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What is Canadian English?

The British are clearly known for speaking English, with the Americans following in second with their own dialect. And the majority of people all around the world strive to grasp at least one of these versions.

However, another version is just as vibrant: Canadian English, a blend of British and American English with its own distinct personality. 

But despite the widespread belief that it is only about saying ‘eh’ a lot and pronouncing ‘out’ (as in ‘out’ and ‘about’) as ‘oot’, Canadian English is definitely more than that.

If you are interested in finding out more about Canadian English, keep reading.

History of Canadian English 

Canadian English (often known as CanE, CE, or en-CA), is one of Canada’s two official languages, the other one being French, which is the first language of 21.3 percent of Canadians.

It encompasses a variety of English dialects spoken in Canada, with Standard Canadian English being the most popular. 

Canadian English is a blend of British English and American English in general. This reflects the effect of the United States and the United Kingdom on Canada.

Canada, for example, is a Commonwealth country, owing to its historical ties to the United Kingdom.

As a result, it employs many British spellings (e.g., using metre instead of meter). However, because Canada shares borders with the United States, it has adopted American English (e.g., using ‘truck’ instead of ‘lorry’).

In a speech to the Canadian Institute sometime in 1857, Reverend A. Constable Geikie used the term ‘Canadian English’ for the first time.

When Geikie, a Scottish-born Canadian, referred to the language as ‘a corrupt dialect’ compared to what he regarded as proper English used by immigrants from Britain, he mirrored the Anglocentric mentality that would be prominent in Canada for the following hundred years.

For more than two centuries, Canadian English has evolved due to five waves of immigration and settlement.

The inflow of Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, particularly from the Mid-Atlantic States, was the first big and linguistically significant wave of permanent English-speaking settlement in Canada. 

As a result, some scholars believe that Canadian English is derived from northern American English. Since the early nineteenth century, Canadian English has developed its distinct characteristics.

The Governors of Canada, concerned about American domination and influence among their inhabitants, pushed the second wave of immigrants from Britain and Ireland to settle in Canada after the War of 1812

Further waves of immigration from around the world peaked in 1910, 1960 and now have less impact.

Still, they did help to make Canada a multicultural country, ready to accommodate the linguistic change from all over the world during this period of globalization.

While the documenting and regulation of Canadian English dates back to the 1930s, the 1960s were the pivotal decade. The general acceptance of Canadian English, like other social advances in Canada, has taken time. 

According to a recent study, a substantial change in public discourse happened in the mid of the first decade of the 2000s, when Canadian English was perceived as a ‘given’, widely accepted default variety.

However, before that, such assertions were usually ‘balanced’ by doubts.

Characteristics of Canadian English

Canadian English is a distinct dialect of English with subtle differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.

It has its own dictionaries, a style guide, and the Editors’ Association of Canada has just published the second edition of Editing Canadian English.

However, a defining aspect of Editing Canadian English is the comparison tables of American and British spellings, which allow the Canadian editor to make an informed judgment on which to employ on any given occasion. 

In Academics and Literature

Academics, linguists, and grammarians have all described Canadian English, notably its differences from British and American English, as these works demonstrate.

Tom McArthur 

“Where Americans use ‘huh’, Canadians frequently employ the particle ‘eh’ (as in “It’s nice, eh?”) In Canada, as elsewhere, the word ‘eh’ is used to express surprise. “Could you repeat what you said”, although it’s most usually used as a question tag, as in “She does want to eat, eh?” (i.e. “Doesn’t she?”) or to elicit agreement or affirmation (“It’s nice, eh?”) and to emphasize demands, queries, and exclamations.

Charles Boburg

“Canadian English is significantly closer to American English than to British English in terms of lexical diversity or vocabulary, albeit a small group of distinctive Canadian words.

It shows that Canadian English is not merely a blend of British and American forms.

Standard Canadian English is likewise far more comparable to Standard American English than to Standard British English in phonological and phonetic parameters; in fact, it has been proven that Standard Canadian and American English are nearly indistinguishable in terms of major phonemic inventory factors.”

In History and Pop Culture

As indicated by these statements, journalists, humorists, and others have had a lot to say about Canadian English and its significance in the world of language.

Laurel J. Brinton and Margery Fee

“Although Canada is officially bilingual, the balance is substantially biased toward English: in 1996, 84 percent of a population of slightly more than 28 million claimed to know English, compared to only 14 percent who claimed to know only French (97 percent of whom live in Quebec), and fewer than 2% who claimed to know neither official language.” 

Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine

“Both Standard American English and Standard British English are unique from Standard Canadian English. Previously mocked by aristocratic British visitors to Canada, additions to and divergences from the mother tongue’s English are now recorded in, and granted validity by, Canadian dictionaries.”

What are the Kinds of Canadian English? 

A dialect is a type of regional speech that can be distinguished by its pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

Canadian English, like any other language, has a variety of dialects.

Many different regions and cultures have influenced the language of this vast country over time.

There are eight different dialects found across Canada, which are mentioned below.

Aboriginal Canadian English

Aboriginal Canadian English is the language that has been altered over time by First Nation languages’ non-English accents.

Aboriginal Canadian English is quite similar to normal Canadian English, and difficult to distinguish between the two. 

Cape Breton English

Cape Breton is a Canadian island in the province of Nova Scotia. This island has its distinct vernacular due to its separation from the mainland.

The people of Cape Breton speak Cape Breton English, with the bulk of them descended from Highland Scottish, Irish, and French Acadian ancestors. 

When pronouncing the letter ‘s’, this dialect has an almost ‘th’ sound and a truncated ‘a’ sound. Everyone is referred to as ‘boy’, which is pronounced more like ‘bye’ in common lingo.

Lunenburg English

Lunenburg English is spoken in the province of Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg County. This dialect has a distinct pronunciation and was significantly impacted by German immigration.

After stressed syllables, the ‘r’ is lost, resulting in ‘v’ instead of ‘w’ and ‘d’ instead of ‘th’. Much of the jargon is based on literal translations from German. 

Two popular phrases are saying “get awake” to express ‘wake up’ and reducing ‘all gone’ to just ‘all’.

Newfoundland English

The province of Labrador and Newfoundland, as well as Prince Edward Island, speak Newfoundland English

The British colony that was here until 1907 affected the accent. “Where ya at?” means “Where are you?” in Newfoundland English, as does “You’re some crooked” for “You’re grouchy”, and ‘fadder’ or ‘me fadder’ for ‘my father’.

Ottawa Valley English 

The Ottawa Valley dialect is spoken near the Ottawa River, which flows through Ontario and Quebec provinces from northwest Montreal to Ottawa city and north of Algonquin Park. 

It is distinguished by a Loyalist influence from Scotland, Ireland, and the United States.

Because of these diverse cultures, the dialect has a wide range of pronunciation and vernacular. 

The word ‘gutters’ is ‘rones’, and the phrases ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ are pronounced differently than they are in normal English. The term ‘for to’ is also used in this dialect, as in “She went to the store for to buy a dress.”

Pacific West Coast English

This dialect, sometimes known as Pacific Northwest English, is spoken in British Columbia and Yukon provinces. 

It is comparable to California English, and is influenced by the region’s numerous cultures and continuously changing population.

The ‘r’ is pronounced differently in Pacific West Coast English than in other dialects, and the word ‘stick’ sounds like ‘steck’

On the customary long, rainy days of the Pacific Northwest winters, people use the terms ‘sunbreak’ to refer to an opening in the clouds, and ‘spendy’ to refer to something costly.

Quebec English

Quebec English is a French-speaking province’s dialect. The dialect is greatly influenced by French, and the words are either pronounced with an English accent or with a French pronunciation.

There is also a lot of interlanguages, which results in the ‘Frenglish’ language, which includes words like “Take a decision”, “Put your coat on”, and “Close the TV.”

Inland Canadian English

Inland Canadian English is spoken in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Canadian English is another name for this dialect. The accent is due to ‘Canadian raising’, which is when vowels are pronounced differently before voiceless consonants. 

It is extremely close to American English, but there are some British influences as well as some sounds that are uniquely Canadian. To someone from the United States, the term ‘map’ could seem like ‘mop’.

Differences Between Canadian, American, and British English

The majority of British English spelling, grammar, and punctuation norms apply to Canadian English.

As a result, most of the distinctions between British and American English also apply to Canadian English. 


Note: Canadian English mostly uses/favors British English spelling. 

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English 

However, Canadian English also uses/favors American English spelling for some words. 

Canadian/American EnglishBritish English 


Note: Canadian English uses British English vocabulary for some words. 

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English 
pocket moneyallowance

However, there are also some American English terms that are used in Canadian English. 

Canadian/American EnglishBritish English 
freshmanfirst year student
main streethigh street
public schoolstate school

Additionally, there are words that are distinct between Canadian, American and British English. 

Canadian EnglishAmerican EnglishBritish English
bachelor apartmentstudio apartmentstudio flat
bank machineATMcash dispenser
bus depotbus stationcoach station
fire hallfire housefire station
grade 1010th gradeyear 10
main floorfirst floorground floor
popsodasoft drink
scribblernotebookexercise book
washroomladies’/men’s roomladies/gents


Note: Canadian English follows British English grammar rules. 

Present Perfect and Past Simple Tenses

The present perfect is used in Canadian English to talk about a previous activity that is associated with what is presently happening.

Even though the present perfect can be used in the same way as American English, most people prefer to use the past simple when the action is finished. This can be seen in the adjectives ‘already’, ‘yet’, and ‘just’.

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English
“I have gone to the supermarket already.”

“Have you bought a dress for the party yet?”

“No, I haven’t told her about the plan.”
“I went to the supermarket already.”

“Did you buy a dress for the party already?”

“No, I did not tell her about the plan.”

Verb Forms with Collective Nouns

A singular or plural verb can be employed with a collective noun (noun that refers to a group of things or persons) in Canadian English.

When they think of the group as individuals, they use a plural verb; when they think of the group as a single unit, they use a singular word.

American English, however, uses a singular verb for collective nouns.

Keep in mind that the noun ‘police’ is usually plural (in both).

British EnglishAmerican English
“The committee is/are making a decision soon.”

“The class is/are having an external learning trip.”

“The team is/are training without the coach.”

“The police are asking witnesses about what happened.”
“The committee is making a decision soon.”

“The class is having an external learning trip.”

“The team is training without the coach.”

“The police are asking witnesses about what happened.”

Use of ‘Got’ and ‘Gotten’

The past participle of the verb ‘get’ is ‘got’ in Canadian English.

In American English, ‘gotten’ is used.

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English
“I could have got hit on the head!!”

“He’s got taller but thinner.”

“She has got forgetful lately.”

“Have I got paint on my shirt?”

“He has got to call the police.”
“I could have gotten hit on the head!!”

“He’s gotten taller but thinner.”

“She has gotten forgetful lately.”

“Have I got paint on my shirt?”NOT ““Have I gotten paint on my shirt?”

“He has got to call the police.”NOT “He has gotten to call the police.”

Use of ‘Have’ and ‘Take

In Canadian English, the verbs ‘have’ and ‘take’ are commonly used with nouns like ‘wash’, ‘bath’, and ‘shower’ to talk about washing, and with nouns like ‘vacation’, break, and ‘rest’ to talk about resting.

In American English, only the verb ‘take’ (not the verb ‘have‘) is used.

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English
“I am going to have/take a shower.”

“She wants to have/take a vacation next week.”
“I am going to take a shower.”

“She wants to take a vacation next week.”

Use of ‘Shall’

In Canadian English, the phrase “Shall I/we…?” is frequently used to offer assistance or make a recommendation.

In American English, the word ‘shall’ is rarely used. “Should I/Can I…?” or “Do you want/Would you like…?” are examples of alternatives. “How about…?” is also a common phrase.

Canadian/British EnglishAmerican English
“It’s too hot outside. Shall we go to the shop in the evening instead?”

“Shall we invite our cousins too?”

“Shall we throw a surprise party for her?”
“It’s too hot outside. Can we go to the shop in the evening instead?”

“How about we invite our cousins too?”

“Do you want to throw a surprise party for her?”

Canadian/American/British English: Which One Should You Use?

Most British spelling, grammar, and punctuation norms apply to Canadian English.

As a result, most of the distinctions between British and American English also apply to Canadian English. 

But Canadian English, being one of the common variants of the English language, is also distinct compared to British and American English.

So, when should you use Canadian English? 

The following are some things to think about:

  • What is the main reason you want to learn and use English?

This is surely the most crucial question you should ask yourself. What drives your desire to learn and use English?

You may have a few different responses to this question, but think about what your major motivation is.

  • Do you plan to live or work in any of the countries listed?

Another thing to think about is your current or future plans. You should study Canadian English if you wish to work in Vancouver or live in Ontario.

Study and use British English if you wish to work in Manchester. If you are considering relocating to Melbourne, Australian English is the language to learn and use.

  • What kind of English do your classmates and coworkers speak?

This is another element to consider while determining which English to use.

You do not want to be the lone wolf in an institution where American and/or British English is the norm.

  • Which English is preferred while studying or taking a standardized test?

This is an issue raised by many students taking overseas exams.

While most examinations accept all types of English, it is worth noting that some prefer one over the other.

The key is to inquire. Be consistent as well. If you start with Canadian/British English, you must continue to use it throughout.

Tips for Using Canadian English in Your Writing

In general, if you are writing for a Canadian audience, you can stick to British English rules for the most part. In other circumstances, though, Canadian English uses US spellings or phrases.

This is not a firm and fixed rule, but it is commonly ascribed to Canada’s ties to the United States.

We have a few general guidelines to follow when writing in Canadian English:

  • If your university or publication has provided you with a style guide, see if it includes any Canadian terminology or spellings.
  • Keep in mind that many dialect terminology and phrases are slang. While ‘Molson muscle’ is a phrase unique to Canada, it would not be used in formal writing.
  • Even if different spellings are acceptable, strive for consistency.
  • To see if terms are used in Canada, look them up in a Canadian dictionary.
  • Make use of a spell-checker. If you are using Microsoft Word, select ‘English (Canada)’ from the Review > Language > Set Proofing Language menu on the ribbon.
  • Finally, remember to double-check your work. A professional editor will catch errors that most people miss, therefore this is the greatest way to ensure that your writing is error-free at all times.

What are the Countries Using Canadian English Spelling?

Over the span of more than two centuries, Canadian English has evolved as a result of many waves of immigration and settlement.

It is heavily influenced by the United States and the United Kingdom.

 At the same time, Canadian English has had distinct characteristics since the early nineteenth century, so it is not merely a mash-up of different spellings.

That being said, Canadian English uses both British and American spelling, unlike other countries that use only one of the two. 

Why Does Learning Canadian English Matter?

Learning Canadian English is similar to learning a new language, except it is a lot less difficult.

If you are already conversant in English, regardless of its variant. 

While there are some distinctions between Canadian, British, and American English, the most important thing to remember is that they are more alike.

Using one instead of the other may not necessarily result in miscommunication.

What matters to you the most is that you keep improving your English skills and practicing speaking clearly and convincingly. Accept that there are different types of English. 

Concentrate on expressing your thoughts and feelings in English as clearly as possible.

Make an additional effort to grasp the differences between Canadian, British, and American English so that you can recognize them. It will be helpful no matter where you are.


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