What’s in a London accent?


London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. But what does a London accent sound like? Whether you call it ‘Cockney’, ‘Estuary’, ‘Mockney’ (if you’re faking it), or simply ‘London’, here are 10 key features:

Consonant Sounds

1. Silent ‘h’

A London accent does not use the sound /h/ at all!

hope, have, healthy, happy, holiday, handsome

2. Glottal Stops

This is a really noticeable aspect of London accent, change your /t/ for a glottal stop /ʔ/ when it comes after a vowel:

bottle water hat Tottenham

In stronger accents, it will even replace a /k/ and a /p/ before another consonant sound:

blackbird  shopfront

3. /l/ changes to /w/ after a vowel.

If /l/ appears at the end of the syllable, it is pronounced like a /w/ or /ʊ/

always fall bottle handle minimal

4. ‘th’ becomes /f/ or /v/

The two dental fricatives are not pronounced in a London accent, /θ/ is replaced with /f/ and /ð/ is replaced with /v/:

Thanks for the theatre, brother.

5. /ŋ/ is /n/ at the end of words:

The ng sound is replaced with /n/ if it’s at the end of a word.

We’ve been fishing, relaxing, nothing exerting.

Vowel Sounds

6. Short Vowel Sounds

/æ/ in ‘bat’ is pronounced more like /e/ in ‘bet’:

thanks, ham, sank, ran

/ʌ/ in FUN moves to a position more frontal like /æ/ in FAN:

lovely, nothing, London, fun

7. Long Vowel Sounds

/iː/ starts with a neutral vowel, more like [əiː]

She needs some green leaves.

/uː/ starts with a neutral vowel, more like [əuː]

soon, few, shoe, choose

/ɔː/ becomes a diphthong, like [ɔʊ] or a triphthong like [ɔʊə] if it’s at the end:

bought, talk, force, important

paw, law, saw, raw

8. Double (diphthong) vowel Sounds

/əʊ/ starts further towards the front, like [æʊ]

Don’t go slow, Joe.

/aʊ/ is not a double vowel, it’s a long /æː/

How’s the ground now?

Words & Grammar

The following 2 points are more associated with a London dialect as they involve grammatical and lexical changes:

9. Negatives & ‘innit’

A Londoner might use two negatives, which wouldn’t occur in standard English:

There ain’t nothing we can do about it.
Don’t give him no trouble, alright?

The question tag ‘innit’ is used instead of any other tag even if it creates a double negative:

That’s great, innit?
We go every week, innit?

10. Rhyming Slang

This is a famous feature of cockney, but certain phrases have crept into a more widespread London lexican (see our article on Cockney Rhyming Slang for more).

Let’s have a butchers.

The comparisons in this article are made with GB English.