British and American English differences

British and American English differences

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There are many differences in pronunciation between British and American English. Here we are only going to write about the most important differences for an English student, to help you understand the other accent better.

I. Vowel sounds

1. [æ] and [ɑ:]

British speakers use the [ɑ:]sound, Americans use the “short a” /æ/ sound.

WordsBESoundAESound
class/clɑ:s/./klæs/.
last/lɑ:st/./læst/.
ask/ɑ:sk/./æsk/.
laugh/lɑ:f/ /læf/ 

 2. [ɒ] and [ɑ:]

The back rounded [ɒ] vowel heard in British English is replaced by [ɑ:] in American English

WordsBESoundAESound
box/bɒks/ /bɑ:ks/ 
hot/hɒt/ /hɑːt/ 
honest/ˈɒnɪst/ /ˈɑːnɪst/ 

3. [ju:] and [u:]

Many British speakers pronounce /j/ in a stressed syllable after the alveolar consonants (t,d,n). It is the ommision of sound /j/ before /u:/.

WordsBESoundAESound
news/nju:z/ /nu:z/ 
due/dju:/ /du:/ 
reduce/ridju:s/ /ridu:s/ 

II. Consonants

1. /r/

The most obvious difference is the way the letter r is pronounced:

  • British English: The /r/ is not pronounced unless it is followed by a vowel.
  • American English: The /r/ is pronounced everywhere.
WordsBESoundAESound
car/kɑ:/ /kɑ:r/ 
park/pɑ:k/ /pɑ:rk/ 
start/stɑ:t/ /stɑ:rt/ 

2. /t/

American English: when /t/ is between two vowel sounds (A,E,I,O,U) or between a vowel and L or R (these letters are called semi-vowels to linguists), it becomes a /d/ sound.  

WordsBESoundAESound
latter/ˈlatə/  /ˈladə/  
writer/ˈrʌɪtə/ /ˈrʌɪdə/ 
city/ˈsɪti/ /ˈsɪdi/ 

III. Diphthongs

1. Change of diphthong [əʊ] to [oʊ]

WordsBESoundAESound
go/gəʊ/ /goʊ/ 
no/nəʊ/ /noʊ/ 
romantic/rəʊ’mætik/ /r oʊ’mætik/