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In North American English

  • condo (condominium apartment): the multi-rise or high-rise residential building where you own the residential unit / suite and the land is owned collectively. If you want to rent a unit in condo, you usually dealing with a private landlord.
  • apartment: where you can only rent (not buy) the unit / suite in the residential building. If you want to rent a unit in apartment, you usually dealing with management / leasing office.

[Technically, condominium is not limited to apartment, but also in townhouses (British English terraced houses). In daily dialogue, condo refers condominium apartment, and apartment refer non-condo apartment. We neglect US co-op / cooperate apartment in this question.]

A: Where do you live?
B: I live in a condo.
A: I see. I live in an apartment.

Do British people distinguish condo and apartment in daily dialogue? If so, what are the terms? Does flat mean [condo and apartment] or [apartment only]?

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  • [Do British people etc.]
    – Lambie
    Aug 2 '20 at 21:29
  • @Lambie Sorry for the typo.
    – Bosai
    Aug 2 '20 at 21:33
  • A British flat can be either what Americans call a 'condo[minium]' or an 'apartment'. I rented a flat, then I bought it from the landlord, then I sold it. It remained a flat throughout. When I took the ownership I was liable for a percentage of the costs of repair to the roof etc. Aug 2 '20 at 21:38
  • Condominium refers to the legal structure, not the architecture. There are condominiums that are rowhouses and even independent buildings as well as apartments. (In fact, in my area, "condominium" is generally used as a synonym for rowhouse.)
    – Mary
    Aug 2 '20 at 22:45
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A condo is an apartment in NA English, where there are common areas and private areas and the units are individually owned.

BUT: A condo is owned by an individual owner. Nevertheless, it is still an apartment in a building. A condo owner.

Basically, the British say flat, not apartment.

The ownership structure is as follows: The UK equivalent of a condominium is a commonhold property, with common areas and freehold areas (private areas).

And flats in this case are owned by unit-holders.

Commonhold

In everyday language in NA English, one says I live in an apartment or condo, as the legal side is not always the point in conversation.

In British English, flat is the word to use regardless of the ownership structure.

I live in a flat and am the unit-holder. [BrE] I live in a condo and am the condo owner. [NA English]

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    I'd simplfy the British expression further to either "I own a flat = condo" or "I rent a flat = apartment". The word apartment is also well used: "I own an apartment" etc.
    – James K
    Aug 3 '20 at 0:08
  • Makes sense. Not every variety or language have word-to-word equivalent translation. In English, there is a word called cousin. However, Chinese has 8 “proper” nouns for cousin. Once you hear one of the eight words, you will know if the cousin is elder/younger, paternal/maternal, male/female (binary gender only). When I learned English at school, my teacher told me “cousin” is either one of the eight words.
    – Bosai
    Aug 3 '20 at 2:45

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