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American VS British accents

4 min read
by
27 June, 2023
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English is the most widely spoken language in the world – with around 1.5 billion people speaking it across the globe as of 2022. However, although the language originates from Britain, a big part of its popularity comes from the power and influence of American culture; since 1620 these two countries from opposing sides of the ‘pond’ have been developing their own version of the English language with unique slang words, grammar rules, spelling, and of course, accents.  

Therefore, when it comes to learning English as a second language, it can sometimes be tricky when confronted with native speakers who are pronouncing common words differently. It’s confusing! Especially when both forms of the language feature heavily throughout Western literature, art, and culture – which one do you pick? Which version should you use? 

Don’t worry! We’re going to take you through the main differences between British accents and American accents. 

 

General differences between american and british accents

We say ‘general’ because obviously both America and Britain have many different accents depending on the region within each country. But there are some basic rules we can use to identify a British or American accent. 

The letter ‘R’ 

Most American accents are rhotic, which means that the ‘r’ sound is pronounced before the consonant. However, British accents are mostly nonrhotic, and they will often omit the ‘r’ sound from the end of words – for example, ‘water’ is pronounced ‘watuh’, and ‘number’ is pronounced ‘numbuh’.  

The letter ‘T’ 

Unlike the letter ‘r’, Americans often downplay ‘t’ sounds in certain words. Once again using ‘water’ as an example, Americans often pronounce the word as ‘wadder’ – with the emphasis being on the ‘r’ sound as opposed to the ‘t’ sound.  

On the contrary, British accents tend to pronounce the letter ‘t’ as a hard sound. For example, when saying the words ‘out’ and ‘put’, British people will put emphasis on the ‘t’ sound.  

 

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Words americans and britons pronounce differently

There are many words that American and British people pronounce differently, but here are just a few common words that you’ll most likely come across: 

Vitamin 

American: Vai-tuh-min 

British: Vit-uh-min 

Yogurt (Yoghurt) 

American: Yoh-gurt 

British: Yog-urt 

Zebra 

American: zee-bruh 

British: zeb-ruh 

Tomato 

American: To-may-to 

British: To-mah-to 

Lieutenant 

American: loo-ten–uhnt 

British: lef-ten–uhnt   

Herb 

American: ‘erb 

British: hurb 

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American: ad-ver-tahyz-muhnt 

British: ad-vur-tis-muhnt   

 

Of course, how you speak, pronounce and spell English words depends on how you were taught the language– if you learn English in London, you will probably speak some English words like a Londoner, and the same for if you learn in New York, or LA. But no matter which side of the pond you want to learn, we have 16 great schools across both countries where you can study and develop your English skills with accredited teachers. 

Click here to find your dream location (and course) with Kaplan today! 

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