It’s a fact! The UK is obsessed with the way people talk. And with more than thirty seven dialects, it’s no surprise why. That’s right, accents and dialects* vary greatly across Great Britain, and there is no such thing as a single ‘British accent’. Instead it’s an amalgamation of different ones that have been shaped by history, and made iconic through TV and film.

Because there are so many to choose from, we’ve picked just a handful for you to practise and perfect at home. Remember, you don’t have to learn an accent, it’s just a fun thing to do, and the most important thing with your own English is to speak clearly enough for people to understand.

So with all that being said, are you ready? Let’s start with a quick tour of the UK to quickly summarise some of the key differences.


*Note – When we’re talking about accents, we mean sounds and pronunciation, and when we talk about dialect we mean grammar and vocabulary as well.


Received Pronunciation


If you’ve ever tried to do a British accent, this is probably the one you were trying to imitate. Also known as ‘the Queen’s English’, it is often associated with the middle to upper classes, and is the accent you’d typically hear on BBC News or World Service.

There is a more heightened version of received pronunciation, or R.P as it’s also known, which is only really spoken on film and television. Think of Jane Austen films and Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey for reference.


  • The ‘r’ at the end of words isn’t pronounced
  • Trap-bath-split – meaning words like ‘bath’, ‘path’ and ‘dance’ are pronounced with a long ‘a’ [ɑː] sound as in the word ‘father’
  • To practise heightened R.P try pronouncing the word ‘mirror’ as ‘mere’ and the word ‘man’ as ‘men’

Here you can listen to received pronunciation with the characters of Downton Abbey.




Cockney is another iconic dialect, and one that you’ll instantly recognise. It is commonly associated with cockney rhyming slang, and the language of market stall owners in the East End of London.

There have been many bad interpretations of the cockney accent, including that of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. A better, more accurate example however, can be heard in gangster films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.


  • Vowel sounds shift – words like ‘day’ sound like ‘die’ and ‘buy’ is more like ‘boy’
  • Glottal stop – the letter ‘t’ is pronounced with the back of the throat and with less intensity, so words like ‘better’ sounds more like ‘be’uh’
  • The ‘th’ in words is pronounced as a ‘f’, so words like ‘think’ and ‘thing’ become ‘fink’ and ‘fing’

Listen to Jason Statham’s cockney accent in the film Snatch.




What once was voted the worst accent in the UK, has now become a source of pride thanks to the hit TV series Peaky Blinders. This is the dialect from the midlands city of Birmingham. It also stretches to the surrounding areas, but it is distinctly different to the Coventry accent which is only nineteen miles (thirty six kilometers) away.


  • Downward intonation at the end of sentences
  • Changing vowel sounds – ‘oy’ is used instead of ‘i’ – so the sentence ‘I quite like it’ sounds more like ‘Oy kwoyt loik it’
  • Dropped ‘h’ sounds at the beginning of sentences

Check out these Brummie accents in the TV series Peaky Blinders.




Also known as ‘God’s own country’, Yorkshire is home to Leeds, York and Sheffield and is the largest county in the UK. Because of the size of the area, there is actually a lot of variation within the Yorkshire accent. It is also considered one of the friendliest accents in the UK.

Another interesting fact about the Yorkshire dialect is that it has roots in Old English and Old Norse, which was the language of the Vikings. This connection may go some way in explaining why so many characters have the accent in the fantasy TV series – Game of Thrones.


  • Words that normally end in an ‘ee’ sound are pronounced ‘eh’, for example ‘happy’ sounds more like ‘happeh’
  • The word ‘the’ is often omitted and the word ‘to’ is shortened to ‘t’ [tә]
  • Variants of words – for example the words ‘owt’ and ‘nowt’ actually mean ‘anything’ and ‘nothing’

Here’s a lesson in how to do a Yorkshire accent like the characters of Game of Thrones.




If you’ve seen ‘Braveheart’ you may be confused in thinking that everyone in Scotland speaks like Mel Gibson in that movie. Heavily influenced by the Gaelic language, the Scottish accent and dialect are actually very diverse. Take the Edinburgh accent for example which is very soft. In contrast you have the Glasgow accent which is much thicker and speakers of which often cut their words. The spoken rhythms in the Highlands are very poetic and Scandanavian sounding. This is not dissimilar to those of the islands, which generally have stronger dialects and accents the more remote they are.


  • The ‘r’ is pronounced and rolled
  • Elongated vowel sounds – for example the word ‘face’ is pronounced ‘fehce’ [fe:s] and ‘goat’ becomes ‘goht’ [go:t]
  • Glottal stop – the letter ‘t’ is cut in between vowels. For example the sentence ‘pass the water bottle’ sounds more like ‘pass the wa’er bo’le’

Listen to different Scottish accents from the movie Brave.




Nearly 30% of people in Wales can speak Welsh – the dialect in English is therefore also heavily influenced by the Welsh language. This is particularly true in Northern Wales where English is normally the second language in households, and the accent is thick and breathy. Southern Welsh accents on the other hand, sound more clipped and musical – just like the sing-song tones of Tom Jones.


  • Use of a light ‘l’ sound on words like ‘milk’, ‘girl’, ‘small’ and ‘welcome’. This is made by releasing the ‘l’ sound rather than holding it with the tongue
  • Syllables are evenly stressed making it sound very melodical
  • Rolled ‘r’ sounds

Check out this quick lesson in how to master a Welsh accent from Babbel.


Northern Irish


And last but definitely not least on our list, is the beautiful Northern Irish accent. Just like the neighbouring country the Republic of Ireland, the accents within this region are very varied. On top of that, there are lots of definitive words and phrases that make the Northern Irish dialect so distinctive. Take the word ‘wee’ for example which means small (the same as in Scottish). And if anyone asks you ‘what’s the craic?’ you can be sure they’re asking you what you news is, or what you’ve been doing.


  • The ‘r’ at the end of sentences is exaggerated to sound like ‘arrr’
  • Less rounded vowel sounds – when saying ‘ow’ the mouth is very tight – this produces a very short ‘y’ sound instead of a ‘w’ in words like ‘cow’, ‘how’ and ‘now’
  • Rising intonation at the end of sentences (even when it’s not a question)

Here’s an example of the Northern Irish accent from the TV series Derry Girls.


So that’s it! Our roundup of accents and dialects across the UK. We hope you enjoyed it. Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Amalgamation (n): a combination of a group of things.

Handful (n): an amount which can be held in the hand.

Heightened (adj): more elevated.

Market stall (n): a large table in a market where products are sold.

Surrounding areas (n): the places in close proximity to a town or city.

County (n): a political division in the UK.

Remote (adj): an isolated place.

Breathy (adj): speaking with a lot of breath.

Clipped (adj): spoken very short and quickly.

Neighbouring (adj): places next to each other.

Roundup (n): a summary.


n = noun

adj = adjective

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