quite in British and American English

The trickiest word in English – Quite!

Is the meaning of the adverb quite, very or completely? It looks like a small difference but it can lead to big misunderstandings.
Sometimes quite means the same thing in British and American English, but sometimes it’s used differently.
In this video we show you
– how to use quite to mean completely
– how to use not quite (meaning not completely) to criticize someone gently or say you disagree.
– how quite can mean very in American English, but fairly or pretty in British English
– how you can sometimes tell the meaning of quite by whether it’s used with a gradable or ungradable adjectives.
Finally we have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty!

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The adverb quite

Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and today we’re looking at a word that’s quite tricky.
No, it’s very tricky.
But that’s what I said!
No you didn’t!
I speak British English and Jay speaks American English and normally, we manage to communicate OK.
But there’s a word that causes us problems. Quite.
It’s such a common word. We both use it a lot.
But it’s the word that’s hardest for us to understand.
Sometimes we use it in the same way, but sometimes we use it differently.
And then we get confused.
Quite.
Quite?
Let’s look at some examples.

Have you finished the artwork yet?
No. I’m not quite ready. I need another five minutes.
Take your time. I’m quite happy to wait.
Do you want to go and get a coffee or something?
No, I’m quite all right thanks. I’ve had quite enough coffee today. That’s not quite correct.
Just go away!
What’s your problem?

Here are some of the things we said. ‘Quite’ is an adverb and it means ‘completely’ in all these examples. It means to the greatest possible degree – 100%. We can use it this way in British and American English
And you heard quite in two negative sentences too, where it means not completely – so almost, but not 100%. Again it can have this meaning in British and American English. We often use quite in the negative like this to criticize someone gently or to say we disagree with them.
So we might say ‘I don’t quite agree’ or ‘That’s not quite right’.
Yes, and we mean ‘I don’t agree 100%.’ or ‘You’re a little wrong’. Quite softens the disagreement.
It works like that in American and British English.
But there’s another way we use ‘quite’ that’s quite different.

So what did you think of my report?
It’s quite good.
Fantastic. I’ll send it to everybody now.
Hang on. It needs some changes.
But you said it was quite good.
Yes, but we need it to be VERY good.
Huh?

There was a misunderstanding there.
Yeah, I thought you liked my report.
Well, I thought it was fairly good or pretty good, but not very good.
But you said it was quite good. If I say that I mean very good. Quite is a forceful word.
It’s not forceful in British English. It just means to some degree.
So let me get this straight. Sometimes when you say ‘quite’ you mean completely, like me.
Yes.
But other times you just mean fairly or pretty.
Yes.
Then how can I tell what you mean?
Well, sometimes you can tell from the kind of adjective we use with quite – whether it’s gradable or ungradable.
We’d better explain that.

Gradable or ungradable

Some English adjectives are gradable, so they can be true to different degrees. For example good is gradable. Something can be very good, or fairly good, or just a little good. But other adjectives are ungradable, for example perfect. We don’t say something is very perfect or fairly perfect or a little perfect. It’s just perfect.
Here are some more examples of ungradable adjectives. Things are either dead or they’re not. People are either married or they’re not. There’s no in-between with these adjectives, so we don’t use them with ‘very’. The meanings of these adjectives already contain the idea of ‘very’.
So here’s what happens in British English. If we use ‘quite’ with an ungradable adjective, we probably mean completely. For example, ‘It’s quite perfect’. It’s 100% perfect. But if we use quite with a gradable adjective, we probably mean ‘fairly’ – so to some extent, but not very. For example, ‘It’s quite nice’ – it’s fairly nice.
So if you say ‘I’m quite tired’, you mean you’re fairly tired.
Yeah, and what about you?
I could mean that, but normally if I say I’m quite tired, I mean I’m very tired.
Pronunciation matters too. If we stress the word ‘quite’ the difference can get more marked.
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m very very tired
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m only fairly tired.
There’s another thing you do in British English.
What’s that?
I’ll say something and instead of saying ‘I agree’ you say ‘quite’.
Oh yes. It’s rather formal but to show we agree with someone or to show we’ve understood, we can say ‘quite’ or ‘quite so’. It just means ‘yes’.
It sounds very British.
Quite.
Let’s have a quiz question now.
OK. See if you can answer this everyone, and you Jay. If your American boss says ‘your work is quite good’, what does it mean? Jay?
If my American boss says my work is quite good, I should get a raise. They think my work is very good.
British English is different. If my British boss says my work is quite good, I’d have to ask what I’m doing wrong.
Because it’s only fairly good. Wow!
So the difference in meaning is subtle, but it can be very important.
If you don’t pay attention, you might miss it.
When I came to the US I had to stop and think when people said ‘quite’. ‘Do they mean fairly or do they mean ‘very’? I still have to stop and think sometimes.
And I’ve had to learn the difference too, so I can understand Vicki’s family and friends.
Yeah. Here’s a real example. My British friend was visiting us and meeting Jay for the first time and they were just getting to know one another and talking about their families.
I was telling her about my father and how he spoke six languages and I said ‘He was quite good at languages’.
So my British friend was surprised and she said, ‘Why are you saying that? You said he spoke six languages.’
‘Yeah, he was quite good at languages.’
So my friend was thinking, ‘He’s being derogatory about his father? That’s not nice! If you speak six languages you’re a very good linguist – not just fairly good.
And I was thinking, ‘We’ve only just met. Why is this woman being so argumentative?’ It was like she wanted to pick a fight with me for no reason.
It’s the sort of misunderstanding that can damage relationships.
Yes, it’s dangerous because you might not realise it’s happening.
And one last thing before we stop.
Yeah?
I have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
What’s that?
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty. It happened to one of my friends on her first date with an American guy.
What! He told her she was quite pretty?
Yes, he was lucky to get a second date! And that’s it for today everyone.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Bye-bye now.
See you next Friday. Bye.

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british english slang

British Slang Words Quiz

Play along with a British English slang quiz.

Vicki (who is British) tests Jay (who is American) with 10 British English slang words and he does very well!
You’ll learn 10 slang words and colloquial expressions including:

  • bloke, meaning dude
  • quid, not quids
  • bog and bog roll
  • a tad meaning a little
  • knackered and clapped out
  • skint meaning broke
  • hard cheese meaning hard luck – often ironic
  • peckish meaning a little hungry
  • cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

We also look at two old-fashioned slang words that you can use as a joke:

  • spiffing meaning splendid
  • tickety-boo meaning fine and dandy

Click here to see more videos about British and American English differences.

British English slang words quiz

I have no idea what we’re doing today.
Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m going to test Jay to day on his British slang.
Uh-oh. Can they play along?
Yes!
OK.
So how good is your British slang, Jay?
Pretty good. I mean we’ve been together for more than 20 years so I think I know a lot.
I’ve got 10 different expressions here and we’re going to see how many you know.
They’re all British expressions?
Yeah, and they’re all slang, so they’re informal spoken English.
The kind of thing you’d say with your friends.
And if you get them all right, you get a prize.
What’s this?
It’s your prize.
But you can’t look at it yet.
I have to get all of them right first?
Yes. And here’s your first one.

Bloke meaning dude

Bloke. I know what a bloke is. That’s a guy. A dude.
That’s what you’d say in American.
Right.
OK, use it in a sentence.
Bloke?
Yeah.
OK, let’s see. Um. I saw this bloke riding down the street on his bicycle.
Yes, that would work. That would work.
I met a nice bloke last night.
So bloke is just an informal way of saying ‘man’. We might also say chap and fellow. OK and in American you’d say…
I saw this dude riding down the street on a bicycle!
OK, next one.

Quid meaning pound

Quid. Quid. I know this one too. Quid is slang for pound. The currency of the UK.
That’s right. What would be an American equivalent?
A buck!
Oh a buck. Of course. And, erm, what about if you have five of them? What’s the note called?
A five dollar bill? Oh you mean in quids! A five pound note. A fiver!
OK, you just said quids. You’re lucky I don’t take your point away because the plural of quid is quid. It’s an irregular plural because there’s no ‘s’. One quid, two quid, five quid. But American English is different?
Yes, we’d say five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks, so we add an s to make it plural.
But you were right to say a fiver. A fiver is the name we give a five pound note and a ten pound note is…
A tenner.
That’s right!
In American English we’d say a five dollar bill and a ten dollar bill. What’s next?
This one.

Bog meaning toilet or loo

Bog. B-O-G. In American English a bog is a swamp.
Yes, a sort of muddy piece of land.
Right. And it’s slang for something else?
Yes.
I have no clue.
I’ll give you another clue. Bog roll.
Is that like… what we would call toilet paper?
Yes. So it’s a toilet roll, and it’s another word for the toilet. So instead of saying I’m going to the toilet, we’d say I’m going to the bog.
In America we never say we’re going to the toilet. We say we’re going to the bathroom.
Yes. You’re very posh.
Bog is a slang way of saying toilet in British English. If you want to be more polite you can say “I’m just going to the loo”.

A tad meaning a little

Ah! A tad. Now a tad always reminds me of a tadpole.
It has nothing to do with a tadpole. A tadpole is a little baby frog.
Right, but it’s little and so that’s how I remind myself that a tad means a little bit in British English. Right?
You’re quite right. It’s a small amount.
So I could be a tad unhappy, a tad disappointed. Does tad always work with negative feelings?
No, no, not at all. You could be a tad pleased. Erm… But you could also have a tad more to eat.
Gotcha.
Or a tad more wine, please. A tad just means a little. For example, “Could I have a tad more time?” It means, ‘Could I have a little more time?”
OK, another one.

Knackered meaning exhausted or clapped out

Knackered. Knackered. I know knackered. Knackered is when you’re exhasuted and your so tired you can’t do anything. You’re knackered.
Exactly. You got that one right. So use it in a sentence.
Let see. Uh. I worked for twelve hours today and I’m completely knackered.
Excellent. Excellent.
It can also mean ‘clapped out’.
What?
So .. so old…
Clapped out?
Clapped out means…
You clapped to many times?
No. No. It means it’s too old or broken down to use any more. So your car could be clapped out or your bike could be clapped out and they can both be knackered as well.
Really? An inanimate object can be knackered?
Yeah. My bike’s knackered. I need a new one.
Hmm.
So knackered has two meanings. One is very tired and exhausted. I’ve been working all day and I’m knackered. And the other is too old and not working well. For example my bike is knackered.
Like me!
OK, another one.

Skint meaning broke

Skint. You know I really don’t know. I think it has something to do with being cheap. Is that right?
Ah. It’s to do with money, but it’s when you have no money.
Oh, so if I say I’m skint, I’m out of cash?
Exactly.
Got it.
Can you lend me some money?
I’m skint!
Yes! So we could say ‘I can’t come out with you tonight because I’m skint’. We could also say ‘I’m broke’. It means the same thing. I’m skint, I’m broke.
OK, next one…

Hard cheese meaning hard luck

Hmm. Hard cheese. Well I think this means hard luck. Too bad.
Yes. That’s right. It’s used as a way to say we’re sorry about something, but we don’t usually mean we’re sorry. So it’s a bit ironic. For example. Oh you need some help? Well, hard cheese! I’m going for my break!
OK, you’ll know this one.

Peckish meaning a little hungry

Oh, peckish.
Peckish means you’re a little hungry, right?
Exactly!
Is it from the verb ‘peck’? To peck? Like a bird pecks at its food?
Oh, maybe. Erm…but if you’re a little bit hungry. Oooo. If you only want to eat a little bit of food, you might peck at your food. That’s when you’re not terribly hungry and you’re eating it. But peckish, yes. A little bit hungry.
So we might say ‘I’m feeling peckish. What’s in the fridge?’ And if someone is only pecking at their food it means they’re only eating a little of it, perhaps because they’re not hungry or not feeling well.
OK, here’s your next one.

Cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

Mmm. Ah. This one I know too. This is cheeky. Cheeky in American English would be wise-ass.
Ah, OK. Except that’s quite negative. We can use it in a sort of positive and negative way in British English. You could have a child who has a cheeky grin, and it’s quite a cute grin. Erm… But it’s slightly naughty. But naughty in a fun way. And erm yes, but people could also be being cheeky when they’re answering back. If children are cheeky theyre being wise-arses as youd say in American English – or wise-ass.
So cheeky can mean disrespectful in British English. So we might tell a child to stop being cheeky and do as you’re told. And it can also be used in a more positive way too. So if they do something funny we might say ‘You cheeky monkey!’

Spiffing and tickety-boo!

I think we should teach the British word ‘spiffing’.
Where did you learn this word ‘spiffing’?
One of our community members online mentioned that the wig I wore in our last video was spiffing and I had to go look it up. What does it mean?
It means marvelous or wonderful. But it’s a really old-fashioned word. It’s from the last century. You can use spiffing for a joke. He was having a joke.
It’s very British upper class, isn’t it?
Yeah. OK, and I’ve got another one that’s like that for you now.
Mmm.
Here you go. Tickety-boo. I can’t even say it without saying it in a British accent. Tickety-boo. It means that’s just perfect.
Erm, yeah. OK. I think in American English you’d say OK. Dandy, or something like that?
A hundred years, a hundred years ago we’d have said dandy. Yeah.
Fine and dandy, and it means everything’s in working order. Everything’s fine. How are things going? Oh, tickety-boo. Everything’s going very well. And it’s very old-fashioned, and today we’ll only use it if we’re joking.
So these are two old-fashioned slang expressions that you can use for a joke.
Spiffing means extremely good or pleasant. And tickety-boo means going well, with no problems.
So how did I do? Have I won the prize?
No, I’m afraid you got skint wrong and you didn’t really know bog.
But I knew bog roll and also, I knew spiffing!
OK, I could give you a bonus point for spiffing.
Great so what’s my prize? Dinner for two at the Indian restaurant. Oh wow! That’s a great prize! Thank you very much. Look at that.
OK everyone. In that case, we’ve got to go. If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend.
Any don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. See you next week everyone.
Bye-bye!

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pronouncing numbers in British and American English

Pronouncing numbers in British and American English (1-100)

How do we say numbers like twenty, thirty, forty, fifty etc. in English?
Well, it depends. There are some curious differences between how I say them in British English and how Jay says them in American English.

For example, twenny vs. twenty. Jay often drops the middle t in twenty and says twenny. Then there’s thirty. There he says the t but it sounds like very fast d sound – commonly known as a flap t.

Do you ever say free instead of three? We’ll tell you about three vs. free pronunciation in England.

We’ll also show you the difference in how we say numbers like thirteen and thirty, fourteen and forty, etc. and we’ll show you how native speakers change the word stress to distinguish between them.

And best of all you’ll meet Super Agent Awesome for a numbers quiz.

Click here to see some more videos on British and American differences.
Click here to see some more pronunciation videos.

Pronouncing numbers in British and American English

Super Agent Awesome.
Yes Vicki.
I have a question.
What?
Do you like quizzes?
Oh quizzes!
Good because I’ve got some quiz questions for you.
Oh yeah.
Yep. Your first one is very hard. How many hours are there in a day?
Seriously? That’s a piece of cake. There are a total of 24 hours in a day.
He got it easily. OK, next one.
That was a piece of cake.
Your mum said you couldn’t get that one.
I wasn’t sure.

Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And there are some differences in how we pronounce numbers.
Curious differences!
Yeah. You just heard one difference from Super Agent Awesome.
Super Agent Awesome is American.

How many hours are there in a day?
Seriously? That’s a piece of cake. There are a total of 24 hours in a day.
He got it easily.

If something’s very easy to do, we say it’s a piece of cake.
Yeah, but what’s this number Jay?
Err. Twenty-four
I say it differently.
Twenty-four
Twenty four.
Did you hear the difference?
Twenty-four
Twenty-four.
You didn’t say the t.
I did. t – twenty.
No, the t in the middle. Twenty.
Twenty. If I’m speaking very carefully, I’ll pronounce that middle t sound, but normally I drop it.
We have another example.
I think this might be a bit too easy for you because you’re very good at this. How many letters are there in the English alphabet?
Twenty-six.
There you are, twenty six.
Twenty six. So this is a British and American difference. Ok. Another one.

Let me see if I can catch you out with this one. How many times does seven go into twenty-one?
Three.
Three – he got it right.

I have a question. Do you ever say free instead of three in American English?
Free? No, I don’t. Maybe some Americans do, but no, for me it’s a th sound – th- three.
OK, I say three too, but I read something interesting about this recently. When I was growing up we lived just north of London and a lot of people there said free instead of three. But if I said that at home, my mother complained. She said it’s not proper English. But of course languages change and in some recent studies linguists have found a lot of people in England are saying free instead of three now. It’s spread out from London.
So do most people say free in England?
Not most, but a large number. It’s good news if you find the th sound hard to say. If you say free instead, we’ll probably understand you.

Next question. Are you ready for the next one?
Yes Vicki, I’m so ready.
How many days are there in March?
Erm. Erm. Put on the Jeopardy music. Dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum. Oh I got the answer. Thirty. I mean thirty-one, thirty-one, thirty-one!

He’s right again. Thirty-one.
Or as I say thirty-one. There’s a difference again!
Thirty-one.
Thirty-one.
Thirty-two.
Thirty-two.
Thirty-three.
Thirty-three.
So you’re saying a clear t in the middle.
Thirty-three. If you’re a cockney from London you might say firee-free.
You mean thirty-three?
No, firee-free. So the th becomes f, and with the t sound there’s a glottal stop so you stop the t in your throat. Fir-ee. Fir-ee-free. But that’s not what you’re doing?
No, I’m saying thirty.
The t there is like a d in American English. Linguists often call it a flap t. If something flaps it moves up and down or side to side very fast.
The wings of a bird flap.
A flag can flap in the wind.
It’s a very fast movement.
Your tongue has to move fast too to make that sound.
Thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three.
There are different symbols for this sound. But many dictionaries write it as a t because t and d belong to the same family of sounds.
Really?
Yes, Our mouth position is the same, but we add voice to make a d. t. d. There’s vibration here for d.
t. d. Oh yes!

OK, I have another question for you.
What is it Vicki?
This is an addition question. Fifty plus ten equals.
Sixty.
He’s very good.

I’d say fifty and sixty.
Fifty and sixty.
So Americans generally say this flap t in tens numbers.
Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety.
OK, something different now. This isn’t a British and American difference, but it’s something my students often find hard. It’s numbers like thirteen and thirty.
So fourteen, forty, fifteen, fifty, sixteen, sixty.
If you think these numbers sound similar, you’re not alone.
Native speakers sometimes find them hard to distinguish too.

Do we have a meeting with Kathy, today?
Yes, this afternoon.
Oh, what time is it? I can’t be late again.
Oh yes. She was furious last time.
When is it?
Let’s see. Three fifteen.
Three fifty. I’ll set an alarm for 3.40 so I won’t be late. What?
Oh nothing. See you there!
See you there.

I’m going to arrive late now! You set me up again!
Yes, I didn’t correct you.
To set someone up is a phrasal verb and it means to trick them. You might make it appear that they have done something wrong when they haven’t.
Yeah! You’re going to get into trouble when you’re late again.
Three fifteen, three fifty. They sound very similar. How do we tell the difference?
It’s all about the stress. With numbers like thirty, forty, fifty, the stress is always on the first syllable.
That’s true in British and American English.
THIRty, FORty, FIFty.
SIXty, SEVENty, EIGHTy.
So the first syllable is longer, louder and higher in pitch.
Now have a look at these numbers. Where’s the stress?
With teen numbers, the stress can be on the first syllable OR it can be on the second syllable. It depends what we want to make clear.
If we’re counting where’s the stress? For example: THIRteen, FOURteen, FIFteen, SIXteen.
If we’re counting, the stress is on the first syllable. We want to distinguish between the numbers so we stress the part that’s different. That’s the first syllable.
OK. Now what if the number comes in front of a noun? Where’s the stress? For example THIRteen people. FOURteen years. FIFteen dollars.
The stress is on the first syllable again.
it’s because the number was followed by a noun. But if there’s no noun, it’s different. Listen.

I don’t like the number thirTEEN. It’s unlucky.

So Jay stressed the second syllable there.
I said thirTEEN.

How many days until my birthday? FourTEEN.

Vicki stressed the second syllable there.
When we say the number on its own we stress the teen. One more example.

Which floor?
Fifteen. Thank you.

When we say these numbers on their own, we generally stress TEEN.
It sounds complicated. How can everyone remember which syllable to stress?
There’s a simple way.
Good.
Just remember two things. First one – in numbers like thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, the stress is always on the first syllable.
That’s easy.
And the second thing. If you think confusion is a possibility, put the stress on ‘teen’ in the teen numbers – thirTEEN, fourTEEN, fifTEEN, sixTEEN.
And that’s how English speakers avoid confusion.

I filled your car with gas.
Oh thank you. How much do I owe you?
Sixty dollars.
OK. Ten, fifteen, sixteen. Thanks.
No, I said SIXty dollars.
Oh. I thought you said sixTEEN dollars.

The first time I said SIXteen dollars. But when there was confusion, I stressed the teen.

Oh. I thought you said sixTEEN dollars.

So stress the second syllable in teen numbers
Exactly. SIXty, sixTEEN.
It’s the same in British and American English. SIXty, sixTEEN.
Yes.
But you know, there are some other ways we say numbers differently. Like telephone numbers, and dates.
Yeah. We’ll make another video about them, but I should say goodbye to Super Agent Awesome now.
Oh yes.

So. Super Agent Awesome. Thank you for helping us with this video. Do you have a message for our viewers?
Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? Hey English learners. Super Agent Awesome here. If you want to subscribe to this channel, hit that icon right here. And if you see the bell icon next to the subscribe button, you can get notified. And what notified means is on your YouTube account you can gat notified everytime Jay and Vicki have released a video. And you can watch it very early. Heck! You can be the first one here! So that’s my special announcemnet and it’s over. I’m Super Agent Awesome and remember, always stay awesome! Peace!
If you want to see another video that Jay and Vicki posted, hit that icon right here. And if you want to see another one because your mind is blown, hit this icon right here. And if you want to subscribe to this channel, hit that icon right here.

 
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Pronouncing numbers in British and American English

British and American compliments

Are Brits or Americans more polite? Let’s see!

The US and UK have a rather different style of politeness. You’ll learn about them both in this video.

In American English it’s often important to show warmth and friendliness. That’s true in British English too, but there we sometimes place more emphasis on not intruding or interfering.

It’s not that one style of politeness is better than the other, but it can lead to some funny differences on when we give compliments and how we receive them.

There’s a branch of linguistics called pragmatics which studies the hidden or secret meanings behind the words we choose. It looks at the intentions behind words and, as a result, it has prompted a lot of research and discussion about linguistic politeness.

This video looks at some ways that face issues impact politeness when it comes to compliments.

We haven’t tried to go into the technicalities of positive and negative politeness, but we show some issues in action that we think will be useful for English learners.

If you’ve enjoyed this video, here are two more we’ve made on some pragmatic features of English:
Why it’s hard to understand English speakers: https://youtu.be/HeDyRUkQA5Q
3 ways to get what you want in English: https://youtu.be/4jJ5zvfxRgc

British and American compliments – different styles of politeness

Yes, I’ll see you at three thirty then. OK. Cheers!
I just love your accent.

This video was inspired by a great comment we had from a viewer called Toure Malone. Have I said his name right?
I don’t know.
Toure, tell us if we got that wrong.
Here’s what he said.
Americans are notorious for saying “Oh my god I love your accent”. I’m one of them! Does it irritate you? He also said ‘We can’t help it. British accents are divine’
We’d better explain what notorious means.
It’s similar to famous, but it’s when you’re famous for something bad.
Yeah. A notorious criminal.
A notorious computer hacker.
And he says British accents are divine – so wonderful, beautiful.
He’s right.
You think my accent’s divine too?
No, I mean it’s true that Americans often say this to you. Are you irritated by it?
Not now because I’m used to it. I like it now, but at first I felt uncomfortable. It was awkward.
Why?
I didn’t know how to respond.
OK. See you soon. Bye.

I just love your accent.
Well everyone speaks like this where I come from.

That’s terrible! It’s like you’re calling him an idiot.
I know. I should be nicer.

OK. See you soon. Cheers.
I just love your accent.
And I just love your… dental work.

That’s terrible too! What’s your problem?
It’s less common to give compliments to strangers in the UK. We have a different way of being polite.
What do you mean?
Well, there are two sides to politeness – two parts. One part is about being inclusive and warm and friendly and agreeable.
Like me.
Yeah.
I’m American and we’re famous for being friendly.
But the other part of politeness is about being leaving people alone.
That’s polite?
Yes, so you don’t interfere. You let them do whatever they want and you don’t disturb them. You don’t intrude.
You don’t want to be intrusive.
Uhuh. Not intruding is polite too.
Well that makes sense.
Both these sides of politeness are important in all cultures, but people give them different weight, different importance, in different parts of the world.
Let me guess. In America being warm and friendly is more important.
Yes. It’s important everywhere, but it’s very important in the US. And in the UK, we think it’s important to stand back and leave people alone a bit more.
We can do that too. But this is about different weightings.
Exactly. If you think about the stereotypes of British people and Americans, it’s sort of connected.

Hi, I’m British and I’m rather reserved. If we meet somewhere like a railway carriage, I probably won’t talk to you. I think it’s polite to leave people alone so they can go about their business without me getting in their way.

Hi! I’m American and I’m super friendly. When we meet for the first time, I’m going to tell you my entire life story in the first five minutes. I’m polite so I won’t hold back. I’m going to share and be open.

Those are stereotypes. They’re not real.
But when you think about the two sides of politeness, you can see where they come from. You know, sometimes my students ask if American friendliness is fake.
So not real?
Yeah, is it fake?
No!
After living here a long time, I don’t think it’s fake either. It’s just the politeness style – it emphasizes friendliness.
Ok, so let’s go back to Toure’s example. When we say ‘I love your accent’, We’re being friendly. What’s wrong with that?
Well it’s also intrusive because it means you’re judging me.
But I said something nice.
Yeah, but what right have you got to judge me?
That’s such a funny way of looking at it.
And there’s another problem. If you say something nice to me, then I might feel that I have to repay you and say something nice back.
Oh, so it sounds like I’m fishing for compliments.
It’s a possibility.
Why can’t you just say thank you?
Ah. If I accept the compliment and then you might think that I’m big headed.
Big headed is a British expression.
It means you think you’re more intelligent or more important than you really are.
You don’t want people to think you’re conceited.
Exactly. You want them to think you’re modest. That’s when you don’t talk about your achievements. Being big headed is bad. Being modest is good.

And that’s it. Thank you everybody.
Wow. I just loved your presentation. It was awesome.
Thank you. Erm… I made some mistakes.
It was really good.
I forgot some things.
I didn’t notice. You were terrific.
Thanks Erm. I really should have practiced more.
But…. but it was interesting.
No, no.
No, really!

Wow, that was awkward. It felt like YOU were fishing for compliments.
I know. I was just trying to be modest and you wouldn’t let me.
Well, you kept criticizing yourself so you forced me to say something nice.
When I first came to the US, I had conversations like that. It was really embarrassing. The Americans were embarrassed. I was embarrassed.
But it’s not a problem now.
Errr. Not so much. I’ve learnt to be careful not to criticize myself.
She’s very modest.
No. It’s not that we’re really more modest in the UK. It’s just more important for us to behave as if we’re modest.
It’s a different style of politeness.
Exactly. And I’m wondering, what politeness is like in YOUR culture. Is it more like the US or the UK?
Write and tell us in the comments. That’ll be very interesting.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
See you all next week everyone.
Bye.
Bye-bye.

tricky words to pronounce

Tricky words to pronounce in British and American English

We’re back with some more tricky words to pronounce in English. Hear how some English learners say them and then listen to how Vicki and Jay say them, in British and American English. It’s a fun way to improve pronunciation.

In this video you’ll learn the pronunciation and meaning of these words:

Mishap
Depth
Mishap
Posthumously
Choir
Asked
Onomatopoeia
Sword

Click here to see more pronunciation videos

Tricky words to pronounce in British and American English

Hi. We’re back with some more words that are difficult to pronounce in British English
And in American English.
Are you ready to try them?
Let’s get going.
Hello everyone! I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American. We want to say thank you to everyone who has suggested words that are hard to pronounce.
You made some great suggestions and we’ve asked some English learners to try saying them for us
Yeah, here’s the first one. Let’s see how they did.

Mishap.
Mishap.
Mishap.
Mishap.

Ha! Oh dear, they’re all wrong.
This word is confusing.
Yeah.

Mishap? Mishap. Mishap? What’s this word?

She got it right the first time. It’s mishap. It’s an s sound, sss. Not sh.
And it means a small accident or mistake.
Yes, a mishap isn’t serious. It’s when something goes wrong, but it’s just a small thing.

Mishap.

He got it right.
Yes, he did well. He didn’t have a mishap with mishap.
Say it with us.

Mishap.
Mishap.

OK, what’s next?
Let’s see.

Depth.
Depth.

Oh dear, no no no no.
That was hard.
Yes. It’s a short word and you’ve got to say a lot of sounds very quickly.

Depth.Yeah. Thank you.
Depth.

They did well.
Yeah.
So what does depth mean?
It’s how deep something is, so the distance from the top of something to its bottom.
The depth of a swimming pool.
The depths of the ocean.

Depth.
Depth.

So you’ve got a p sound: p. And then you’ve got to move your tongue forward very quickly for the th sound.
Try saying it with us.

Depth.
Depth.

You know, I have hidden depths.
Really?
Yes, there are lots of interesting and unknown things about my character. I’m very deep.
Let’s see what’s next.
OK.

Oh. Posthumously.
Hmm. Posthumously.
Posthumously.
Posthumously. Posthumously.

Oh nearly, but they’ve all got the word stress wrong.

Posthumously? I don’t think I got that one.
Posthumously.
Posthumously.

So what does it mean?
OK. If something happens after someone’s death, it’s posthumous. Like someone might write a book and then die, and then they publish the book posthumously, so after their death.
Or heroes who died in battle might receive a posthumous medal.
Yes, and the stress is on the first syllable. Say it with us

Posthumously.
Posthumously.

Can we have a happier word now?
Yes, here’s a nice one.

Choir.
Choir. Choir?
Choir.

Oh this is another hard one.
Yes.

Choir.

Hey, she got it right!
Yeah. It doesn’t start with ch or sh sound. It starts with a kw.

Choir.
Choir.

So what does it mean?
A choir is a group of people who sing together. Like a church choir or a school choir.
Let’s show everyone.
[choir singing]
Wow, we’re good!
Yeah, let’s do that again!
[choir singing]
OK, say the word choir with us.

Choir.
Choir.

OK, what’s next?
Let’s see.

Asked.
Asked.

Ah, that’s not right!
It should just be one syllable, right?
Yes, and it ends with a t sound… t.
So we write E-D but we say T?
That’s right. It happens in the past tense when verbs end with an unvoiced sound.
We should make another video about that.
It’s on my list. We will.
Good. So subscribe to our channel everyone so you don’t miss it.
And we say the word ‘asked’ a little differently in American and British English.
See if you can hear the difference.

Asked.
Asked.

So in British English we say ‘ah’.
And in American English we say ‘a’.
This happens with quite a few words, like bath.
Bath.
Banana.
Banana.
So you can choose. You can say asked or asked.
Say it with our learners.

Asked.
Asked.
Asked.
Asked.
Asked.

What’s next?
We’ve got a long word now.

Errr. Ono…Onomatopoeia. I don’t know.
Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia. I don’t know.
Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia.

They nearly got it.
Yes, what does this word mean?
It’s when you use words that sound like their meanings. Like the word hiss sounds like a hiss. SSSss
Or the beep sound your cell phone makes. Beep beep.
Or how buzz sounds like buzzing.

Onomatopoeia.
Great.
Onomatopoe… Onomatopoeia.
Fantastic!

They did a great job!
Yes. It’s all about getting the rhythm right. ONomatoPOEIa.

Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia.

So how many syllables does it have?
ON-oh-mat-oh-PEE-a – six!
And the main stress is on PEE.
Yes, and there’s a secondary stress on ON. Here’s how we say it.

Onomatopoeia.
Onomatopoeia.

What’s that trick you use for pronouncing long words?
It’s called backchaining. You start at the back and then work forward. Try it with me.
-a.
PEE-a.
to-PEE-a.
ma- to-PEE-a.
o- ma- to-PEE-a.
ON-o- ma- to-PEE-a.
Did it help you say it? OK, let’s do one more word.
Another hard one?
Yes!

Sword.
Sword.
Sword.
Sword.

Nice tries but the W should be silent.

Sword.
Sword.

Now they got it right.

Sword.
Sword.

So what’s a sword?
It’s a weapon with a long metal blade and a handle.
There’s a famous saying. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Yes, it means words are more powerful than physical force, because you can change people’s opinions with words.
Yes, and it’s easier to write with a pen than with a sword.
We want to say a big thank you to all the learners who helped us make this video. You were very generous and such fun to work with.
And you were very good sports.
Yes. We should explain what being a good sport means?
If someone is a good sport then they are pleasant and cheerful, even in a difficult situation.
And we gave them some difficult words to say.
If you have any suggestions for more difficult words, write and tell us in the comments.
Maybe we can make another video about them.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to this channel.
Bye everyone!
Bye-bye.
Click here to see more pronunciation videos

British and American grammar differences

The Present Perfect Tense in British and American English

There aren’t many British and American grammar differences but a notable one is how we use the present perfect and simple past.
In this video we’re joined by Jennifer ESL of English with Jennifer and together we explore how we use the words just, yet and already on each side of the Atlantic.
You’ll learn how to use the present perfect to talk about recent actions and give news and you’ll also learn about some interesting differences in how we use the present perfect and simple past tense in the UK and US.
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.
Click here to see more grammar videos.

British and American grammar differences – present perfect vs. simple past

Hello everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And today we’re looking at the present perfect and how we use it a little differently.
And we’ve got some help.
Yes. Our good friend Jennifer from English with Jennifer is going to join us.
Jennifer’s American, like me.
And she knows lots about the way Americans use this verb tense so this is going to be really useful.
And fun!
The first thing to know is British and American English speakers both use the present perfect in very similar ways. Americans just use it a little less often.
In this video we’re going to look at some situations where this frequency difference is most noticeable.

I’ve lost twenty dollars.
Oh that’s funny, I’ve just found twenty dollars.
Well then it’s mine.
What was the serial number?
What?

In American and British English, we often use the present perfect to talk about past actions that have relevance in the present. So there’s an important connection between the past and the present.

I’ve lost twenty dollars.
I’ve found twenty dollars.

These past actions have effects in the present. That’s why Jay and Vicki both use the present perfect here.
Sometimes past actions are very important in the present because they happened very recently.

OK then. Bye. Oh. Your mother’s just called.
Oh what did she want?
She says you never call her.

‘Just’ indicates that Jay’s mother called very recently.
We can use ‘just’ with the present perfect in American and British English, but there’s another possibility.

Hello.
Hi Jay, did you just call me?
Ah sorry, I just sat on my phone and it dialed your number.
Not to worry. Bye.
Bye-bye.

In American and British English, we can also use ‘just’ with the simple past to talk about recent events. So what’s the difference about the way American and British people use ‘just’?
When we’re giving news in British English we generally use the present perfect.

Oh, your mother’s just called.
Oh, what did she want?

When we’re giving news in American English, we often use the simple past.

Your sister just called.
Oh really? What did she want?

So both these sentences are possible in both varieties.
It’s just that we use the present perfect more frequently in British English.

Thirty-two, ninety, sixteen, fifty-one, eleven and the bonus ball, forty-eight.
I just won the lottery!
Really?
Yeah.
Oh. I think that’s my ticket. I’ve just won the lottery!

OK, so that’s how we use ‘just’. Let’s look at how we use the present perfect with ‘yet’ and ‘already’.

Oh hi.
Have you eaten yet?
Err, yes. I’ve already eaten.
OK. I’ll make something for myself.

The words ‘yet’ and ‘already’ indicate a time up to now or until now. That relation to the present time means we commonly use them with the present perfect. That’s true in both British and American English.
In American English, especially spoken English, you’ll often hear us use these words with the simple past, too.

I’m going outside to practice soccer.
Wait a sec. Did you do your homework yet?
Yeah, I already did it.
OK.

In British English, these sentences would be unusual. With ‘yet’ and ‘already’ we usually use the present perfect, not the simple past.
So when do Americans use the present perfect and when do they use the simple past?
In written English and when we’re speaking carefully, we often use the present perfect with ‘yet’ and ‘already’. But when we’re speaking informally, we often use the simple past. ‘Did you do it yet?’ sounds a little more informal than ‘Have you done it yet?’, especially if we use the less careful pronunciation ‘Didja do it yet?.
And there’s something else. My theory is ‘Did you do it yet?’ can sound just a little more urgent in American English than ‘Have you done it yet?’
I agree with that, Vicki. Let’s share one more example.

Did you do it yet?
What?
You know.
What? Oh I forgot!
You didn’t pay the electric bill!
Sorry.

And that’s it. Now you know how we both use the present perfect with ‘just’, ‘yet’ and ‘already’.
If you enjoyed this video why not share it with a friend? And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel
And to Jennifer’s too, so you don’t miss any of her great videos.
Bye now.
Bye.
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.
Click here to see more grammar videos.

british words british phrases

10 British words and phrases that Americans don’t use

Here are 10 British words and phrases that I rarely hear in the US, or if I do, they have rather different meanings. For example, my British ground floor is an American first floor, and my first floor becomes a second floor. Cheers is another one. It can also mean thank you and goodbye in the UK. And then there are words like shirty, plonker and taking the mickey.
See 10 British words and phrases in action in a comedy sketch and get explanations here.

Click here to learn more British and American differences
Click here to see how to say cheers in some other languages

British words and phrases

Well, it’s a lovely conference hotel, isn’t it?
Yes, isn’t it great?
I hope Jay hasn’t overslept again. We never hear the alarms on our phones.
No, he’s up. I saw him at breakfast.
Oh good.
Ah Jay. You’re late.
Sorry. I thought this meeting was on the first floor.
Yeah?
Well, this is the second floor.
No, it isn’t.
Never mind. Have you got the artwork, Jay, for our presentation?
Yes, it was quite a challenge. I couldn’t find all the images you wanted so I had to take the photos myself.
Oh cheers, Jay.
Yeah, cheers.
Ah. Cheers. Cheers.
Show us the pictures.
Sure. Here’s the first one.
I don’t understand.
Yeah. Which picture is this?
Hmmm. Man delivering the post.
This isn’t what we had in mind.
Where are the letters?
You didn’t say anything about letters.
But we wanted a postman.
Let’s move on. Jay, show us the next one.
OK. Well this photo was very hard to take.
I don’t get it.
Me neither.
Well, you said you wanted a suitcase in a boot. Now I couldn’t find a boot big enough for a whole suitcase but I did my best.
Are you taking the mickey?
The mi… What do you mean?
We need to see a suitcase in the back of a car.
Well then why didn’t you say so?
I thought we did.
You did not.
Don’t get shirty.
Sh… What?
What’s the next one?
OK. I put a lot of effort into this one and it’s exactly what you asked for.
It’s a school boy holding a rubber. What’s wrong now?
It’s pants, Jay.
No it’s not. Its a condom.
Vicki, you’re going to have to make all these images again.
Yeah. You’re such a plonker Jay. What time is our presentation tomorrow?
8.30 in the morning. Do you want me to stop by your room and knock you up?
Oh, that would be great. Thanks Craig. What?
Hello everyone, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And last week we showed you that story and asked you to spot the British expressions.
There were ten of them and you did really well!
Well done!
We were very impressed, and this week we’re going to explain them.
Yeah, let’s get cracking
That means let’s start and we say that in American English too.
But you don’t say ground floor when you’re talking about buildings.
We can but the ground floor of a building is the first floor. And in the UK?
It varies but usually we have a ground floor and then the NEXT floor is the first floor.
So it’s the second floor. In the US we’re logical. We start at floor one and go up.
Well we have a different logic. We start at zero. OK, what’s next?
Cheers. We say cheers when we’re making toast in American English. So when we’re lifting our glasses to drink.
We do too but cheers has some other meanings as well. It’s an informal way to say good bye.
Oh, like cheerio?
Yeah, ‘Cheers, bye!’ And it’s also an informal way to say thank you.
OK, next one. Post. That’s a piece of wood or metal that’s set in the ground.
That’s the same in British English but the post is also the mail – so letters and parcels. And a postman or postwoman is someone who delivers the post.
We’d call them a mail carrier. A mailman if it’s a man.
OK. Next?
A boot. This is a big strong shoe.
Same in the UK, but it also means the space in the back of a car where you put your bags and cases.
We call that the trunk. Taking the mickey.
Yes. This is an informal expression and it’s when you make someone look silly.
Is it unkind to take the mickey?
Not really. It means teasing and making fun of someone, but usually in a gentle way.
OK. Shirty. What does that mean?
That means cross or a little angry.
So when you’re shirty, you’re bad tempered.
Exactly. Shirty is when you’re rude because you’re annoyed.
OK, the next one. Rubber. This is an informal way of saying condom on the US – so a rubber is a contraceptive.
We just call them condoms in the UK. And we use rubbers to remove pencil marks from paper.
That’s an eraser.
Yeah, we could say eraser but it’s a bit formal. We normally say rubber.
Plonker. This is an insult right?
Yes. It’s slang. If someone is stupid we might say they’re a plonker.
It means they’re an idiot?
Yeah, or we might say they’re a wally – that’s another informal word. If someone does something stupid we might say ‘Oh, you wally’. It means stupid too.
Pants.
Ah yes.
Now pants are a piece of clothing that cover our legs in American English but I know that’s different in British English.
Yeah, we call them trousers. And for us, pants are what you wear under your trousers next to your skin.
We call that underwear.
But pants can also be an adjective in British English. It’s informal and we use it to say something was rubbish. So ‘How was the film?’ ‘Oh it was pants.’
Oh so pants means very bad.
Yeah.
And now the last one. Knock someone up
This is informal again and it has a couple of meanings in British English.
In American English it’s slang and it means to make a girl pregnant.
We have that meaning too. But very often it means to wake someone up by knocking on their door.
That’s not what I think of when I hear it.
He must have a dirty mind. So are we done?
Yes. That was fun.
We want to say a big thank you to Craig for appearing in the comedy sketch with us.
We’ll put links to his websites below. They’re great for Spanish speakers who are learning English.
And if you enjoyed this video please share it with a friend.
And subscribe to our channel.
See you all next week everyone. Bye.
Bye-bye.
Click here to learn more British and American differences
Click here to see how to say cheers in some other languages

British quiz

Test your British slang and colloquial expressions

Do you know what boot and ground floor mean in British English and can you understand British slang and colloquial phrases like pants, cheers and knock up? Test yourself in this British quiz video. Watch two Brits talking with an American in a meeting and see if you can spot ten British expressions that cause confusion.

Click here to watch more videos on British and American English.
Click here to watch more vocabulary videos.
To see more of Craig’s materials visit his website at mansioningles.com  and his podcast at inglespodcast.com

British quiz

Hallo. We have something special for you today, but first I’d like you to meet our friend Craig.
Hello everyone.
Craig is British but he lives in Spain.
That’s right and I’m visiting Vicki and Jay in the US this week.
So we’ve made a special video together with Craig for you.
It’s a story about British and American English.
Yeah. There are some words that Craig and I say in British English that most Americans don’t say.
Which sometimes confuses Jay.
So what we’ve done is we’ve made a little story. It shows some things that we say that Jay doesn’t.
So your task is to identify the words and phrases that are causing confusion for Jay.
Yes. So while you’re watching see if you can spot them. Are you ready?

Well, it’s a lovely conference hotel, isn’t it?
Yes, isn’t it great?
I hope Jay hasn’t overslept again. We never hear the alarms on our phones.
No, he’s up. I saw him at breakfast.
Good.
Ah Jay. You’re late.
Sorry. I thought this meeting was on the first floor.
Yeah?
Well, this is the second floor.
No, it isn’t.
Never mind. Have you got the artwork, Jay, for our presentation?
Yes, it was quite a challenge. I couldn’t find all the images you wanted so I had to take the photos myself.
Oh cheers, Jay.
Yeah, cheers.
Ah. Cheers. Cheers.
Show us the pictures.
Sure. Here’s the first one.
I don’t understand.
Yeah. Which picture is this?
Hmmm. Man delivering the post.
This isn’t what we had in mind.
Where are the letters?
You didn’t say anything about letters.
But we wanted a postman.
Let’s move on. Jay, show us the next one.
OK. Well this photo was very hard to take.
I don’t get it.
Me neither.
Well, you said you wanted a suitcase in a boot. Now I couldn’t find a boot big enough for a whole suitcase but I did my best.
Are you taking the mickey?
The mi… What do you mean?
We need to see the suitcase in the back of a car.
Well then why didn’t you say so?
I thought we did.
You did not.
Don’t get shirty.
Sh… What?
What’s the next one?
OK. I put a lot of effort into this one and it’s exactly what you asked for.
It’s a school boy holding a rubber. What’s wrong now?
It’s pants Jay.
No it’s not. Its a condom.
Vicki, you’re going to have to make all these images again.
Yeah. You’re such a plonker Jay. What time is our presentation tomorrow?
8.30 in the morning. Do you want me to stop by your room and knock you up?
Oh, that would be great. Thanks Craig. What?

So did you like the story and did you spot the words that caused confusion?
If you did, tell us in the comments. There were ten of them.
In our next video Jay and I will explain what they were and what they mean.
And do you know any other British and American English differences? Tell us about them too.
Before we stop Craig, can you tell everyone a little about what you do in Spain?
Yes. I help Spanish speakers improve their English and our website and podcasts are a great way to take your English to the next level.
They’re excellent. Where can people find them?
You’ll find our podcasts at inglespodcast.com and our free courses and much much more at mansioningles.com.
I’ll put details in the comments. Make sure you check them out.
Goodbye everybody.
Bye now.

Click here to watch more videos on British and American English.
Click here to watch more vocabulary videos.
To see more of Craig’s materials visit his website at mansioningles.com  and his podcast at inglespodcast.com

Short vowel O & other vowel sounds

The British short vowel ‘ɒ’ & other English vowel sounds

There’s a short vowel that we use in British English that doesn’t occur in American. You’ll find it in words like ‘lot’, ‘rock’ and ‘bomb’. In this vowel pronunciation video, we compare it with two other vowel sounds that Americans commonly use instead.
Working on English vowels is a great way to improve your accent. Whether you want to sound British or American, this video will help.

Click here to see some more pronunciation videos.
Click here to see more videos on British and American differences.

The short vowel ‘ɒ’ and other English vowel sounds

There’s a vowel that I say in British English that Jay doesn’t say in American.
Really?
Yes, I say it a lot.
A lot?
No, a lot.
Lot?
Exactly. You see we say that lot vowel differently.
Today we’re looking at the vowel sound ‘O’. I’m British but I live in the US and this is a vowel sound that I don’t hear here. ‘O’ ‘O’. So in this video we’ll look at what I say and what Jay says instead.
And I’m American so I’m going to show you how to say things properly.
You mean properly.
Properly.
OK, let’s get started and compare how we say some words. See if you can hear the difference.

Hot. Hot.
Hop. Hop.
Rock. Rock.
Job. Job.
Box. Box.
Jog. Jog.
Stop. Stop.
Clock. Clock.
Proper. Proper.
Bomb. Bomb.

Did you hear the difference? I said O.
And I said AH.
So when Jay says bomb, it sounds like balm to me.
Bomb.
OK, balm is a cream that you can put on your skin and it smells nice. Say balm.
Balm.
And a bomb is a weapon that explodes. Say bomb.
Bomb.
They both sound the same in American.
Yes. Bomb. Balm.
OK, let’s look at how I say O.
O is a short vowel sound. I pull my tongue back in my mouth and I round my lips. O. O. It might feel like it pulls your cheeks in a little. Try it. O. O. Bomb. So I said o but what about Jay?
Bomb.
So he says AH, like in the word father, or heart. To say AH you have to drop your jaw and press your tongue down at the back of your mouth. AH. And notice the mouth is very relaxed. You don’t round your lips. AH. AH.
But there are regional variations with how Americans say these words.
They can vary in the UK too.
In some parts of the US, instead of AH, you’ll hear another sound that’s very similar, but a little different.
Let’s hear it Jay.

Sorry. Sorry.
Lost. Lost.
Horrible. Horrible.
Strong. Strong.

So this time you made an AW sound.
AH, AW, they’re very similar.
Yes, with AH, your mouth is relaxed. AH. With AW, your tongue moves back just a little, but the big difference is your lips come forward and round a little.
AH. AW. AH. AW.
I think the AW sound is pretty similar to the British O sound.
Oh, maybe that’s why we understand one another.
Yes.
AH. AW. O. AH. AW. O.
Sometimes we have to check we’ve understood but normally my O sound isn’t a problem.
Unless Tom is staying.
Ah yes. My son’s name is Tom. It’s short for Thomas. So to me, he’s Tom. But what about in American English?
Tom.
Tom?
Yes.
So when Tom’s American friends call to speak to him they say ‘Is Tom in? And I think there’s no Tom here.
She thinks they’ve dialled the wrong phone number.
Yeah. And then I realize they mean Tom.
So if Americans want to make the British sound, what should they do?
OK, AW is a good place to start.
AW, like in the word ‘law’.
Yes. Then pull your tongue up and back a little and round your lips.
AW. O. AW. O.
Yes, and keep your jaw up. There’s generally less jaw drop in British English.
Proper British English.
And proper American English.
We try to teach you both varieties at Simple English Videos.
Yes, and please share this video with a friend if you’ve enjoyed it.
And we’ll see you all next week everyone. Bye.
Bye.
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R sound R sounds R pronunciation

The R sound in British and American English

Learn how to pronounce the R sound in British and American English. Jay has a rhotic accent and Vicki has a non-rhotic accent. You’ll hear how that affects our pronunciation of R before consonants and at the end of words. We’ll help you recognize the pronunciation differences and also share some tips for making perfect R sounds in both British and American English.

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The R sound in British and American English

Hey Jay. Have you seen my keys anywhere?
Yes. Where were they…? Ah. Yes. Here they are.
Thank you. You know Jay, you make rhotic R sounds.
Really? Erotic R sounds?
No. Rhotic R sounds. It means you pronounce your Rs strongly.
Oh.

We received a request from someone called S.
They said ‘Can you do a pronunciation video on the British and American pronunciations of ‘ear’. Also, maybe include ‘air’ in that video too.
What a good idea! Thank you S.
Yes. Vicki’s British and I’m American, so we can do this.
That’s right. It’s one of the big differences in our accents. We say our R sounds differently.
Yeah.
So listen to how Jay and I say the words.

Ear.
Ear.
Air.
Air.

Did you hear the difference at the end of the words? Jay pronounced the r sound more strongly.

Ear.
Ear.
Air.
Air.

Linguists sometimes divide accents and dialects into 2 types: rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Rhotic is when people pronounce the R sounds strongly, like Jay.

Ear, air.

And in non-rhotic accents like mine, we sometimes drop the R sound or say it very weakly.

Ear, air.

There’s a lot of regional variation though.
Yes. There are parts of the UK where people have rhotic accents like Jay. For example, Scotland and Ireland and in the south west of England too
And there are parts of the US where they say the R sound like Vicki, like New England and parts of the south.
But generally speaking, accents in the UK are non-rhotic and accents in the US are rhotic.
So my accent is rhotic, and Vicki’s is non-rhotic.
Now, this doesn’t mean I never pronounce r sounds. I do. I say them clearly when they come in front of a vowel, much like Jay.

Red.
Red.
Kilogram.
Kilogram.
Carry.
Carry.

So we sound pretty similar there. But if the R sound is followed by a consonant, or if it’s at the end of a word, I’ll say it VERY gently. Let’s have some examples.

Heard
Heard
Work.
Work.
Turn.
Turn.
World.
World.
Hard.
Hard.
Large.
Large.
Nearly.
Nearly.
North.
North.
Hurt.
Hurt.
Park.
Park.

Did you hear the difference? Jay’s R sounds were stronger. Let’s see what happens when the R is at the end of the word now.

Farmer.
Farmer.
Here.
Here.
Brother.
Brother.
Were.
Were.
Where.
Where.
Door.
Door.
Measure.
Measure.
Weather.
Weather.
Clever.
Clever.

So in British English, it sounds like you don’t pronounce the r sound in the middle and at the end of words?
Hmmm. Yes, but my feeling is, we do pronounce it. It’s just very weak and gentle.
The R sound is one of the big differences in our accents.
We live in the US and when I speak, people normally understand me just fine, but sometimes I have to change my R sounds to try to sound American. Like, we live on a street called Arch Street. How do you say that Jay?
Arch Street.
Arch Street.
Arch Street.
You see his R sound is stronger. So if I get in a taxi, I try to copy him and I say Arrrch Street.
Oh that’s good!
Yes, well I want to be sure the taxi driver knows where to take me.
Oh. Tell everyone your refrigerator story.
OK. We needed to buy a fridge so called a department store and it had an automated voice recognition system, so I was talking to a machine not a human being. And it said ‘What department do you want?’ so I said ‘fridges’ and it said, ‘We don’t recognize that request’. So I concentrated very hard and I said Rrrefrridgeratorrrs, and it put me straight through.
Ha! So if you want to sound American, make sure you pronounce your R sounds.
Yes. We should talk about that because the R sound is one of the most difficult English sounds for my students to make.
The first thing to understand is your tongue is a very flexible instrument. You can push it out and make it pointy, or you can pull it in. For an R you need to pull it in and back so it gets fatter and thicker. The sides of your tongue might touch the inside of your teeth at the back. Rrrrr. The most common mistake my students make is they let the tip of their tongue touch the top of their mouth. Don’t do that. Your tongue can curl up and get close, but it must not touch. Rrrrr.

Rrrr.

You can hold out this sound. Try it. Rrrrr. You don’t want to drop your jaw.

Rrrun – run.
Rrrun – run.
Rrran – ran.
Rrran – ran.

In American English the lips round a little when R is at the start of a word. There’s less rounding of the lips in British English.

Red.
Red.
Wrote.
Wrote.

When R is at the end of words, there’s not much rounding in British or American.

Great. So is that it?
Yes. And I need to go now. Where did you park the car, Jay?
You mean where did I park the car? In the garage.
The garage. Bye-bye everyone.
Bye-bye.

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