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What are the 7 types of English?

English is spoken across the world by over 1 billion people. However, not all English sounds the same. There are actually 7 major types of English in the world, each with their own unique dialects, accents, vocabularies, and grammars.

What are the main types of English?

The 7 main types of English in the world are:

  1. British English
  2. American English
  3. Canadian English
  4. Australian English
  5. New Zealand English
  6. South African English
  7. Indian English

Each of these varieties developed in a different country or region, which is why they have distinct differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

What are the key differences between the types of English?

Here are some of the main differences between the 7 varieties of English:

Pronunciation and Accent

The accent and pronunciation of words can vary significantly between the types of English. For example:

  • British English is non-rhotic, meaning the “r” sound at the end of words isn’t pronounced. American English is rhotic, with the “r” sound pronounced.
  • Australian English features a broad, drawling accent and often shortening of words. South African English has a more clipped accent influenced by Afrikaans and indigenous languages.
  • Canadian English blends both British and American influences, while Indian English features adaptations for Hindi or other local language sounds.

Vocabulary and slang

While the core English vocabulary is largely shared, there are many words specific to each type of English. For example:

  • British English contains words like “bloke” (man), “gobsmacked” (amazed), and “lorry” (truck).
  • American English uses terms like “buddy”, “cool”, and “elevator”.
  • Australian English uses colorful slang like “ripper” (great) and “bung” (corrupt).
  • Canadian English borrows “chesterfield” (couch) and “toque” (winter hat) from French origins.

Spelling

One of the most well-known differences between the varieties of English is spelling. For example:

  • British English keeps the “u” in words like “colour”, “favourite”, and “behaviour”. American English drops the “u”.
  • American English changes the “-re” ending in words like “theatre” to “-er” endings.
  • Australian English maintains a mix of British and adapted American spellings like “jail” and “labeled” .

Grammar

There are subtle grammatical differences between types of English:

  • British English tends to use more formal grammatical structures and tenses.
  • American English uses more casual, simplified grammar patterns.
  • Canadian English grammar blends British and American rules.
  • Indian English includes influences from local languages and formal British traditions.

Where are the 7 major types of English used?

Here is an overview of where each variety of English is used as a first language:

British English

Spoken as a first language in the United Kingdom and in many former British colonies and territories, including:

  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Saint Helena
  • Parts of the Caribbean like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada

American English

Used as the main language in the United States. It is also the primary English used in:

  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Guam

Canadian English

Spoken across Canada including in:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Manitoba
  • British Columbia
  • Nova Scotia
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Saskatchewan
  • Alberta
  • New Brunswick

Australian English

Used as the main language in Australia including:

  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Western Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory

New Zealand English

The main language spoken in:

  • New Zealand
  • The Cook Islands
  • Niue
  • Tokelau

South African English

One of 11 official languages of South Africa and widely spoken by middle and upper classes especially in:

  • Eastern Cape Province
  • Gauteng Province
  • Western Cape Province

Indian English

Used among the middle and upper classes as well as in government administrative, business, and academic circles in India. It is the most widely spoken English variety in:

  • Maharashtra
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Karnataka
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Gujarat
  • Rajasthan
  • West Bengal
  • Haryana
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Kerala
  • Odisha
  • Punjab
  • Chandigarh
  • Bihar

How did different types of English develop?

The 7 major varieties of English we know today emerged due to colonization and migration patterns over centuries. Here is an overview of the key factors behind the development of each type:

British English

British English originated from the Germanic dialects brought to the British Isles in the 5th Century AD by tribes like the Angles, Saxon, and Jutes. It was influenced by successive waves of invaders and immigrants including the Romans, Vikings, and French-speaking Normans. British English began to spread worldwide during the 17th and 18th Century through British colonization, trade, and migration.

American English

American English developed from the English colonization of North America in the 1600s and 1700s. Variations from British English emerged after the American Revolution as a way of differentiating American culture. The American English accent derived from blending between colonists from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The vocabulary continued to diverge with the addition of terms needed to describe life in the Americas.

Canadian English

Canadian English developed when Loyalists fled the American Revolution for Canada, bringing their English dialects with them. Canadian English blends influence from Scottish English and Ulster Irish of early settlers, as well as First Nations languages. More American variations entered Canadian English when more than 1 million Americans migrated north in the early 1900s.

Australian English

The English language reached Australia with the first fleet of British convict ships in 1788. Early Australian English adopted British slang terms, then developed its own terms needed for the environment, wildlife and culture. The Australian accent derives from the mix of convicts, soldiers, and settlers from across Britain and Ireland. More American influence crept in during the 20th century through television, movies and internet culture.

New Zealand English

English first arrived in New Zealand in the late 18th Century through explorers, traders and missionaries. The local English dialect developed when large waves of British settlers arrived starting in the 1840s. The New Zealand variation includes Maori loanwords along with variations in pronunciation and vocabulary to describe their unique wildlife like the kiwi bird.

South African English

South African English developed through British colonization beginning in 1795. The dialect was influenced by Afrikaans and indigenous African languages spoken by slaves, laborers and immigrants. South African English adopted local terms to describe life, flora and fauna. The accent is unique thanks to Afrikaans rhythms and clipped pronunciations.

Indian English

English came to India in the 17th Century through the establishment of the East India Trading Company. After Britain colonized India in the 19th Century, English became an administrative language and lingua franca amongst the Indian elite and middle classes. Indian English blends British English with Hindi-Urdu and other local vocabulary. The accent has rhythms and pronunciations adapted for Hindi-language speakers.

What are some key words and phrases in each type of English?

Each variety of English has its own collection of slang and idioms. Here are just a few examples:

Type of English Key Words and Expressions
British English Bloody, rubbish, chap, loo, cheers, gutted
American English Cool, dude, bathroom, you guys, sidewalk, bummer
Australian English Arvo (afternoon), fair dinkum (true), ripper (great), heaps (a lot), brekkie (breakfast)
New Zealand English Sweet as (great), tramping (hiking), cuzzie (friend), Bach (holiday home)
Canadian English Eh, toque (winter hat), poutine (dish), runners (running shoes), washroom
South African English Braai (barbecue), robot (traffic light), howzit (hello), tune (to talk negatively)
Indian English Prepone (reschedule earlier), timepass (spare time), cabbie (taxi driver), pressie (present/gift)

Conclusion

English may be spoken globally, but it is certainly not spoken in the same way universally. The 7 major types of English — British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, and Indian — each have their own unique dialects shaped by history, culture, geography and contact with other languages. While all types of English allow communication, local slang and accents can sometimes lead to humorous misunderstandings. Learning about the differences helps us to better understand English wherever it is spoken.