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Canadian Pronunciation

Canadian Pronunciation

Generally, Standard Canadian pronunciation is very similar to Standard American pronunciation, especially in Ontario.  As time goes by, and Canadians watch more American TV and movies, Canadians everywhere are beginning to sound more like Americans

There are some variants, however:

The most famous difference is what is known as 'Canadian raising', which raises the onsets of diphthongs before voiceless consonants, as in house, about, mouth, louse, lout andout.   

You can listen to how some of these words are pronounced here: http://www.yorku.ca/twainweb/troberts/raising.html.  However, this feature which distinguishes Canadian English from American English is undergoing a change which could erase this difference.

Some Canadians pronounce cot the same as caught and collar the same as caller

The i often comes out differently in fife and five, knife and knives, life and lie, light and lied, in bite and in bide, in price and in prizes, rite and ride, and in rite and rye.  Most British and American speakers would use the second vowel sound only.

Many Canadians also will turn t sounds into d sounds, so Iron Maiden will seem to be a "heavy-meddle" band and the capital appears to be "Oddawa".  

There are a few words for which Canadians have varying pronunciations.  For example: ate, bade, been, drought, economics, khaki, leisure, lieutenant, missile, program, quinine, schedule and sterile.

In Quebec, the accent is an interesting combination of Jewish and French influence. 

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American and British English

Spelling differences between American and British English.
-or vs. -our
American British
color colour
favorite favourite
honor honour


-ll vs. -l
American British
enrollment enrolment
fulfill fulfil
skillful skilful


-og vs. -ogue
American British
analog analogue
catalog catalogue
dialog dialogue


-ck or -k vs. -que
American British
bank banque
check cheque
checker chequer


-ense vs. -enze
American British
defense defence
license licence


-ze vs. -se
American British
analyze analyse
criticize criticise
memorize memorise


-er vs. -re
American British
center centre
meter metre
theater theatre


-e vs. -oe or -ae
American British
encylopedia encylycopaedia
maneuver manoeuvre
medieval mediaeval


-dg vs. -dge (or -g vs. -gu)
American British
aging ageing
argument arguement
judgment judgement


American British
jewelry jewellery
draft draught
pajamas pyjamas 
plow plough
program programme
tire tyre

Spelling of verbs

-ed vs. -t
The first category involves verbs that use -ed or -t for the simple past and past participle.   Generally, the rule is that if there is a verb form with -ed, American English will use it, and if there is a form with -t, British English uses it.  However, these forms do not exist for every verb and there is variation.  For example, both American and British English would use the word 'worked' for the past form of 'to work', and in American English it is common to hear the word 'knelt' as the past tense of 'to kneel'.

Base form American British
to dream dreamed dreamt
to leap leaped leapt
to learn leareded learnt

base form vs. -ed
The second category of difference includes verbs that use either the base form of the verb or the -ed ending for the simple past.

Base form American British
to fit fit fitted
to forecast forecast forecasted
to wed wed wedded

irregular vs. -ed
The third category of difference includes verbs that have either an irregular spelling or the -ed ending for the simple past.

Base form American British
to knit knit knitted
to light lit lighted
to strive strove strived

So what does tall his mean for learners of English?  In the beginning, unfortunately, it means a lot of memorization (or memorisation) and of course, a few mistakes.  For spoken English, the differences are barely audible, so forge ahead and don't be too concerned with whether a word is spelled 'dwelled' or 'dwelt'.  With written English, however, if you are unsure about the spelling, better to ask your teacher or look the word up in the dictionary and see what the experts say.

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