Well done for making in this far in our British Accent Training series on the ‘R’ sound. Now that we know how to make the ‘R’, we need to know where to put it. When we’re reading out text, or in conversation, we need to know that there are some funny rules when it comes to the ‘r’. Sometimes, we say them. But sometimes, we miss them out altogether.
You’d think that you just make an ‘r’ sound wherever you see a written ‘r’. The same is true, largely, for p’s, b’s, d’s, and many consonants. But with the ‘r’, things get a little tricky, and we need to enlist a few technical words to make sense of the whole thing.
Accents can be divided into two columns from the way they treat their ‘r’: Rhotic and Non-Rhotic. Rhotic accents include General American, Irish, Scottish, some Russian accents, and some Spanish accents. Non-Rhotic include Southern American, Northern Irish, and New York. So what’s the difference?
Rhotic accents pronounce every single ‘r’ as it’s said in the word. ‘Car’, ‘Beer’, ‘Far’, and ‘Near’ all have ‘r’ sounds in. If you’re American, you’ll most likely say ‘Get out of my carrr!’, heavily pronouncing the ‘r’.
But non-rhotic accents don’t pronounce some of the ‘r’ sounds. For instance, they’ll pronounce the word ‘car’ like ‘cah’, ‘beer’ as ‘beeh’, and ‘far’ as ‘fah’.
Confusing, right? But don’t worry. There are some hard and fast rules for when you say it, and when you don’t.
Non-Rhotic: When Do You Say it?
If the ‘R’ is followed by a vowel sound, you say it.
Real, Reach, Road, Rock, Roll.
Non-Rhotic: When Do You Skip it?
If the ‘R’ is followed by a consonant sound, you skip it.
Horse, Form, Cord, Cart, Start.
If the ‘R’ is followed by nothing at all, you skip it.
Where, Here, Car, Far, For.
And here’s the bombshell – the Received Pronunciation accent (the one that we’re learning) is a Non-Rhotic accent. That means you’ve got to play by the Non-Rhotic’s rules. Good luck!