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10 Easy Ways to Master Speaking English Like an American

Learning to speak English naturally like an American can be simple with these 10 easy tips.


American English has different words, phrases, and manner of speaking that’s distinct from British, Australian, South African, Nigerian, or other dialects of English.


Let’s go on a short trip through Americanisms that make Americans unique among English speakers.


1. Stress the right words correctly


Like all English speakers, American English speakers emphasize certain words that are important to them. But they tend to be a bit more enthusiastic in their speech than other speakers of English.


And Americans have a different type of rhythm. They tend to linger on, or stress, content words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. It’s basically the words the speaker thinks is most important and wants to emphasize to their listener.


Let’s look at some examples.

  • I just got a new dog!

What’s the most important part of this sentence? The pronoun I? The verb got? Or the direct object dog?


It’s dog! The person is excited because she has a new dog, which she wants to talk about with her listener.

  • Shelly has a new job.

What’s the most important word in that sentence? It’s new, because the speaker wants to emphasize that it’s not just any job, it’s a new one.


Check out this video on what words to stress and what words to rush when speaking.



2. Use a lot of contractions


You probably already know that English has several standard contractions like can’t for cannot, won’t for will not, I’m for I am, and you’re for you are.


Many English learners, especially ones who have learned British English, don’t say the contractions, though. They read “I’m” but they still say “I am.” The key to speaking English naturally is to use contractions and say them correctly every single time.


The times when Americans don’t use contractions is in formal speech or writing, or when they really want to emphasize something.


Say for instance that a telemarketer calls to ask if you’re interested in their service. The first two or three times you answer, “I’m not interested.”. But by the fourth time, you’re tired of being asked, so you say firmly, “I am not interested” with the emphasis on not. That makes it clear to the person asking all the questions that you are definitely not interested.


Then there are informal contractions. When speaking with friends, family, or close coworkers, Americans use informal contractions all the time.


You probably already know a few of these, but do you know all of them?

  • Coulda - could have; “I coulda been rich!”

  • Dunno - don’t know, “I dunno what to eat for dinner”

  • D’ya - do you; “D’ya want something?”

  • Gimme - give me; “Gimme a piece of that.”

  • Gonna - going to; “I’m gonna head out now.”

  • Gotta - got to; “I gotta go.”

  • Hafta - have to; “I hafta eat dinner now.”

  • Kinda - kind of; “I kinda want that top.”

  • Wanna - want to; “I wanna go home”

  • Lemme - let me; “Lemme think about that.”

  • Shoulda - should of, “I shoulda thought of that sooner”

  • Whatcha - what are you; “Whatcha gonna do tonight?”

  • Woulda - would have, “I woulda called you if I knew you were home”

  • Ya or y’ - you; “Y’awake right now?”

Contractions are said quickly and without good enunciation, because they’re such a part of casual speech.


Here’s a great video on many contractions that Americans say all the time and how quickly they say them.



3. Know some common idioms


There are more than 500 idioms, or common expressions, in the English language. Americans tend to use idioms in their daily speech. Knowing a few idioms will make you sound more like a native American English speaker.


Some common idioms Americans use every day are:

  • Like no tomorrow - all the time, “Americans use idioms like no tomorrow.”

  • Take something with a grain of salt - to not believe something completely; “Take what she says with a grain of salt.”

  • Know an arm from a leg - to not know anything; “He doesn’t know his arm from his leg.”

  • Feel like a stuffed pig - to be very full after eating; “After eating 4 slices of pizza, I feel like a stuffed pig.”

  • Get a running start - to start something quickly before anyone else; “John’s got a running start on all the other kids in his English class.”

  • Get a fresh start - to begin something again with a better attitude; “Get some sleep tonight so you can get a fresh start on the project tomorrow.”

  • Play hardball - to use every tactic to get something you want; “He said no, but I’m going to play hardball so he’ll finally agree.”

  • Think outside the box - to think creatively; “Let’s think outside the box on how to market our new product.”

Want to learn more? Check out this video our teacher Jackie made for TakeLessons on 35 common idioms.



4. Speak with some slang


Like every country in the world, Americans have their own slang, informal speech. This is speech used in a casual setting. It’s something Americans use every day when talking with friends.


Slang differs depending on gender, age, race, and ethnicity. Teens have different and probably more slang than people in the 30s and older. People in their 30s use different slang from people in their 60s.


Typical slang that most people in the U.S. today under 60 years old would use or recognize includes:

  • 411 - (noun), information, used in a question like, “What’s the 411?” when a person wants to know details about something

  • Bae - (noun), stands for Before Anyone Else, a significant other

  • Bail - (verb), to leave something or someone in a hurry, “I can’t believe he’s bailing out of picking up his kid from school”

  • Bestie - (noun), best friend, “She’s my bestie from high school”

  • Epic fail - (noun phrase), a complete failure, “He fell off his bike in the middle of the competition; it was an epic fail”

  • Chillin’ - (adverb), relaxing, used as a response a question about what the person is doing, “I’m just chillin’”

  • Conk out - (verb), to fall asleep quickly, “My brother conked out at 8pm after playing football all day”

  • Dive - (noun), a neighborhood bar or restaurant that may be rundown; “Let’s go to that dive bar on 5th tonight.”

  • Dump - to end a relationship with quickly, “Alexis dumped her boyfriend last night”

  • For real - (adverb), true, honest, “Are you for real right now?”

  • Hit up - (verb), to call or text, “Hit me up if you’re going out tonight.”

  • Queen - (noun), positive female role model, “Beyonce’s a queen”

  • Sketchy - (adjective) something or someone that’s suspicious, unpredictable, and odd

  • Trashed - (verb) to destroy something, “He just trashed his house;” or (adjective) be drunk, “She’s trashed after drinking 5 beers”

  • Zonked - (adjective), to be exhausted, “I’m zonked after partying all night”

Try adding some new slang to your vocabulary. Right away you'll start sounding more like an American.


5. Get the hang of phrasal verbs


Not only do Americans use slang and idioms in their speech, but they also use a lot of phrasal verbs. In fact, if you listened to an American speaking naturally, you probably would hear at least one phrasal verb in every other sentence.


Phrasal verbs are verbs with a preposition or prepositional phrase. Phrasal verbs typically use common action verbs like get, go, take, hang, bring, come, hold, break, and start with common prepositions like up, down, with, back, and over. Phrasal verbs can have one or two prepositions.


Some common phrasal verbs are:

  • Break off - to end a relationship abruptly, “She broke off her engagement ring to Ted”

  • Call off - to cancel; “He called off the wedding after he learned the truth.”

  • Come across - to appear to other people, “He comes across as unfriendly.”

  • Come down with - to get sick; “I think she’s coming down with a cold.”

  • Come up with - to think of an idea; “He just came up with that plan yesterday.”

  • Count on - to trust or rely on someone; “I know I can count on you to help me after my surgery”

  • Divvy up - to divide; “Let’s divvy up the groceries we bought.”

  • Get the hang of - to learn how to do something comfortably or with ease; “After only two tries, she got the hang of riding a bike.”

  • Go out with - to date casually; “I’m going out with Dan.”

  • Hang on - to wait for someone; “Hang on while I grab my coat.”

  • Hang out - to spend time with friends somewhere, “We’re hanging out at Susie’s apartment tonight.”

  • Hold off - to stop for a period of time, “Hold off on writing that email until you’re not angry anymore.”

  • Start up with - to begin an argument with someone; “He’s started up with her again for the fourth time today.”

  • Take over - to buy another company, usually aggressively or unexpectedly; “Facebook took over Instagram and WhatsApp.”

  • Take up - to start something; “She took up yoga in March when the pandemic started.”

When speaking, Americans emphasize the prepositions more than the verb in phrasal verbs.


If you’re interested in learning more phrasal verbs, check out this list of 200 phrasal verbs.


6. Use interjections


Americans like to use interjections. They show how a person feels by making just a short sound.


Common injections include:

  • Ah

  • Alright!

  • Argh!

  • Brrr

  • Cool!

  • Fantastic!

  • Hmmm

  • Jeez

  • Oh my God!

  • Nope

  • Ugh!

  • Wow!

  • Yikes!

  • Yuck!

  • Yum!

Sometimes, interjections contradict what the person is actually saying.


For instance, let’s look at the interjection yeah. As an adverb yeah is a casual form of yes, but as an interjection it has multiple meanings depending on how the speaker says it.

  1. Yeah - ok

  2. Yeah! - I agree! I’m happy with that!

  3. Yeah (said slowly) - I’m thinking

  4. Yeah? - Is that right?

  5. Yeah, I don’t think so - no, I don’t agree

  6. Yeah, no - no without being assertive

  7. Yeah, maybe - maybe it’s possible, but you’re not entirely sure

  8. Yeah, ok - that’s fine, though you’re not enthusiastic about it

  9. Yeah, alright - same as yeah, ok

  10. Yeah, right (said sarcastically) - not believing what’s being said

  11. Oh, yeah! - I agree!

  12. Oh, yeah (said slowly or disappointingly) - I forgot about that

  13. Oh, yeah? - Is that true?

  14. Yeah, yeah, yeah - I don’t believe what you’re saying

  15. Yeah, yeah, yeah (said quickly) - hurry up

  16. Yeah, sure! - agreeing to something with enthusiasm

  17. Yeah, sure - agreeing to something but trying to play it cool

  18. Yeah, sure (said sarcastically) - agreeing to something with sarcasm, so you don’t actually believe what’s being said

  19. Yeah, about that - you don’t want to do something but you don’t want to sound harsh

The word ok can act the same as yeah, the meaning contradicting what the word actually means.

  • Ok - that’s fine, I’m fine

  • Ok (with the vowels drawn out, like oookaaaay) - I don’t believe that

  • Ok? (with an inflection up) - do you hear what I’m saying?

  • Ok (said sarcastically) - you’re agreeing out loud but you actually don’t really agree with it

  • Ok (usually with the hand up) - stop, enough

And even the word no has several meanings depending on how the speaker uses it.

  • No - no, I don’t agree

  • No? - you don’t agree?

  • No! - stop! Don’t do that!

  • No (said with a drawn-out vowel sound, like nooooo) - I can’t believe that!

Start using these interjections in different contexts with the correct inflections and you will start sounding like an American right away.


Need some more help? Check out these 101 interjections.


7. Get comfortable with the American R


While not every American says the American R, most Americans do pronounce it who speak Standard American English.


The way to pronounce it is all in the tongue. Curl your tongue up on the sides so it touches the area of the gums where your gums meet your teeth. The lips make an almost kissing shape but more clenched together with the tongue. Your tongue never touches the roof of the mouth.


Basically, think of a dog growling, and there you have it.


This video below is terrific, it walks you through the steps on how to pronounce the American R easily.



8. Drop the middle syllable


American English has 14 or 15 vowel sounds, depending on which region of the country you’re in. There are only 5 vowel letters, A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes a sixth, Y, but each vowel has multiple ways you can pronounce it, from short to long sounds and then sounds in between.


And then there is a special sound called schwa /ə/. Any of the vowels A, E, I, O, or U can make this sound.


Complicated, right?


But maybe it’s not so complicated after all. Americans tend to delete the schwa sound in words with three syllables, turning the words into two syllables instead.


Take chocolate for example. Americans say choc-late instead of choc-o-late.


Another example is camera. Instead of cam-er-ra, Americans say cam-ra.


Some more examples are:

  • separate --> sep-rate

  • elaborate --> ela-brate

  • family --> fam-ly

  • every --> ev-ry

  • average --> av-rage

  • different --> diff-rent

So learn what vowel sounds you don’t have to say in words to sound more American.


9. Recognize the differences


There are a lot of linguistic differences between regions like the South, Northeast, Midwest, and California. And there are differences between gender, race, and ethnicity.


For instance, some people in the Black community use slang from distinct people in other communities. Some say that it’s actually a distinct language from Standard American English.


This informal Black way of speaking is something called Ebonics and has its own grammar structure along with slang.


Check out this video of some Black speech patterns in different parts of the country.



Among people in the U.S. whose parents or grandparents are from Latin American and the Caribbean, there are certain ways of speaking.


For instance, people in Miami whose families are from Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries tend to sound at times like people who live in New York City or northern New Jersey. And Chicano English is spoken in areas where many Mexican-Americans live, like Chicago, Texas, and Southern California.


Both speakers of Miami English and Chicano English use patterns of Spanish in many ways. They tend not to pronounce the TH sound or use long vowel sounds for short vowel sounds. And they tend to drop the -ed ending from regular verbs in the past tense


While Chicano English has many similarities in speech, there are still regional differences. This video will make you laugh while you see some distinctions in culture, including speaking.



So not only are there racial and ethnic distinctions, there are regional differences within American English.


Californians have developed a lot of slang that has become mainstream thanks to popular culture, including music, movies, and TV shows.

  • Dude - (noun) guy, man

  • Killer - (adjective), cool, “That was a killer party, dude”

  • Guac - (noun), guacamole

  • Cali - (noun), California

Northeastern slang dialect

  • Wicked - (adjective), verb or really, “That game’s wicked cool”

  • Drop all the Rs - “Park the car in Harvard yard sounds more like “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd”

Sometimes in language you can tell what values a group of people hold important. Midwesterns are known for being a polite and friendly people, which you can hear in what words use they use.

  • Say sorry and thanks a lot - be genuinely yet overly polite when an accident or mistake happens

  • Ope! - (interjection) combination of oh! and whoops! for small mistakes

Many states in the South are part of the Bible Belt, a religious and mostly conservative area of the country. Southerners value being polite and warm to others. They tend to speak slowly and draw out the vowels.


Words and phrases typically used in the South include:

  • Honey - (noun), used when one woman is actually mad at another woman but wants to appear nice even if it’s fake, “Honey, I don’t think so.”

  • Bless your heart - can be used as a kind response when the person thinks something is sweet or special, but also can be used to disguise the true opinion about something, as in “Well, bless your heart, isn’t that a pretty cake!” when in fact it’s the ugliest cake you’ve ever seen

There are some things, such as products or items that are used often, that are different words depending on which region you are in.


It depends on what region you’re in when you say the plural form of you. For instance, there’s:

  • You guys - Midwest

  • Y’all - South, contraction form of you all, “Hi y’all!”

  • You all - most of the U.S.

For a carbonated sugary drink, you would say in these regions:

  • Coke - South

  • Pop - Midwest

  • Soft drink - little areas of the Midwest

  • Soda - most of the U.S.

For a shoe that you typically wear when being active, you would say in these regions:

  • Sneakers - Northeast

  • Tennis shoes - South

  • Gym shoes - Midwest

And then there are differences of how to pronounce a word, like for instance pajamas:

  • Puh-jam-uhs (schwa-short A-schwa)

  • Puh-jahm-uhs (schwa-long A-schwa)

  • Or you could just call them pjs or jammies

Listen carefully to how your American friends speak, or even who they speak in movies or TV shows. You can pick up a lot of the regional, ethnica, and racioal racialdifferences tehre.


10. Get help from an American English speaker


Want more help speaking like an American? Take our free Master Class on how to speak English like an American. It's Wednesday, Aug. 12 from 10:30 am to 12 pm Pacific. Our American English teacher Jackie will guide you in all these tips and more.



You'll get instant feedback about your pronunciation and by the end of this Master Class, you'll be speaking like an American!


Register for your spot now by emailing us at jackie@amidonstudios.com or messaging us via text or WhatsApp at +01-619-483-5874!


Plus we have weekly American English pronunciation lessons where you work on these tips and more with our American English teacher Jackie. Those run every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm Pacific.


Sign up today by emailing us at jackie@amidonstudios.com or by messaging us via text or WhatsApp at +01-619-483-5874.


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