English is not my first language; the little English I know is mostly from the USA.

I know some of the differences between British English (or just English?) and American English, and the same with Australian.

In general terms, could you explain to me, or list the most important differences (if any), between Canadian and American English?

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    Does your question extend to pronunciation and accent? If yes, there is a little bit about about and other words with the ou diphthong...
    – Eldroß
    Dec 10, 2010 at 12:02
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    @Eldros: That seems to be more of a thing for the US/Canada border areas around the Great Lakes. So both countries get it, in my experience.
    – bikeboy389
    Dec 10, 2010 at 14:17
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    @Mr. Shiny: as per @ghoppe’s answer, it’s not a myth, it’s just widely misunderstood. There is a significant difference between some Canadian and most US pronunciations of about, South, and many similar words (“Canadian rising”); the myth part is just that aboot is a really terribly rendering of it :-)
    – PLL
    Jan 11, 2011 at 21:09
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    Canadian English includes many terms such as "sorry", "I understand your point of view" and "we aren't planing to invade your country" which don't exist in American English
    – mgb
    Oct 23, 2011 at 18:35
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    Some would argue that there are none that are important, tho' there may be a few that are significant. ;-) Having lived several decades in each country, my observation is that the regional differences in either far outweigh any differences between their mainstream characteristics. A Torontonian would have no trouble conversing with a Washingtonian, but try seating a rural NewFoundlander next to an old school Alabaman.
    – user597
    Oct 23, 2011 at 20:43

5 Answers 5



Canadian English tends to combine aspects of American and British spelling. Here are some highlights:

  • Some nouns take -ice/-ence while matching verbs take -ise/ense. eg. practise / practice and license / licence
  • Canadians tend to use the British -our ending rather than -or in some words like colour, flavour, labour, neighbour.
  • Generally, words with Greek roots end in -ize while those with Latin roots end in -ise. eg. realize, paralyze. American English tends to standardize on -ize.
  • You draw money from the bank with a cheque not a check.
  • French derived words like theatre and centre tend to retain the -re ending. Although when used as a verb or in the sense of being "in the middle" it remains center.


Canadian English uses generally the same vocabulary as American. There are a few regionalisms and quirks.

  • A multi-level parking facility is a parkade.
  • Poutine is delicious.
  • In winter, you want to wear a toque(pronounced tu-que) to keep your head warm.
  • You wear runners on your feet, not sneakers.
  • Generally, you go to the washroom or bathroom (even when the referenced room does not contain a bath and is not intended for bathing) when nature calls. That term's generally been replaced by restroom in America and it's a public toilet or lavatory in Great Britain. In Canada, toilet is somewhat indelicate and avoided.
  • A pond in farmland is a slough. (Rhymes with brew.)
  • You book off work to go on holidays.
  • My favourite from where I live: it's not a hooded sweatshirt, it's a bunny-hug.


Pronunciation has American and British influence. There is some regional variation, and for some words, Canadians vary between British and American patterns. There are many little quirks, here's a few:

  • The last letter of the alphabet is zed.
  • Borg are Canadian. Futile, fertile, fragile etc. usually rhyme with "tile".
  • Adult, composite -- accent is on the first syllable.
  • Roof and hoof rhyme with "goof".

What sets Canadian pronunciation apart the most is the phenomonon known as Canadian Rising. Certain diphthongs are "raised" before voiceless consonants (eg. f,k,p,s,t). While most Americans discern no difference between writer and rider, in Canada, the vowel sounds are distinctly different.

Canadian Rising causes the illusion of about sounding like "aboot" to American ears.

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    In my Canadian English Roof and hoof don't rhyme with each other. Roof rhymes with goof. And COMposite is a different word that comPOSite. The first means "made up of many things" and the second means "to put things together (as in computer animation)" Jan 12, 2011 at 14:48
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    @Mr. Shiny There was a survey in Vancouver in 1978 which found three popular pronunciations of garage and 17 total pronunciation profiles. There's no doubt that Canadians pronounce many words differently and often switch between them. I think your pronunciations of composite don't make them different words, it's just similar to the way Americans say Department of DeFENCE and Football DEfence. Different contexts bring out different stress.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 12, 2011 at 16:12
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    for me "composite" has different pronunciations to go with different meanings (which are arguably different words, not even true homonyms). Another example of the pronunciation thing is attribute: AH-tribute (noun) vs ah-TRIB-ute (verb). Jan 12, 2011 at 16:39
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    As someone who works with a Canadian, let me say that aboot "illusion" is pretty impressive. I see it performed several times a day, and am fooled every time. ;-)
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2011 at 12:31
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    I would disagree: I think most Americans pronounce writer and rider differently.
    – tchrist
    Jan 16, 2013 at 8:49

This is a huge question. Canadian English has many differences from American English. But it also has many differences from British English.

  • Spelling tends to favour the British way, such as putting the U in favour.
  • Except for words that Americans end in -ize instead of ise; in that case Canadians often use -ize.
  • Much of the word choice is closer to American. We say truck and elevator, not lorry or lift.
  • Canadians drink a can of pop, not a can of soda.
  • The last letter of the alphabet is Zed, not Zee.

In general where there is a difference between American and British you can guess that half the time Canadian goes one way and half the other. Occasionally we go our own way.

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    In the US, soda vs. pop vs. tonic vs. coke (lowercase and non-specific) is totally regional, so I wouldn't count that as a US/Canada variance--we can't decide ourselves what we call it.
    – bikeboy389
    Dec 9, 2010 at 22:44
  • Here's a handy map to support @bikeboy389's point.
    – RegDwigнt
    Dec 10, 2010 at 12:33
  • @RegDwight: Fascinating! I guess we perceive that as an Americanism because of Hollywood. Dec 10, 2010 at 14:13
  • Further to RegDwight's link, another resource right on topic: popvssoda.com Dec 10, 2010 at 19:05
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    @bikeboy389 - Just to back this up, here in Oklahoma I grew up saying pop, and was really confused the first time I heard an easterner say soda. For us "soda" is the unflavored carbonated water used in mixers. Why someone would want to drink that straight was beyond me. :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2011 at 12:35

It is so tempting to say


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    What are you talking aboot?
    – Jaime Soto
    Dec 10, 2010 at 16:54
  • @Jaime: See the answer from @brilliant. Dec 10, 2010 at 17:00
  • actually, it's @ghoppe who posted that link to the debunking of "aboot".
    – Marthaª
    Dec 10, 2010 at 23:15
  • I've heard many Canadians use the expression "Ey?", whereas Americans use "Huh?" or "What?".
    – Joe R.
    Sep 25, 2012 at 3:22
  • @ Jaime Soto Note:The only people you might possibly hear aboot come from are newfoundlanders. But really nobody says ah-bout like that.
    – awiebe
    Sep 10, 2017 at 8:09

Of the main branches of the English language, Canadian English is the closest relative to American English, which, given history, makes a lot of sense: In 1607 brave men got off the boat in what is now Virginia to form the first permanent colony in North America for England and not long after that there were forays into New England and the Maritimes. Thus the foundations of the two are bound in the settlers that came from England, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, and Wales in the 17th century.

And then, after that, it gets tricky.

Canadian English obviously has more contact with Canadian French, itself the descendant of how people learned to parler français in the 1600s-1700s. Canadian French is the descendent of dialects and sociolects present in France before it was more standardized, which is why it has features more in common with a peasant from Poitou, Normandy, or Maine than modern bog standard French based on the Parisian dialect. When it mixes with an Anglophone substrate, weird things happen, like occasionally using French numbers for English street names, like in Quebec. When it goes in the other direction, not uncommon in Eastern Canada, the pronunciation sounds nothing like anywhere else in the world and if you want to know what this sounds like, go to Youtube and look up a boy who is trying on ballet clothes in Montreal. He is obviously bilingual but his speech sounds like what happens when you put the two dominant tongues together and threw them in a blender. Consider that he is only about nine or ten. A definite sign of evolution.

Canada was obviously more receptive to the Johnson dictionary than Webster's and to this day remains loyal to it. Bluntly the stubborn facts are that America voted itself off the island in 1776 and for a long time was disinterested in following certain trends in Europe: hence, we still, like stubborn mules, stick to units of measurement that the British used in the 1750s for its navy and don't change to SI units unless we absolutely must lest mayhem result (scientific papers, medicine, international shipping, the army, border areas so we don't cause car crashes). Canadian raising is a feature found in most of Canada but absent in large pockets of the US. The prairie provinces have a rounder o than their southern neighbors, like in the infamous word "hoser". Mary, marry and merry are distinctly different words in all forms of Canadian English, but not in the Southeast US or some forms of black English.


As an American living in Toronto, Canada (and, for a while, working for the Canadian branch of an American company), here are the biggest adjustments I've made to my speech:

  • The pronunciation of words with an internal [-orr-]: borrow, tomorrow, and most stereotypically, sorry. In my original idiolect (northeastern US), I pronounced the [orr] syllable like the word "are", but I have consciously modified it to be like the word "or" to fit in.
  • The word washroom instead of restroom or bathroom.
  • Dropping the use of the construction, "five of nine" to mean "8:55". Many Canadians do not understand this way of talking about a time.
  • Saying "grade five" instead of "fifth grade" for elementary school years.
  • Saying "university" instead of "college". In Canada, "college" is used either for two-year schools (which grant "certificates" instead of "associates degrees") or for "collegiate institutes", which are college-prep high schools. A four-year-degree-granting institution is always called "university".

Finally, and most important in a business context: I had to ban the use of the verb to table when I was working for a Canadian branch of a US company. It has completely opposite meaning in Canada vs. the US. In Canada, it means, "to introduce as a new topic of discussion," while in the US it means, "to put aside and end discussion for now."

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