Does anyone have a list of minimal pairs, highlighting the difference between American and British English? Thanks.

  • American English caddy sounds like RP carry. – jlawler Mar 11 '17 at 2:38

The problem is that "minimal pair" refers to two distinct words in one language signified by the choice of one vs. another sound. So minimal pairs are not what you want. You want a list of "same word" pair between the dialects. The Oxford English Dictionary is pretty much the definitive work on English (you may need to access the online version, which gives US and UK norms)


The Wikipedia page on lexical sets has various tables comparing the vowels phonemes that correspond to each multi-dialectal diaphoneme. The first table compares General American to RP; I think that is the one you will find most useful.

Two caveats: the tables don't include consonants (although there have much less dialectal variation than vowels in English), and they also list lexical sets that correspond to the same phoneme in different dialects (you'll have to filter these out to meet your requirement of "highlighting the difference").


Since transcriptions of GA usually write short vowels, where I wouldn't, I put length markers in parentheses.

Merry, marry, Mary
/mɛɹi : mæɹi : mɛːɹi/ RP(English standard)
/mɛɹi/ GA(American)

stork, stalk
/stɔːk/ RP
/stɔɹk : stɔ(ː)k ~ stɑ(ː)k/ GA (~ Cot-Caught merger)

father, bother
/fɑːðə(ɹ) : bɒðə(ɹ)/ RP (not a minimal pair)
/fɑ(ː)ðəɹ : bɑ(ː)ðəɹ/ GA

Cot, caught
/kɒt : kɔːt/ RP
/kɑ(ː)t : kɔ(ː)t ~ kɑ(ː)t/ GA (~ Cot-Caught merger)

writer, rider are a minimal pair in some Canadian and Northern American accents but I think the differing vowels might not be phonemes (yet).

This list could be continued, but minimal pairs are not always the very best way to compare the varieties.

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