Tips on English in the American South

As Andrew walks through the South he meets many people who speak with strong regional accents. Don’t worry if you find them difficult to understand – just read along with the transcript and listen often. This may help you if you meet Americans with Southern accents.
Before you listen, it may be helpful to review this list of non-standard expressions that are quite common in informal speech.


a plural form of ‘you’

They hate y’all, y’all love them.

an alternate form of ‘am not,’ ‘is not,’ or ‘are not.’

They ain’t lookin’ for a great day, I’m looking for a great day.

a term of endearment or affection; while it can be heard across the country, some Northerners are surprised at how often this expression is used in the South

a very rude way of referring to a black or African American person. Do not use this word!

I done got old

“I have become old” – “done” is sometimes used to mark an action as completed. This can be heard in the South and in African American Vernacular English, but it is not considered standard English. Note that Andrew, who grew up in the North, does not use this construction.

Before you know it, it’s done turned around and you’re there…
After you done walked this whole way…
I done got old and forgetful…
[ɛ] > [ɪ]

Some speakers in the South pronounce the [ɛ] sound (as in “pen,” “ten”) as [ɪ] (as in standard “pin,” “tin”) before ‘n’ or ‘m.’ Listen to how this speaker pronounces “again.”

We’re back at that point again right now, it’s funny.
[z] > [d]

The ‘z’ sound in some contractions may be pronounced as a ‘d.’ Listen for how some speakers in this piece pronounce “isn’t” as [idnt].

It’s worth it, isn’t it.
“got to” > [gɔɾǝ]

The phrase “got to” in American English (meaning “must” or “have to”) is often reduced to [gɔɾǝ], with a “flap” or “tapped” r in place of the ‘t.’ Listen also to how this speaker reduces “them” to [ǝm], another common feature in conversational speech.

I gotta do what he says. I gotta love ’em.