<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1176746405801508&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Galimatias Blog

“You say toMAYto  - I say toMAto…” - US versus UK pronunciation

Kirjoittanut: Rytkönen Claire / 25.3.2021 11:06

In the USA and the UK there are of course many internal accents and even dialects. However, there are some standard differences between American pronunciation and British pronunciation. It can be good to know the difference and when each is used. Which variety do you prefer?

fresh raw asparagus laid out like naughts and crosses game using tomatoes


  1. US long vowels/dipthongs v UK short vowels

    One of the key differences between US and UK pronunciation is that vowels in America are often lengthened, sometimes with an added “i” making them a diphthong. By comparison the vowels are usually shorter in UK pronunciation. This is summed up in the classic song comparing US and UK English “You say toMAYto and I say toMAto.” 
    Here are some typical examples of US long vowels/dipthongs v UK short vowels. Word stress is shown with capital letters.

    US long vowels/dipthongs v UK short vowels

    Written Form

    UK Pronunciation

    US Pronunciation

    Tomato

    toMAto

    toMAYto

    Vase

    VAS

    VAYS

    Amen

    Amen

    AYmen

    Vitamin

    VItamin

    VAItamin

    Patronise

    PAtronise

    PAYtronise

    Zebra

    ZEbra

    ZEEbra

    Semi

    SEmi

    seMAI

    Leisure

    LEzhure

    LEEzhure

    Produce

    PROduce

    PROHduce

    Progress

    PROgress

    PROHgress

    Project

    PROject

    PROHject

    Yogurt

    YOgurt

    YOHgurt

    Either

    Eether Aither

    Neither

    NEEther

    NAIther

     

    Of course being English there are some exceptions where the situation is reversed. Very occasionally UK English has a long vowel where US English has a short vowel. Here are some exceptions:

    Written Form

    UK Pronunciation

    US Pronunciation

    Missile

    miSAIL

    MISSil

    Mobile

    moBAIL

    MObil

    Agile

    aGAIL

    AGil

    Fragile

    fraGAIL

    FRAGil

    Evolution

    EEvolution

    Evolution

  2. US pronunciation is more phonetic than the UK version

    The second area where the variants tend to differ is that an American pronunciation might be closer to the phonetic form and in that sense easier to read and more logical.

    Some examples would be:

    US pronunciation more phonetic than UK version

    Written Form

    UK Pronunciation

    US Pronunciation

    Clique

    CLEEK

    CLIK

    Niche

    NEESH

    NITCH

    Lieutenant

    LefTENant

    LooTENant

    Buoy

    BOY

    BUI

    Schedule

    SHEDule

    SKEDule

     

  3. Stress differences between US and UK English

    A third area with very notable differences is stress. An American and a Brit would stress the word in very different places. Generally speaking, Americans tend to stress towards the beginning of the word and Brits toward the end – but of course with exceptions.

    Some of the most common differences would be:

    Stress differences

    Written Form

    UK Pronunciation

    US Pronunciation

    Controversy

    ConTROVersy

    CONtroversy

    Address

    adDRESS

    ADdress

    Mayonaise

    mayoNAISE

    MAYonaise

    Adult

    aDULT

    Adult

    Defence/defense

    deFENCE

    DEEfense

    Fiance

    fiANsay

    fianSAY

    Advertisement

    adVERTisement

    ADvertaisment

  4. Just plain different!

    The last category could be called just plain different. There are some words that are just very different on either side of the Atlantic. These are the words that tend to cause the most confusion. Classic examples would be:

     Just plain different pronunciation

    Written Form

    UK Pronunciation

    US Pronunciation

    Route

    ROOT

    RAUT

    Herb

    HERB

    ERB

    Wrath

    ROTH

    RATH

    “Z”

    ZED

    ZEE

     

    As you can see there are many notable differences but also clear patterns to the differences between American and UK pronunciation. It is also possible that someone may use both variants even in the same sentence. This is particularly common in the UK where American variants are starting to have a real influence. Many Brits use both “Shedule”and “Skedule” and “Eether” and “Aither”. Pronunciation is up to you – what variant would you like?

    Learn more with Galimatias and check out a short video below.
    American vs British English

Aiheet: British English, American English, English pronunciation, wordstress

Rytkönen Claire

Kirjoittajana Rytkönen Claire

English language professional, Head of English at Galimatias

Galimatias

Galimatias on vuonna 1996 perustettu valmennusyritys, joka tarjoaa palveluja yrityksille, organisaatioille ja julkishallinnolle.

Syötä sähköpostisi ja saat tiedon uusista julkaistavista artikkeleistamme

Viimeisimmät

Aiheittain

see all