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

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 in British and American English

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

The Present Perfect Tense in British and American English

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.

10 British words and phrases that Americans don’t use

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

Test your British slang and colloquial expressions

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.

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The British short vowel ‘ɒ’ & other English 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.

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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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The R sound in British and American English

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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i before e except after c – a useful English spelling rule

i before e except after c – a useful English spelling rule

English spelling is tricky because sometimes words look nothing like they sound. But here’s a rule that can help: i before e except after c.
Join Vicki and Jay at a spelling bee, or spelling competition as we call them in the UK. You’ll learn when it’s useful to apply the rule and when it isn’t. You’ll also meet our friend Claire from English at Home and learn about some British and American English differences.

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i before e except after c – an English spelling bee

Let’s face it. English spelling is crazy. The way we write words is often nothing like they sound. But maybe there are some rules we follow.
We’ve collaborated on this video with our good friend Clare from English at Home.
Clare is British like me, and she has a YouTube channel too.
Make sure you subscribe to her channel so you can see all her great lessons.
Yeah. In this lesson we’re going to take you to a spelling competition.
Or a spelling bee as we call them in American English.
While you watch, try to work out what spelling rule we’re following.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Tiddly on Thames spelling competition. Let’s meet our two finalists: Jay and Vicki.
OK. The first word is for Vicki. Chief. For example, global warming is one of the chief problems we face today. Chief.
CHIEF.
Correct. Now Jay, your word is believe. For example: I don’t believe in ghosts.
Don’t you? I do.
Please spell the word, Jay.
BELIEVE.
Correct. Vicki, your next word is brief. For example, there was a brief pause in the conversation.
BRIEF.
Excellent. OK, Jay your next word is receive. For example: They posted the letter but we didn’t receive it.
So they mailed it but we didn’t get it?
Just spell the word ‘receive’, please Jay.
RECEIVE.
Correct.

Do you know the spelling rule? It’s i before e except after c. So if you’ve got an i and an e together, the i comes first.
Chief, believe and brief follow this pattern and so do lots more words:
achieve, niece, diesel, hygiene, piece, thief.
But if you have an i and an e after c, the e comes first. So receive follows this pattern and there are others.
Deceive, deceit, receipt, ceiling, conceive.
So this is the rule, but do we always follow it? Let’s go back to the competition and see.

OK, Jay, your next word is leisure. For example, when people work shorter hours, they have more leisure time.
Oh, you mean leisure.
I mean leisure. Please spell the word.
LEISURE.
Correct. Vicki, your next word is foreign: For example: Jay is American. He isn’t British. He’s foreign.
Oh yeah, foreign. FOREIGN.
Correct. The score is three points to Vicki and three points to Jay. This is the final round. Jay, your word is scientist. For example, the British scientist Charles Babbage invented the computer.
I thought it was invented by American scientists.
Just spell the word please.
SCIENTIST.
Correct. Vicki, please spell the word efficient. For example, the British National Health Service is very efficient.
Is it?
Yes, it’s excellent. EFFICIENT.
Correct.

OK, so there we saw some examples where the rule doesn’t work. The i didn’t come before the e. And there are more words where the rule doesn’t work.
Some are common words, like their, and the number eight. And there are some measurement words – weigh, weight and height. And then there’s weird.
Weird means strange or peculiar. Perhaps you can remember how to spell it because the spelling of weird is weird.
And we don’t always follow the other part rule – the except after c. So after c it should be e then i, but look at the words science and efficient. It’s i then e. We also have words like ancient, glacier and conscience.
So is it worth learning this rule if we break it? Before you answer we want to show you something.
Here are more some words that follow the rule. Notice their pronunciation. They all have an eee sound. Beleeeve, cheeeef, acheeeve, eee.
And here are some words with a c. They all follow the rule too! Again there’s an eee sound. Receeeive. Ceeeiling, deceeeive,
So if we change the rule a little, it works. We just have to add a bit that says, ‘if the word has an eee sound’.
Lets go back to the competition and see who wins.

Our competitors are tied, so we will now go to a sudden death round. You will both spell the same word. But if one person makes a mistake, the other person will win. Vicki, please put your headphones on so you can’t hear Jay’s answer.
Jay, the word is neighbour. For example, our neighbour complained about the noise from the party. Neighbour.
NEIGHBOR.
Thank you Jay. Vicki, please take off your head phones and spell the word neighbour.
NEIGHBOUR
That is the correct answer. Congratulations Vicki! Jay, I’m afraid you spelt it wrongly.
But… but my answer was right. That’s how we spell it in American English.
American spelling is weird.
Hard luck Jay and well done Vicki.

And that’s it for this week.
Make sure you subscribe to our channel to see more of our videos.
And be sure to subscribe to Clare’s channel, English at Home, too. See you next Friday everyone! Bye-bye.
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Meghan, Harry and the Royal Wedding. What do Americans think?

Meghan, Harry and the Royal Wedding. What do Americans think?

Are American’s excited about the royal wedding? After all, it’s a British event.
Watch this video to find out what American’s think of Meghan and Prince Harry and to learn lots of great English expressions. This is a listening practice lesson with fast, natural English.

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Meghan, Prince Harry and the royal wedding

Hi. I’m Vicki and I’m British but I live in the United States.
And I’m Jay, Vicki’s husband, and I’m American.
There’s been a lot of news on the television here about the British royal wedding.
And you’re surprised?
Yes, because it’s a British event.
We’ve got some great listening practice for you today.
You’re going to hear lots of fast natural English.
And learn some great English expressions too. Are you ready?

What do you think of the royal wedding?
Have to watch it.
I think it’s going to be a very exciting event. Looking forward to it.
I think it’s great.
Do you think they show it too much on American television?
No, not at all.
Actually I’m very excited about the new royal baby. Super cute.
I’m super excited. I remember the last Royal wedding. I was in like seventh grade and we were watching it on TV so I am excited for this one. I am in love with Meghan Markle so…
Have you heard of the queen?
Yes.
What do you know about the queen?
Erm… Her name is Elizabeth. I think she wears a dress and a crown.
And a crown, of course. Excellent!
Do you think you’re going to watch the wedding?
If it’s at a time that makes sense for me, then I would like to. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I want to.
Will you be watching it?
Probably not live, because isn’t it going to be like four o’clock in the morning my time?
Maybe. It’s possible, or I might just catch it on YouTube.
My sister and cousin and I got up at something ungodly like 4.30 AM in California for Princess Di’s wedding and we’re all going to try to meet and recreate the whole thing…
Fantastic!
Whatever hour it’s on.
We’d like your prediction. Is this marriage going to be successful and happy?
Yes, because he’s not listening to the naysayers. He’s following his heart and Meghan’s awesome, so I think yes.
I feel like she’s going to spice it up. Like she’s going to spice up the royal family, like kind of bring some flair to, you know, everything.
I think they could probably do with that.
Yeah, I think they could use her. Yeah.
Who’s your favourite royal?
Ahhh. You know I have to give it to the queen, because she’s the queen.
I, of course, years ago, wanted to marry Prince Andrew. We all did.
Tell me, who is your favourite royal?
Oooo. Elizabeth. Elizabeth. She’s so argh! She’s so sassy. I love her.
I’ve gotta say the queen. Love her outfits. Love the hats.
Do you think America should have a queen?
I mean, we do. Beyonce. Duh!

They were great.
And they used lots of interesting expressions. Have a look at these, Jay. What’s missing?
Hmmm. I.. and I’m… If we were writing it, we’d write I and I’m.

What do you think of the Royal wedding?
Have to watch it.
I think it’s going to be a very exciting event. Looking forward to it.

When we’re speaking fast or informally, sometimes we don’t say the subject.
We understand the meaning without it.
Another interesting thing. What’s the difference between excited and exciting?
I know this one. Excited describes how you feel and exciting describes the thing that caused the feeling.
Yeah. This is worth learning because the same thing happens with lots of other adjectives.
Like interesting and interested, surprising and surprised, …
Amazing and amazed… They follow the same pattern.

I think it’s going to be a very exciting event.
I’m super excited.

We could say this in British English but usually we say very excited or really excited.
We say that too, but if we’re very, very excited, we’re super excited. They were super excited for the wedding.
Ah that’s something else. You can be excited for something in American English.
Yes, can’t you?
No we get excited ABOUT something in British English.
We can say that too.

I remember the last Royal wedding, I was in like seventh grade and we were watching it on TV so I am excited for this one.
Actually I’m very excited about the new royal baby. Super cute.
So super cute is very, very cute.

Yes. We met someone who was super cute.
Yes!

Erm… Her name is Elizabeth. I think she wears a dress and a crown.

This is a crown.
Very nice. Now there’s a time difference between the UK and the US, so the wedding might be early in the morning here.
Will you be watching it?
Probably not live, because isn’t it going to be like four in the morning my time?
Maybe. It’s possible, or I might just catch it on YouTube.

If we watch something live, we watch it in real time – the time it’s happening.
And if we catch something, like a TV program or show, we see or hear it.
Yes, like ‘Do you want to catch a movie later?’
It’s informal and it’s more common in American than British English.

My sister and cousin and I got up at something ungodly like 4.30 AM in California for Princess Di’s wedding and we’re all going to try to meet and recreate the whole thing… whatever hour it’s on.

She was a real fan.
Yes and notice the word ‘ungodly’.
An ungodly hour and means super-early.
Or very very late. It’s an unreasonable time.
An annoying time.
Yeah. OK, next one. What do you think naysayers means?

We’d like your prediction. Is this marriage going to be successful and happy?
Yes, because he’s not listening to the naysayers. He’s following his heart and Meghan’s awesome, so I think yes.

Nay is an old-fashioned word for no.
And a naysayer is a very negative person.
They always give you reasons for why things won’t work.
We don’t like naysayers.
We like people who are positive and optimistic. And people who spice things up.

I feel like she’s going to spice it up. Like she’s gonna spice up the royal family, like kind of bring some flair to, you know, everything.

Spices are powders and seeds that we use in cooking.
If we spice up food we give it a strong taste and smell.
But we can spice up other things too. It means make them more interesting and exciting
What about flair?
If you have flair then you do things in an interesting way.
With imagination.
Yeah. OK, next one.

Tell me, who is your favourite royal?
Oooo. Elizabeth. Elizabeth. She’s so… argh! She’s so sassy. I love her.
I’ve gotta say the queen. Love her outfits. Love the hats.

Sassy is a lovely word. It means she doesn’t care what people think.
It means she’s fashionable and confident.
Sassy is an American word. I think we’d understand it but we don’t say it much in British English.
Really? What would you say then?
Maybe feisty?
Sassy can also have a negative meaning. If a child is rude and doesn’t show respect, they can be sassy.
So if you tell a child to do something and they answer back?
Then they’re sassy. What would you say in British English?
Cheeky. It means rude and disrespectful, but often in a funny way.
You know, I think it’s going to be hard for Meghan being married to a Brit.
Why?
Because you sound funny.
You cheeky devil!
OK, the last one.

Do you think America should have a queen?
I mean, we do. Beyonce. Duh!

Duh! This is another American word that I love.
We say it when someone says something stupid.
And often in a joking way. Like here.
Yeah. Obviously Beyonce is America’s queen. Duh!
And that’s it everyone.
We want to say a big thank you to everyone who appeared in this video.
Yes, you were great.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend and hit that subscribe button.
See you next Friday everyone. Bye.
Bye-bye.
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Different to, different than or different from? A British and American Difference

Different to, different than or different from? A British and American Difference

Should you say different to or different than? Or should you say different from? In this short video you’ll learn what we say in British and American English.

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Click here to learn how to use the prepositions for and to

Different to, different than or different from?

How do we use to and than when we’re comparing things?
Now this was a question we had from Sohan Pandy. Do we say different to or different than?
Or do we say something else? Let’s find out.

Hi everyone, I’m Vicki.
And I’m Jay.
Jay looks different from normal because he has a moustache today
Do you want one too?
Yes,
Here you go.

Did you notice what preposition I used after different? I said from. If you’re wondering what preposition to use, say from. It’s what we normally say.
Different to and different than are also possible and they mean the same thing. They’re just not very common.

Your moustache is bigger. It’s different to mine.
You mean it’s different than mine.
No. You see, there’s a British and American difference here.
So British English is different than American
No, British English is different to American.

‘Different to’ and ‘different than’ mean the same thing. It’s just we say ‘to’ in British English and ‘than’ in American. But in both varieties we usually say from.
I’m American and ‘different to’ sounds strange to me.
Yes, it’s more common in British English. And ‘different than’ sounds wrong to me, because I’m British.
Except it’s correct in American. But usually we say ‘different from’.
Yes, so say different from. It’s what we normally say and you can’t go wrong.
And that’s it for this week. Make sure you tune in next Friday for another English lesson and don’t forget to subscribe.
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