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Most dictionaries list the pronunciation of issue as /ˈɪʃuː/ (ĭsho͞o) in American English and /ˈɪs.juː/ (ĭsyo͞o) possibly alongside /ˈɪʃjuː/ (ĭshyo͞o) and /ˈɪʃuː/ in British English. One informal poll gives equal figures for /ˈɪʃuː/ and /ˈɪs.juː/ in British English.

Is there any manner to how these three pronunciations map out in British English? Is it a regional variation, a class variation, purely individual variations?

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    As a Brit, I wasn't aware that there was an issue regarding its pronunciation, nor indeed that there is more than one pronunciation either within the UK nor 'across the pond'. But I won't attempt to comment further because I have no knowledge of the pronunciation symbols. – TrevorD Aug 28 '13 at 15:10
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    @TrevorD, BBC's learningenglish pages include a useful chart and supporting videos that discuss each IPA symbol individually – James Waldby - jwpat7 Aug 28 '13 at 15:24
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    @TrevorD Although its main Wikipedia page makes for tough reading, the limited IPA needed for English is extremely simple and easily learned. Look here for phonemic–phonetic mappings for English as used on Wikipedia; look here for numerous dialect examples especially from the UK, plus with sound clips no less; and look here for an easy keyboard-entry mechanism that works anywhere. – tchrist Aug 28 '13 at 15:24
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    I can't really imagine these is any audible difference between /ˈɪʃuː/ and /ˈɪʃjuː/. But I would have thought that the standard British pronunciation is /ˈɪʃuː/ (ĭsho͞o) while some (upper class? and/or careful) speakers say /ˈɪs.juː/ (ĭsyo͞o) (although that always sounds rather contrived to my ears). It might also be a regional thing; I can imagine /ˈɪs.juː/ being more common in Wales – user323578 Apr 9 at 13:53
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    @TimFoster l'll agree with your suggestion that the RP pronunciation is /isyoo/. However I can't think of a Northern English accent which does the same. To me we all say /ishoo/. – BoldBen Apr 9 at 22:45
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Having lived all my 65 years in various parts of Britain (South Wales, Cambridge, Oxford, London and Brighton) I'd say that the normal British pronunciation is "ishoo", though the more phonetic "issyoo" is a universally accepted variant. I think my own pronunciation started as "ishoo", veered towards "issyoo" and then edged back towards the majority version.

Cambridge Dictionaries online pronunciation guide gives only "ishoo" as the British pronunciation, but perhaps they are not set up in a way that allows alternative minority versions.

I think that "issyoo" has its main stronghold among politicians, and in the broadcast legacy media such as the BBC and C4. The British social media site The Student Room has a thread that pretty explicitly confirms this (before degenerating into silliness). The small minority of contributors who used the more phonetic version appealed to the authority of usage among politicians.

Also, the estimable vlogger Sargon of Akkad, who in my opinion has a beautiful educated British-English accent, once prefixed one of his YouTube videos with a note about this topic. He said that he had recently noticed himself moving from "ishoo" to "issyoo", and put it down to listening to too many politicians. He promised to try to resist the affectation in future.

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    I’m not syure what you mean by "more phonetic". :) – tchrist Jan 23 '18 at 14:38
  • Simply that the "ss" is rendered as /s/ rather than /ʃ/, and the palatalization of the consonant before the "u", (which would be standard in British English) is not supressed as it is in the "less phonetic" majority pronunciation; the /j/ goes. – kgbgb Jan 23 '18 at 14:53
  • Given the rules of British English, /ˈɪʃuː/ is a surprising pronunciation, even though it is more common. The spelling and the pronunciation have to be learned separately. If the pronunciation was universally /ˈɪs.juː/, the spelling would allow you to pronounce the word even if you had never heard it, or to write it without ever having seen it. – kgbgb Jan 23 '18 at 15:05
  • In a recent podcast from the Guardian "issue" was pronounced with "s" not "sh": theguardian.com/news/audio/2019/apr/05/… – Rusty Core Apr 9 at 23:36
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J. C. Wells in his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd edition, 2008) has /ˈɪʃu:/ as the only American pronunciation of the word, and /ˈɪsju:/, /ˈɪʃju:/ and /ˈɪʃu:/ for British English, with the following distribution:

/ˈɪsju:/: 30%

/ˈɪʃju:/: 21%

/ˈɪʃu:/: 49%

Further information is provided about prevalence according to age, with 40% of older speakers and more than 90% of younger speakers using one of the /ʃ/ variants, /ˈɪʃju:/ or /ˈɪʃu:/. The conclusion from the figures is that the /ˈɪsju:/ pronunciation is being replaced in British English by the other ones.

/ʃ/ is the sound that is found in shoe, /j/ in you.

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I've lived on both sides of the pond, and in Old Blighty I don't remember ever hearing anything other than "iss-you" -- not that nobody ever did say it the other way, mind, that's just the only place I've heard it said that way. In Yankworld I've always heard (and said) "iss-shoe" and not the other way.

This is not to say that in certain places in the UK you might hear "iss-shoe" and in the US "iss-you".

I remember being made lightly fun of at Cheltenham Grammar School for pronouncing "tube" as "toob" rather than "tee-oob". I tried to get them to show me where there was a "y" in that word, but in vain (you know, "tyoob"). Nobody wanted to consider my position. Eventually I decided "when in Rome" and all that. Coming back to the US I had to unlearn a number of pronunciation issues. After 40 years I still have a hard time pronouncing "headmaster" like a Yank. My mouth absolutely wants to say "headMAHster" with the long "a" and emphasis on "mas" -- instead of the American short "a" with emphasis on "head".

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    the unemployed who sell the magazine 'The Big Issue' on the streets of London can be heard to cry out Big Ish-oo – SPA Nov 19 '13 at 12:26
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Having just heard this on BBC radio 4 I'm a little stumped, as the main presenter would pronunciate it as /ˈɪs.juː/ and second one, covering the particular topic, as /ˈɪʃuː/. I can't say if one of them wasn't British, but, additionally, during the same news, it occurred once more, this time regarding breast cancer tissue.

Youtube gives me conflicting messages as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Rn7q2GUgk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ1LBhSydlw

  • You wrote the same pronunciation twice, did you mean different ones? Did the presenters both have British accents? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 2 '16 at 19:34
  • Ooops - thanks for correction :) I think both had British accents, but as I'm not native to UK I might be mistaken. Other (similar thing) was also pronunciation of Alicia as youtube.com/watch?v=PnyOLzBfT4k - where one person would alternate between both usages. – eithed May 2 '16 at 20:11
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I am originally from the North East of England (Gateshead) but have lived in Brighton, London, Bracknell, Holland, Alnwick and for the last 7 years in the US. I say iss-you. My colleagues here in the US say ish-you. I don't know what everyone else in the UK says but would like to know.

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