Whenever I listen to English, it is AmE and I've seldom heard BrE because in Japan we're mainly taught AmE. (But I've seen BrE many times.) So, I have a little knowledge of BrE pronunciation only through a dictionary but I don't know how British people today pronounce words. I heard these days the number of British people usiug AmE is increasing and pronunciation varies from age to age or region to region. I really want to know how British people today, the average age and living near London, pronounce the following words.

  1. water BrE /ˈwɔːtə(r)/ or AmE /ˈwɑːtər/
  2. either BrE /ˈaɪðə(r)/ or AmE /ˈiːðər/
  3. herb BrE /hɜːb/ or AmE /ɜːrb/
  4. letter BrE /ˈletə(r)/ or AmE /ˈletər/
  5. data BrE /ˈdɑːtə/ or AmE /ˈdeɪtə/
  6. aunt BrE /ɑːnt/ or AmE /ænt/
  7. air BrE /eə(r)/or AmE /er/
  8. vitamin BrE /ˈvɪtəmɪn/ or AmE /ˈvaɪtəmɪn/
  9. advertisement BrE /ədˈvɜːtɪsmənt or AmE /ˌædvərˈtaɪzmənt
  10. garage BrE /ˈɡærɑːʒ/ or /ˈɡærɪdʒ/ or AmE /ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ ,
  • Not that it's relevant for your question, but those Americans who distinguish between /ɔː/ and /ɑː/ say /ˈwɔːtər/. I'd be very surprised if any Brits said /ˈwɑːtər/. And both pronunciations of either and advertisement are common in American English. Sep 28, 2016 at 14:51
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    Do you have access to BBC television and radio programs where you live in Japan? I think listening to broadcasts will give you both pronunciation and context for learning/understanding British English. Sep 28, 2016 at 14:53
  • You're welcome. Here in the U. S., BBC television dramas, news and other "programmes" (as the Brits call them) are available on our Public Broadcasting System and on National Public Radio, which is often broadcast by radio stations associated with a college or university (at least in the relatively rural area where I reside). It's refreshing to be able to receive the BBC News, which is more international and less "sensational" than U. S. news sources. I wouldn't even know how to pronounce "Angela Merkel" if it weren't for the BBC. Long live the sensible Brits! :-) Sep 28, 2016 at 15:05
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    @TulipSaita If you want to find British-English pronunciation which hasn't been through the filtering process which comes with getting into broadcasting, it might be worth looking up UK You Tubers. The more popular ones will often be younger than 'average age' (which apparently is 40 years old in the UK) but they won't be being edited by anyone. So perhaps look up (and no-one has to laugh at my You Tube picks here!) the channels for Ashens, Emma Blackery, SprinkleofGlitter NerdCubed, Danisnotonfire or AmazingPhil.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 28, 2016 at 15:14
  • @MarkHubbard Be careful if you watch Coronation Street. Oh, hold on - that's not BBC is it. But it's an interesting study of working-class life in the north of England.
    – WS2
    Sep 28, 2016 at 16:51

3 Answers 3


You will probably discover that there is actually no such thing as a single pronunciation of either BritE or AmE, in the strictest sense; both have significant variation in the sounds involved within their category. English-speakers, by convention, expect some consistency, but a certain amount of variation is perfectly acceptable in most contexts.

To illustrate how this affects the answer to your question, you doubtless know that anyone who was born within hearing distance of Bow's Bells, the bells of the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, in London is considered a Cockney, and that Cockneys have a distinct and different accent (as well as their own idiom, Cockney Rhyming Slang). This accent is, to some degree, shared by near neighbors who are not strictly Cockney by that definition. In at least one stratum of society, the accent continues but diminishes with increasing distance from London for at least a dozen miles.

This is important because your question asks about the accents of London residents (presumably), as well as those living near London, and the problem is that they vary a great deal even within that range. The Cockneys are only a minority in London; other residents (and commuters) have a variety of different accents, depending on their background.

Spagirl's comment suggesting reference to YouTube is a helpful idea, but will not give you any indication which accent should be considered "standard".

Why this should not concern the average person: At one point (you may know this, of course, but for completeness I'll include it), the BBC had an approved accent which they expected their announcers to use. Each announcer, therefore, sounded as if they came from the same geographical area, class, education, etc. The BBC's objective was for their radio broadcasts to be as comprehensible to as many different listeners as possible, since for many of them, particularly their overseas listeners, English was not their first language.

The good news is that this became a politically incorrect policy, since it appeared to suggest that one accent (and by extension, the related geographical area, class, education, etc.) was superior or more acceptable than others. As a result of public pressure, the BBC changed their policy regarding the accents of their announcers to allow more regional variation, and now has announcers with a variety of accents, including accents not originally not from the British Islands, such as those of some African, Asian and Caribbean nations.

If you are interested in recreating a particular scene, for documentary or dramatic purposes, it may still be important to perfect the accents. For this purpose, I recommend finding a relevant broadcast from British broadcasting.

For example, the world's longest running television drama, the British soap opera Coronation Street features a variety of accents that are genuine and unfiltered. I regret I can't offer you guidance on a streaming source in Japan.

Another more famous example is the series Masterpiece, produced by the BBC. This series encompasses multiple dramas set in a variety of regions.

The Endeavour television series may be particularly useful, because it pairs a Londoner, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, with a white, male, upper-middle-class, well-educated Englishman, Constable Endeavour Morse. The contrast in their accents may be informative.

The series is a sequel to an earlier series, Morse, which depicts Constable Morse in his later years as a Detective Chief Inspector. In that series, his assistant is Sergeant Lewis, who is a Geordie* from the north of England, with an accent to match.

Finally, after the actor who played Inspector Morse retired, Lewis became the protagonist in a spin-off series, and this time it's his assistant, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway, who is the white, middle-class Englishman with an Oxford education (and accent to match).

These 3 television series, therefore, offer a surprisingly convenient juxtaposition of London and Geordie accents versus an upper-middle-class/well-educated English accent.

*A Geordie is a person from the Tyneside region in the north of England, i.e. the opposite banks of the River Tyne, comprised of the northern part of County Durham, and the southern part of Northumberland.

As a note on American pronunciation, the letter t between vowels is pronounced as a "t" sound in some cases, and as a "d" in others. For example, butter is pronounced "budder", not "butter" in AmE. This holds mostly for short initial vowels and vocalized following vowels, so "fladder" for flatter, "bidder" for bitter, etc, but "mute" for mute, and "late" for _late. Later, however, is pronounced "lader" in AmE, since the e is now vocalized.

  • Just as a nitpick, it's the sound of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, not St Martin. Sep 28, 2016 at 18:00
  • @DJClayworth Thanks for that correction. I must have my nursery rhymes mixed in here somehow. It's been awhile...
    – jaxter
    Sep 28, 2016 at 18:06
  • "I owe you five farthings say the bells of St Martins?" I think the 'great bell of Bow' is the cockney one. Sep 28, 2016 at 18:10
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    Another nitpick: Endeavour is a prequel to Morse, not a sequel.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 28, 2016 at 22:28
  • @AndrewLeach Yes, the correct term is "prequel". I was trying to be cognizant of the fact that the OP is Japanese, and "sequel" seemed literally correct, and easier to understand, while the exactness of the term is not material to the gist of the message.
    – jaxter
    Sep 29, 2016 at 1:54

If you want to hear something approaching a 'standard' English accent (which doesn't really exist) see if you can stream BBC output featuring some of the following presenters and personalities:

Charlie Stayt, Louise Minchin, Naga Munchetty and Sally Nugent - presenters on the BBC Breakfast programme. Be careful, though, there are other members of the team with regional accents such as Carol Kirkwood (Scottish) and Steph McGovern (English North West) who speak very differently.

Other broadcasters with fairly standard accents are: Steven Fry, Fiona Bruce, Alexander Armstrong and David Mitchell.

A younger personality with a 'standard' accent is Jack Whitehall (a comedian), and he is certainly available on YouTube.

If you can't find or stream footage of these people see if you can find movies featuring Hugh Grant or Kate Winslet with the original, that is undubbed, soundtrack.

I may well be criticised for suggesting a disproportionate number of older people and ones with 'upper class' accents; Jack Whitehall, David Mitchell and Hugh Grant, for example, come from very privileged backgrounds. However the suggestions I have made are intended to give someone with no experience of British accents a starting point. Introducing you to regional accents would just be confusing.

I hope that this answer helps you.

  • Steph McGovern's accent is from Middlesbrough on the Tees, hence English North-East (albeit the southern end of the North-East). She was born on North Tyneside (the northern end of the North-East), but grew up on Teesside. Sep 28, 2016 at 21:27
  • @PhilMJones Quite right, Phil, I don't know what I was thinking!
    – BoldBen
    Sep 28, 2016 at 22:14
  • These sound like excellent recommendations, @BoldBen, but I would recommend one alteration: the removal of Hugh Grant. I have no objections to Mr Grant or his acting, but his accent has a tendency towards Lord High Admiral, if you catch my drift; he doesn't speak as a middle-class Englishman does, or even an upper-middle-class Englishman; he speaks as an upper-class Englishman does, and that is not an accent that should be emulated by the unwary. Trust me. On the other hand, David Mitchell's accent would be quite suitable. I would also recommend adding John Cleese and Michael Palin.
    – jaxter
    Sep 29, 2016 at 1:59

I'm fifty years old and live in Cambridge, 50 miles north of London, a hotbed of RP-speaking. But someone with a good ear can still tell that I was originally from Yorkshire (most people can't apparently). I go for:

water          /ˈwɔːtə/  ( /ˈwɑːtər/ sounds very odd, not even American)
either         /ˈaɪðə/   ( /ˈiːðər/ sounds very American )
herb           /hɜːb/    ( /ɜːrb/ is Cockney-sounding )
letter         /ˈletə/   ( /ˈletər/ also sounds fine )
data           /ˈdeɪtə/  ( /ˈdɑːtə/ sounds ludicrous, like an over-correction)
aunt           /ant/     ( that's from Yorkshire, /ɑːnt/ is more normal here /ænt/ sounds American)
air            /e:/      ( /eə(r)/ sounds ok too /er/ sounds American) 
vitamin        /ˈvɪtəmɪn/ ( /ˈvaɪtəmɪn/ sounds very American )
advertisement  /ədˈvɜːtɪsmənt/  ( /ˌædvərˈtaɪzmənt sounds very American)
garage         /ˈɡarɪdʒ/  (/ˈɡarɑːʒ/ sounds ok too, /ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ is very American)

hope that helps!

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