This post is the fourth in a series on the subject of differences between American and British English. For more information on this topic, please see the first three parts of the series:

  1. British Versus American “A”
  2. News About American “oo” and British “you” That You Never Knew
  3. The “oo” Sound: American Versus British Pronunciation

As mentioned in the previous posts in this series, if you are an adult who speaks English as a second language, the English that you learned in your school classroom was likely to have been British English. This may cause confusion about certain pronunciations if someone is living in the U.S. and/or trying to learn American English. There are many differences in pronunciation between American and British English (and differences within these forms too -of course, neither British nor American English pronunciation are a monolith- but that’s a more complex topic for a different day. So here, I’ll speak in general terms, for the sake of simplicity.) The previous blog posts linked above all pointed out patterns in differences between American and British pronunciation.

This blog post will point out the most common examples of words that are pronounced differently in American versus British English. Some of these words fit into a pattern, but many of the pronunciations of these words are unpredictable and simply need to be memorized. These words are split up into two categories: Words Pronounced Differently in American vs. British English, and Words with Different Stressed Syllables in American vs. British English. A “stressed syllable” is the syllable of a word which is emphasized – in other words, the syllable of a word which is said a little bit louder and a little bit longer than the other syllables in the word.

To hear and practice these examples, please listen to the audio file at the bottom of the page.

Words Pronounced Differently in American vs. British English:

Word American pronunciation tips
schedule The “ch” is pronounced as /k/
issue The “ss” is pronounced like “sh” as in shoe
progress The “o” sounds like the /a/ sound as in “want”
Tuesday first syllable sounds like “too” (without a “y” sound between the “t” and the “oo”)
knew/new rhymes with “too” (without a “y” sound between the “n” and the “oo” sounds)
tomato “a” sounds like “a” in late
vase rhymes with “base”
privacy 1st syllable “pri” sounds like “pry”
vitamin 1st syllable “vit” rhymes with “bite”
water “t” sounds like a flap (a quick “d” sound); see this blog post about “t”  for more detail, and the final “r” gets a full pronunciation
route Sounds like “root”
ate Sounds like “eight”
again Rhymes with “ten”
banana 1st and 3rd “a” sound like “uh”, 2nd “a” sounds like “a” as in “cat”
basket “a” as in “cat”
ball “a” as in “aw” in “awesome”
bath “a” as in “cat”
herb Do not pronounce the “h”
h (letter of the alphabet) Sounds like “ate” + “ch”; “atch”
z (letter of the alphabet) Sounds like “zee”

 

Words with Different Stressed Syllables in American vs. British English:

Word American pronunciation with stressed syllable capitalized:
adult uh-DULT
advertisement AD-ver-tize-ment
ballet ba-LAY
buffet buh-FAY
caffeine kaf-EEN
café kaf-AY
chauffeur show-FUR
controversy KON-truh-ver-see
debut day-BYOO
detail DEE-tail
garage guh-RAZH
gourmet gor-MAY
ice cream ICE kreem
mobile MO-bill
montage MON-tazh
nonchalant non-shu-LAHNT
premature pree-muh-CHURE
princess PRIN-sess
salon sa-LON
Thanksgiving thanks-GIVE-ing
vaccine vaks-EEN
weekend WEEK-end

 

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Although, personally, I like to take my advice on how to pronounce ‘tomato’ from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Practice these words at home with this audio file of the word list above! Simply listen and repeat while reading along.

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