How to Speak in a British Accent

Six Parts:R'sU'sHeavy consonantsT'sPronunciationListening and copying

This article focuses on "Received Pronunciation" (RP), the stereotypical British accent mainly spoken in the south of England, and exaggerated by the upper classes, giving it the nickname "the Queen's English". There are greatly differing accents across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and for a more regional or 'authentic' accent, it's best to choose one particular area, and try to learn that accent instead. Adopting British mannerisms while speaking will also help for authenticity. This study of RP is concerned largely with pronunciation, while study of the standard language is also concerned with matters such as correct grammar, more formal vocabulary and style.

Part 1

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    Start with the Rs. Understand that in most British accents speakers don't roll their Rs (except for those from Scotland, Northumbria, Northern Ireland, and parts of Lancashire), but not all British accents are the same. For example, a Scottish accent varies greatly from an English accent. After a vowel, don't pronounce the R, but draw out the vowel and maybe add an "uh" (Here is "heeuh"). In words like "hurry", don't blend the R with the vowel. Say "huh-ree".
    • In American English, words ending with "rl" or "rel" can be pronounced using either one or two syllables, completely interchangeably. This is not the case in British English. "-rl" words like "girl", "hurl", etc, are pronounced as one syllable with silent R, while "squirrel" is "squih-rul", and "referral" is "re-fer-rul".
    • Some words are easier to say in a British accent. For example, mirror, which sounds like "mih-ra". Do not say "mirror" like "mere"; British people almost never do that.
    • Some awkward pauses in sentences are also removed by the addition of 'r' before a vowel. For example, "I saw it" becomes "I saw-rit", to avoid the pause between the words 'saw' and 'it'. Another example is "Bacteria are small", pronounced "Bacteria-rar-small".

Part 2

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    Pronounce U in stupid and in duty with the ew or "you" sound. Avoid the oo as in an American accent; thus it is pronounced stewpid or commonly schewpid, not stoopid, etc. duty would be pronounced dewty or more often jooty. In the standard English accent, the A (for example, in father) is pronounced at the back of the mouth with an open throat—it sounds like "arh". This is the case in pretty much all British accents, but it's exaggerated in RP. In southern England and in RP, words such as "bath", "path", "glass", "grass" also use this vowel (barth, parth, glarss, grarss, etc.). However, in other parts of Britain "bath", "path", etc. sound like "ah".

Part 3
Heavy consonants

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    Enunciate on heavy consonant words. Pronounce that T in "duty" as T: not as the American D as doody so that duty is pronounced dewty or a softer jooty. Pronounce the suffix -ing with a strong G. This way it sounds like -ing rather than -een. But sometimes it is shortened to in as in lookin.
    • The words human being are pronounced hewman being or yooman been in certain areas, though it could be pronounced hewman bee-in.

Part 4

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    Sometimes drop the Ts. With some accents, including cockney accents, Ts aren't pronounced in words where Americans use D to replace it. However, there is usually a short pause or "hiccup" in its place. So "battle" might be pronounced ba-ill but it would be a rare occasion to find someone saying "Ba-ill" catching the air behind the back of the tongue at the end of the first syllable before expelling it on pronunciation of the second syllable. This is known as the glottal stop. Americans use glottal stops, too, for words like "mittens" and "mountain". It's just that British use them more often.
    • People with Estuary English, RP, Scottish, Irish and Welsh accents do consider it lazy and rude to drop the Ts, and this feature doesn't exist, but in almost all accents it's accepted to do it in the middle of words in casual contexts and almost universal to put a glottal stop at the end of a word.

Part 5

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    Observe that some words are pronounced as written. The word "herb" should be pronounced with an H sound. The word "been" is pronounced "bean", rather than "bin" or "ben". For RP, "Again" and "renaissance" are pronounced like "a gain" and "run nay seance", with the "ai" as in "pain", not "said." The words ending in "body" are pronounced as written, like "any body", not "any buddy." But use a British short O sound.
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    Observe that H is not always pronounced. The "H" is pronounced in the word "herb," in contrast to American erb. However, in many British accents, the H at the beginning of a word is often omitted, such as in many Northern accents and the Cockney accent.
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    Say "bean," not "bin" for the word been. In an American accent, this is often pronounced bin. In an English accent, been is a common pronunciation, but "bin" is more often heard in casual speech where the word isn't particularly stressed.
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    Notice that two or more vowels together may prompt an extra syllable. For example, the word "road" would usually be pronounced rohd, but in Wales and with some people in Northern Ireland it might be pronounced ro.ord. Some speakers may even say "reh-uud."

Part 6
Listening and copying

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    Listen to the "music" of the language. All accents and dialects have their own musicality. Pay attention to the tones and emphasis of British speakers. Sir Johnathan Ive is a good example, listen to his accent at Apple revealings. Do sentences generally end on a higher note, the same, or lower? How much variation is there in tone throughout a typical sentence? There is a huge variation between regions with tonality. British speech, especially RP, usually varies much less within a sentence than American English, and the general tendency is to go down slightly towards the end of a phrase. However, Liverpool and north-east England are notable exceptions!
    • For example, instead of saying, "is he going to the STORE?" Say, "is he GOING to the store?" Have the question descending in tone as opposed to ascending in tone (going up in tone is more common in American or Australian English).
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    Get a British person to say well known sentences: "How now brown cow" and "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain" and pay close attention. Rounded mouth vowels in words such as "about" in London, are usually flattened in Northern Ireland.
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    Immerse yourself in the British culture; this means surround yourself with individuals that speak, live, walk and talk British English. It's the surest way to learn a British accent quickly. Soon, you'll find yourself naturally able to speak with the variations above. Anything with a British speaker will work—try listening to the BBC (which provides free radio and television newscasts on the web) songs with British singers, or movies with British characters.


  • You can also watch British YouTubers. There are a lot choose from: AmazingPhil, danisnotonfire, Zoella, The Sidemen, and many more.
  • As well as accent, watch out for British slang words, such as lads or blokes for boys and men, birds or lasses (the latter particularly popular in the north of England and in Scotland) for women. loo for the toilet, but bathroom for a room in which you clean yourself.
  • As with any accent, listening to and imitating a native speaker is the best and fastest way to learn. Remember that when you were young you learned a language by listening and then repeating the words while imitating the accent.
  • It is easier to learn accents by listening to people. A formal British accent can be heard on BBC news, where it can frequently be heard. Formal British speech is more deliberate and articulated than American, but as with newscasters everywhere, this effect is deliberately exaggerated for television and radio broadcast.
  • A good thing would be to hear HM The Queen's speech at her State Opening of Parliament where she always delivers a very long speech, the perfect time to observe the way she speaks. But be aware, the Queen has a very exaggerated upper class accent, and unless you are specifically learning a royal-style accent, it's best avoided - particularly as British people can be offended when foreigners speak in this way when trying the accent.
  • Note that to avoid confusion, it is advisable to learn only one accent at a time.
  • There are hundreds of different accents within the United Kingdom, so categorizing them all as a British accent is rather incorrect; wherever you go, you will find an unbelievable variety of different pronunciations.
  • Be creative. Have fun with it. Take your new knowledge and explore. Test your British accent on your friends! They'll tell you if it's good or not!
  • Many places have different mannerisms and word usages. Look up a British dictionary online for more British terms. Bear in mind that beyond the obvious tap/faucet, pavement/sidewalk distinctions, locals would find you at best an endearing source of amusement and at worst patronizing if you tried to adopt their local words and mannerisms yourself.
  • Pronounce everything clearly and articulate every word properly, making sure there are spaces between your words.
  • Take a trip to the United Kingdom and really listen to how they speak.
  • As a child, your ability for the ear to process different frequencies of sound is greater, enabling you to distinguish and reproduce the sounds of the languages that surround you. To effectively learn a new accent, you must expand the ability of your ear by listening over and over to examples of the accent.
  • Once you learn the techniques and listen to Brit speakers, try reading parts of books while reading in the dialect. It's fun and makes for good practice.
  • To hear authentic East London accents, watch the BBC soap EastEnders and sitcom Only Fools and Horses. People still do speak like this, especially working-class people in east London and parts of Essex and Kent, although it's much more noticeable with older people.
  • Remember that the accents of Julie Andrews or Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter), for instance are quite different from those of Jamie Oliver and Simon Cowell.
  • If you know someone British, ask them to say phrases for you so you can listen and try to learn.
  • Don't act British too much. It may be perceived as annoying to certain people that know your real origin.
  • Watch British television programmes and try using more new words to improve your vocabulary and being observant helps you to procure a proper British accent.
  • If you truly want to sound British, try to focus on a certain dialect.
  • Enunciate your T's.
  • Watch Harry Potter and listen to how they speak. They speak with clear, British accents. Pretend to be them and act like them. This will encourage you to speak similarly to them.


  • Don't think that you'll get it right quickly. It is likely that any true British person will know that you're faking it straight away, but it might pass for a real accent to non-Brits.
  • Don't be overconfident that you do a good British accent. It is rare to find an imitation that sounds genuine to the native ear.

Things You'll Need

  • Television
  • DVD player

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