] Well, the British Isles by which I'm referring here to Great Britain and Ireland, they've got a pretty long and complicated history, as you may know. 

[00:06:08] To summarise, the creation of what we now know as the UK came to be after a series of key events. 

[00:06:19] Firstly, in the year 925 AD the Kingdom of England was formed after the unification, the union, of Anglo Saxon tribes, so that's the group of people who had lived in Britain since the fifth century. 

[00:06:39] They united and formed England as its own kingdom. 

[00:06:44] Then in 1536 after the Kingdom of England had been in existence for 600 years, more or less, England decided to expand its kingdom and King Henry the Eighth, you might remember him as the King who was quite keen, who quite liked removing his wives heads from their bodies, he effectively made England and Wales the same country, governed by the same laws. 

[00:07:14] So that was one country, the Kingdom of England and Wales. 

[00:07:19] At least from the point of view of what we're talking about today there weren't any major changes until 1707 when the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed after the Kingdom of England and Wales joined the Kingdom of Scotland. 

[00:07:39] Then just under a hundred years later, in 1801, Ireland joined the union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. 

[00:07:51] So this made both of the big islands, so island, not Ireland, one united country. 

[00:07:59] If you've really been paying attention though, you'll note that this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have now. 

[00:08:13] So what's the difference?

[00:08:16] Well, the reason for this is that in 1922 the Republic of Ireland, what we now know as Ireland withdrew from the union. It gained independence leaving just the northern counties of Ireland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have today. 

[00:08:39] So just to recap, because I appreciate that's quite a lot of information and it could be a little bit confusing.

[00:08:45] The sovereign state, the official country, is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is comprised of four different countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:08:59] The British Isles is the name given for all of the islands in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland.

[00:09:10] There are two big ones, so if you look at it map, it might seem like there's just two - Great Britain, and Ireland, but the British Isles are actually comprised of 6,000 different little islands.

[00:09:24] To make matters even more confusing, not all of the islands in the British Isles are part of Great Britain. 

[00:09:34] They include three what's called crown dependencies. 

[00:09:38] So that's the Isle of Man, the bailiwick of Guernsey and the bailiwick of Jersey, which are self-governing possessions of the crown.

[00:09:49] They are owned by the Queen, the Royal family, so they are sort of part of the UK, but technically not. 

[00:09:58] Yes, I know it's pretty confusing, and in fact, we're not going to go into huge detail on these crown dependencies because it would take quite a long time and perhaps not be that interesting, so let's leave it there with the crown dependencies.

[00:10:13] Okay. So that is a quick explanation of how this slightly complicated situation came to be, and I would completely forgive you for not having known the difference before this podcast. 

[00:10:29] As I said, the majority of people in the UK also wouldn't know the difference. 

[00:10:34] Now it's time to answer a few questions that you may have about all of this.

[00:10:41] Firstly, why is Great Britain called great? 

[00:10:46] We don't have great Spain, great Russia or great Italy. 

[00:10:51] And there are actually two conflicting arguments, two theories about why great was stuck in front of Britain. 

[00:11:02] The first theory is that great is used to distinguish Britain from its similarly sounding, but much smaller French neighbour, brittany, which is a province in the North of France, Bretagne for the French speakers out there. 

[00:11:20] So the idea was that they wanted to make Britain seem different from Brittany. 

[00:11:26] The second reason, the second theory is that it was due to the ego of a certain King James the First, who was actually the first King of England and Scotland.

[00:11:39] He was King of both countries, England and Wales and Scotland at the same time, even when they were independent countries.

[00:11:48] He wanted to make it abundantly clear that he wasn't just the King of the old Roman Britain, which only included England and some of Wales, but of the entire Island, and therefore he referred to himself as the King of Great Britain.

[00:12:06] The second question you might have is from a sporting point of view. 

[00:12:13] If England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales aren't real countries, they aren't real sovereign states, then how come they are allowed to play in sporting world cups? 

[00:12:26] And why does Great Britain compete in the Olympics, not England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:12:34] And why is the Olympic team called Great Britain, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? 

[00:12:43] Well for the Olympics it is because the Olympic committee only recognises teams from passport-issuing countries and as England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have the UK passport then they all form part of the UK Olympic team. 

[00:13:04] But yes, it is called team GB, not team UK, which is confusing even for people in the UK.

[00:13:14] Actually, the technical term for the Olympic team is "the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic team", but that doesn't sound particularly catchy

[00:13:25] And so just for branding reasons, it's called team GB. 

[00:13:29] And for things like the football, rugby, or cricket world cup, the way it works is that it's more like member organisations that represent a country, not the sovereign state itself.

[00:13:45] So that's why you can have England or Scotland playing as their own team for these kinds of competitions.

[00:13:52] Now finally, when should you call someone British as opposed to English, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh? 

[00:14:03] Well, this is indeed a complicated subject. 

[00:14:07] Each country is fiercely proud of its own heritage and identity. 

[00:14:13] Call a Scotsman English and well, I'm sure he wouldn't be particularly impressed. 

[00:14:21] As a general rule, anyone from Great Britain, and remember that's the island of Great Britain, so not including Northern Ireland here, so anyone from England, Scotland, or Wales, they shouldn't be too offended at being called British. 

[00:14:41] So that's normally a safer bet, rather than assuming that they are English, Welsh or Scottish, unless you actually know for a fact. 

[00:14:51] So long story short, you should be okay if you call people British normally. 

[00:14:57] And as I'm sure you know, and as I mentioned at the start of the podcast, the UK voted to leave the European Union in June, 2016 and this happened technically on January the 31st of 2020. While Brexit is a phenomenally complicated subject that we could speak for hours about, it's worth just mentioning that it is completely plausible that Brexit could be the decision that brings about the end of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in its current form. 

[00:15:38] The majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, while the majority of people in England and Wales voted to leave.

[00:15:49] But the entire of the UK has now left the EU, not just England and Wales. 

[00:15:58] Scotland, as you may well know, is already talking about a referendum on membership of the UK, so a popular vote on whether to gain independence from the United Kingdom.

[00:16:13] So only time will tell how long this union manages to last for.

[00:16:19] In any case, as of February, 2020 this is still the difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:16:30] So next time someone inevitably misuses these terms, calling England Britain or calling a Welshman English, and there are probably hundreds of people misusing these terms at this very second you will be able to correct them and put them in the right direction. 

[00:16:51] Okay then, as always, thank you for listening to the show. 

[00:16:55] It has been a pleasure. 

[00:16:57] If you are listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, iVoox, Spotify or anything like that and you haven't yet hit that subscribe button, then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:17:13] And if you are looking for the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast, then you can find that, and of course, check out the options for becoming a member of Leonardo English on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:17:30] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:17:35] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


[END OF PODCAST]



Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:05] Hello hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:13] I'm actually recording this podcast on February the first. 

[00:00:18] Why am I telling you this at the start of the show? 

[00:00:21] Well, because the UK technically left the European Union at midnight on January the 31st, yesterday, and that might prove to be a very relevant thing for what we are going to be talking about today. 

[00:00:38] In today's podcast, we are going to talk about the difference between the UK, Great Britain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the British Isles.

[00:00:59] Now, you might be sort of aware of this already, but I guess for you this is probably a point of confusion and me just listing out all of the countries just now probably hasn't made life any easier and you aren't any clearer on the difference.

[00:01:19] If I asked you now, what's the difference between the UK and Great Britain, would you be able to tell me? 

[00:01:29] It's certainly something that lots of people in the UK are confused about, and if you were to stop someone on the side of the street in London, Manchester, or Liverpool, I would imagine the majority of people wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what the difference was.

[00:01:50] So the difference between the UK and Great Britain is a bit of a tricky one. I'll explain exactly why and what the difference is in the little bit. 

[00:02:00] An easier one is the difference between England and Great Britain, or Scotland and the UK. I imagine that you might know this already or maybe you don't.

[00:02:13] Believe it or not, it's not just native speakers who don't know there's a difference. It's something that lots of Americans frequently get wrong using Britain and England interchangeably

[00:02:29] Now, of course, I shouldn't generalise about Americans and obviously there are many, many who don't fit this, but it is a little bit of a theme, a bit of a stereotype.

[00:02:41] So today let's clear things up and explain how there are four different countries and sometimes even five different countries that people put together as one, so if you weren't 100% sure on the difference, by the end of this podcast, you'll know exactly what the difference is, how this happened, and we'll take a minute just to think about how long this explanation may stay relevant for in light of the UKs decision to leave the European Union.

[00:03:19] So let's start by explaining exactly what the differences are and then I'll explain how we got to this admittedly pretty confusing situation. 

[00:03:30] The UK and Great Britain are often used as synonyms, people use them interchangeably, assuming that they mean the same thing. 

[00:03:42] But this isn't actually correct. 

[00:03:45] They are two different things. 

[00:03:48] A useful thing to do here is to pull up a map of Britain on your phone, or if you don't need to do that, just picture, just imagine the British Isles, the collection of islands to the North of France that form England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

[00:04:07] Of the two larger islands, Great Britain is actually just the big one on the right, and it's not technically a country, it's an island. 

[00:04:19] So Island with an I S not Ireland as in I. R. E L. A. N. D.

[00:04:27] Great Britain isn't actually a country. 

[00:04:30] The country, the sovereign state is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which includes Northern Ireland, so that's the six counties to the north of the Republic of Ireland. 

[00:04:46] So the country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is formed of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which are all themselves countries. 

[00:05:04] Huh? 

[00:05:05] I wouldn't blame you for being a little bit confused. 

[00:05:09] You can't normally have a country within another country, so how does this work? 

[00:05:16] Well, the way to think of it is probably something similar to how different states work in the United States of America. There are some different laws that apply. 

[00:05:30] Scotland and Wales, for example, have their own parliament and have power over things like health and education, but they ultimately fall under control of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is normally shortened to the UK.

[00:05:51] So how did this all come about? 

[00:05:54] Well, the British Isles by which I'm referring here to Great Britain and Ireland, they've got a pretty long and complicated history, as you may know. 

[00:06:08] To summarise, the creation of what we now know as the UK came to be after a series of key events. 

[00:06:19] Firstly, in the year 925 AD the Kingdom of England was formed after the unification, the union, of Anglo Saxon tribes, so that's the group of people who had lived in Britain since the fifth century. 

[00:06:39] They united and formed England as its own kingdom. 

[00:06:44] Then in 1536 after the Kingdom of England had been in existence for 600 years, more or less, England decided to expand its kingdom and King Henry the Eighth, you might remember him as the King who was quite keen, who quite liked removing his wives heads from their bodies, he effectively made England and Wales the same country, governed by the same laws. 

[00:07:14] So that was one country, the Kingdom of England and Wales. 

[00:07:19] At least from the point of view of what we're talking about today there weren't any major changes until 1707 when the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed after the Kingdom of England and Wales joined the Kingdom of Scotland. 

[00:07:39] Then just under a hundred years later, in 1801, Ireland joined the union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. 

[00:07:51] So this made both of the big islands, so island, not Ireland, one united country. 

[00:07:59] If you've really been paying attention though, you'll note that this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have now. 

[00:08:13] So what's the difference?

[00:08:16] Well, the reason for this is that in 1922 the Republic of Ireland, what we now know as Ireland withdrew from the union. It gained independence leaving just the northern counties of Ireland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have today. 

[00:08:39] So just to recap, because I appreciate that's quite a lot of information and it could be a little bit confusing.

[00:08:45] The sovereign state, the official country, is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is comprised of four different countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:08:59] The British Isles is the name given for all of the islands in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland.

[00:09:10] There are two big ones, so if you look at it map, it might seem like there's just two - Great Britain, and Ireland, but the British Isles are actually comprised of 6,000 different little islands.

[00:09:24] To make matters even more confusing, not all of the islands in the British Isles are part of Great Britain. 

[00:09:34] They include three what's called crown dependencies. 

[00:09:38] So that's the Isle of Man, the bailiwick of Guernsey and the bailiwick of Jersey, which are self-governing possessions of the crown.

[00:09:49] They are owned by the Queen, the Royal family, so they are sort of part of the UK, but technically not. 

[00:09:58] Yes, I know it's pretty confusing, and in fact, we're not going to go into huge detail on these crown dependencies because it would take quite a long time and perhaps not be that interesting, so let's leave it there with the crown dependencies.

[00:10:13] Okay. So that is a quick explanation of how this slightly complicated situation came to be, and I would completely forgive you for not having known the difference before this podcast. 

[00:10:29] As I said, the majority of people in the UK also wouldn't know the difference. 

[00:10:34] Now it's time to answer a few questions that you may have about all of this.

[00:10:41] Firstly, why is Great Britain called great? 

[00:10:46] We don't have great Spain, great Russia or great Italy. 

[00:10:51] And there are actually two conflicting arguments, two theories about why great was stuck in front of Britain. 

[00:11:02] The first theory is that great is used to distinguish Britain from its similarly sounding, but much smaller French neighbour, brittany, which is a province in the North of France, Bretagne for the French speakers out there. 

[00:11:20] So the idea was that they wanted to make Britain seem different from Brittany. 

[00:11:26] The second reason, the second theory is that it was due to the ego of a certain King James the First, who was actually the first King of England and Scotland.

[00:11:39] He was King of both countries, England and Wales and Scotland at the same time, even when they were independent countries.

[00:11:48] He wanted to make it abundantly clear that he wasn't just the King of the old Roman Britain, which only included England and some of Wales, but of the entire Island, and therefore he referred to himself as the King of Great Britain.

[00:12:06] The second question you might have is from a sporting point of view. 

[00:12:13] If England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales aren't real countries, they aren't real sovereign states, then how come they are allowed to play in sporting world cups? 

[00:12:26] And why does Great Britain compete in the Olympics, not England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:12:34] And why is the Olympic team called Great Britain, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? 

[00:12:43] Well for the Olympics it is because the Olympic committee only recognises teams from passport-issuing countries and as England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have the UK passport then they all form part of the UK Olympic team. 

[00:13:04] But yes, it is called team GB, not team UK, which is confusing even for people in the UK.

[00:13:14] Actually, the technical term for the Olympic team is "the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic team", but that doesn't sound particularly catchy

[00:13:25] And so just for branding reasons, it's called team GB. 

[00:13:29] And for things like the football, rugby, or cricket world cup, the way it works is that it's more like member organisations that represent a country, not the sovereign state itself.

[00:13:45] So that's why you can have England or Scotland playing as their own team for these kinds of competitions.

[00:13:52] Now finally, when should you call someone British as opposed to English, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh? 

[00:14:03] Well, this is indeed a complicated subject. 

[00:14:07] Each country is fiercely proud of its own heritage and identity. 

[00:14:13] Call a Scotsman English and well, I'm sure he wouldn't be particularly impressed. 

[00:14:21] As a general rule, anyone from Great Britain, and remember that's the island of Great Britain, so not including Northern Ireland here, so anyone from England, Scotland, or Wales, they shouldn't be too offended at being called British. 

[00:14:41] So that's normally a safer bet, rather than assuming that they are English, Welsh or Scottish, unless you actually know for a fact. 

[00:14:51] So long story short, you should be okay if you call people British normally. 

[00:14:57] And as I'm sure you know, and as I mentioned at the start of the podcast, the UK voted to leave the European Union in June, 2016 and this happened technically on January the 31st of 2020. While Brexit is a phenomenally complicated subject that we could speak for hours about, it's worth just mentioning that it is completely plausible that Brexit could be the decision that brings about the end of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in its current form. 

[00:15:38] The majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, while the majority of people in England and Wales voted to leave.

[00:15:49] But the entire of the UK has now left the EU, not just England and Wales. 

[00:15:58] Scotland, as you may well know, is already talking about a referendum on membership of the UK, so a popular vote on whether to gain independence from the United Kingdom.

[00:16:13] So only time will tell how long this union manages to last for.

[00:16:19] In any case, as of February, 2020 this is still the difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:16:30] So next time someone inevitably misuses these terms, calling England Britain or calling a Welshman English, and there are probably hundreds of people misusing these terms at this very second you will be able to correct them and put them in the right direction. 

[00:16:51] Okay then, as always, thank you for listening to the show. 

[00:16:55] It has been a pleasure. 

[00:16:57] If you are listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, iVoox, Spotify or anything like that and you haven't yet hit that subscribe button, then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:17:13] And if you are looking for the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast, then you can find that, and of course, check out the options for becoming a member of Leonardo English on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:17:30] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:17:35] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


[END OF PODCAST]



[00:00:05] Hello hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:13] I'm actually recording this podcast on February the first. 

[00:00:18] Why am I telling you this at the start of the show? 

[00:00:21] Well, because the UK technically left the European Union at midnight on January the 31st, yesterday, and that might prove to be a very relevant thing for what we are going to be talking about today. 

[00:00:38] In today's podcast, we are going to talk about the difference between the UK, Great Britain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the British Isles.

[00:00:59] Now, you might be sort of aware of this already, but I guess for you this is probably a point of confusion and me just listing out all of the countries just now probably hasn't made life any easier and you aren't any clearer on the difference.

[00:01:19] If I asked you now, what's the difference between the UK and Great Britain, would you be able to tell me? 

[00:01:29] It's certainly something that lots of people in the UK are confused about, and if you were to stop someone on the side of the street in London, Manchester, or Liverpool, I would imagine the majority of people wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what the difference was.

[00:01:50] So the difference between the UK and Great Britain is a bit of a tricky one. I'll explain exactly why and what the difference is in the little bit. 

[00:02:00] An easier one is the difference between England and Great Britain, or Scotland and the UK. I imagine that you might know this already or maybe you don't.

[00:02:13] Believe it or not, it's not just native speakers who don't know there's a difference. It's something that lots of Americans frequently get wrong using Britain and England interchangeably

[00:02:29] Now, of course, I shouldn't generalise about Americans and obviously there are many, many who don't fit this, but it is a little bit of a theme, a bit of a stereotype.

[00:02:41] So today let's clear things up and explain how there are four different countries and sometimes even five different countries that people put together as one, so if you weren't 100% sure on the difference, by the end of this podcast, you'll know exactly what the difference is, how this happened, and we'll take a minute just to think about how long this explanation may stay relevant for in light of the UKs decision to leave the European Union.

[00:03:19] So let's start by explaining exactly what the differences are and then I'll explain how we got to this admittedly pretty confusing situation. 

[00:03:30] The UK and Great Britain are often used as synonyms, people use them interchangeably, assuming that they mean the same thing. 

[00:03:42] But this isn't actually correct. 

[00:03:45] They are two different things. 

[00:03:48] A useful thing to do here is to pull up a map of Britain on your phone, or if you don't need to do that, just picture, just imagine the British Isles, the collection of islands to the North of France that form England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

[00:04:07] Of the two larger islands, Great Britain is actually just the big one on the right, and it's not technically a country, it's an island. 

[00:04:19] So Island with an I S not Ireland as in I. R. E L. A. N. D.

[00:04:27] Great Britain isn't actually a country. 

[00:04:30] The country, the sovereign state is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which includes Northern Ireland, so that's the six counties to the north of the Republic of Ireland. 

[00:04:46] So the country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is formed of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which are all themselves countries. 

[00:05:04] Huh? 

[00:05:05] I wouldn't blame you for being a little bit confused. 

[00:05:09] You can't normally have a country within another country, so how does this work? 

[00:05:16] Well, the way to think of it is probably something similar to how different states work in the United States of America. There are some different laws that apply. 

[00:05:30] Scotland and Wales, for example, have their own parliament and have power over things like health and education, but they ultimately fall under control of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is normally shortened to the UK.

[00:05:51] So how did this all come about? 

[00:05:54] Well, the British Isles by which I'm referring here to Great Britain and Ireland, they've got a pretty long and complicated history, as you may know. 

[00:06:08] To summarise, the creation of what we now know as the UK came to be after a series of key events. 

[00:06:19] Firstly, in the year 925 AD the Kingdom of England was formed after the unification, the union, of Anglo Saxon tribes, so that's the group of people who had lived in Britain since the fifth century. 

[00:06:39] They united and formed England as its own kingdom. 

[00:06:44] Then in 1536 after the Kingdom of England had been in existence for 600 years, more or less, England decided to expand its kingdom and King Henry the Eighth, you might remember him as the King who was quite keen, who quite liked removing his wives heads from their bodies, he effectively made England and Wales the same country, governed by the same laws. 

[00:07:14] So that was one country, the Kingdom of England and Wales. 

[00:07:19] At least from the point of view of what we're talking about today there weren't any major changes until 1707 when the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed after the Kingdom of England and Wales joined the Kingdom of Scotland. 

[00:07:39] Then just under a hundred years later, in 1801, Ireland joined the union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. 

[00:07:51] So this made both of the big islands, so island, not Ireland, one united country. 

[00:07:59] If you've really been paying attention though, you'll note that this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have now. 

[00:08:13] So what's the difference?

[00:08:16] Well, the reason for this is that in 1922 the Republic of Ireland, what we now know as Ireland withdrew from the union. It gained independence leaving just the northern counties of Ireland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is what we have today. 

[00:08:39] So just to recap, because I appreciate that's quite a lot of information and it could be a little bit confusing.

[00:08:45] The sovereign state, the official country, is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is comprised of four different countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:08:59] The British Isles is the name given for all of the islands in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland.

[00:09:10] There are two big ones, so if you look at it map, it might seem like there's just two - Great Britain, and Ireland, but the British Isles are actually comprised of 6,000 different little islands.

[00:09:24] To make matters even more confusing, not all of the islands in the British Isles are part of Great Britain. 

[00:09:34] They include three what's called crown dependencies. 

[00:09:38] So that's the Isle of Man, the bailiwick of Guernsey and the bailiwick of Jersey, which are self-governing possessions of the crown.

[00:09:49] They are owned by the Queen, the Royal family, so they are sort of part of the UK, but technically not. 

[00:09:58] Yes, I know it's pretty confusing, and in fact, we're not going to go into huge detail on these crown dependencies because it would take quite a long time and perhaps not be that interesting, so let's leave it there with the crown dependencies.

[00:10:13] Okay. So that is a quick explanation of how this slightly complicated situation came to be, and I would completely forgive you for not having known the difference before this podcast. 

[00:10:29] As I said, the majority of people in the UK also wouldn't know the difference. 

[00:10:34] Now it's time to answer a few questions that you may have about all of this.

[00:10:41] Firstly, why is Great Britain called great? 

[00:10:46] We don't have great Spain, great Russia or great Italy. 

[00:10:51] And there are actually two conflicting arguments, two theories about why great was stuck in front of Britain. 

[00:11:02] The first theory is that great is used to distinguish Britain from its similarly sounding, but much smaller French neighbour, brittany, which is a province in the North of France, Bretagne for the French speakers out there. 

[00:11:20] So the idea was that they wanted to make Britain seem different from Brittany. 

[00:11:26] The second reason, the second theory is that it was due to the ego of a certain King James the First, who was actually the first King of England and Scotland.

[00:11:39] He was King of both countries, England and Wales and Scotland at the same time, even when they were independent countries.

[00:11:48] He wanted to make it abundantly clear that he wasn't just the King of the old Roman Britain, which only included England and some of Wales, but of the entire Island, and therefore he referred to himself as the King of Great Britain.

[00:12:06] The second question you might have is from a sporting point of view. 

[00:12:13] If England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales aren't real countries, they aren't real sovereign states, then how come they are allowed to play in sporting world cups? 

[00:12:26] And why does Great Britain compete in the Olympics, not England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:12:34] And why is the Olympic team called Great Britain, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? 

[00:12:43] Well for the Olympics it is because the Olympic committee only recognises teams from passport-issuing countries and as England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have the UK passport then they all form part of the UK Olympic team. 

[00:13:04] But yes, it is called team GB, not team UK, which is confusing even for people in the UK.

[00:13:14] Actually, the technical term for the Olympic team is "the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic team", but that doesn't sound particularly catchy

[00:13:25] And so just for branding reasons, it's called team GB. 

[00:13:29] And for things like the football, rugby, or cricket world cup, the way it works is that it's more like member organisations that represent a country, not the sovereign state itself.

[00:13:45] So that's why you can have England or Scotland playing as their own team for these kinds of competitions.

[00:13:52] Now finally, when should you call someone British as opposed to English, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh? 

[00:14:03] Well, this is indeed a complicated subject. 

[00:14:07] Each country is fiercely proud of its own heritage and identity. 

[00:14:13] Call a Scotsman English and well, I'm sure he wouldn't be particularly impressed. 

[00:14:21] As a general rule, anyone from Great Britain, and remember that's the island of Great Britain, so not including Northern Ireland here, so anyone from England, Scotland, or Wales, they shouldn't be too offended at being called British. 

[00:14:41] So that's normally a safer bet, rather than assuming that they are English, Welsh or Scottish, unless you actually know for a fact. 

[00:14:51] So long story short, you should be okay if you call people British normally. 

[00:14:57] And as I'm sure you know, and as I mentioned at the start of the podcast, the UK voted to leave the European Union in June, 2016 and this happened technically on January the 31st of 2020. While Brexit is a phenomenally complicated subject that we could speak for hours about, it's worth just mentioning that it is completely plausible that Brexit could be the decision that brings about the end of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in its current form. 

[00:15:38] The majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, while the majority of people in England and Wales voted to leave.

[00:15:49] But the entire of the UK has now left the EU, not just England and Wales. 

[00:15:58] Scotland, as you may well know, is already talking about a referendum on membership of the UK, so a popular vote on whether to gain independence from the United Kingdom.

[00:16:13] So only time will tell how long this union manages to last for.

[00:16:19] In any case, as of February, 2020 this is still the difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

[00:16:30] So next time someone inevitably misuses these terms, calling England Britain or calling a Welshman English, and there are probably hundreds of people misusing these terms at this very second you will be able to correct them and put them in the right direction. 

[00:16:51] Okay then, as always, thank you for listening to the show. 

[00:16:55] It has been a pleasure. 

[00:16:57] If you are listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, iVoox, Spotify or anything like that and you haven't yet hit that subscribe button, then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:17:13] And if you are looking for the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast, then you can find that, and of course, check out the options for becoming a member of Leonardo English on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:17:30] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:17:35] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


[END OF PODCAST]