Over 80% of Brits can’t speak properly

St Pancras International, often wrongly referred to as ‘St Pancreas’ commissioned the study

More than 80% of Brits regularly mispronounce words including ‘espresso’ and ‘prescription’


More than three-quarters of British people struggle with common words and place names, with ‘often’ and ‘sherbet’ among the most difficult to pronounce, according to researchers.

The study was commissioned by railway terminal St Pancras International, which is often wrongly referred to as ‘St Pancreas’.

Research shows that 20% of women struggle with common words like ‘espresso’.

They also found that place names such as ‘Ely’ are particularly confusing, with one in six people unable to pronounce ‘Greenwich’ correctly.

The study discovered that 40% of us can’t pronounce ‘sherbet’ (40%), while 34% stumble over ‘et cetera’.

 The Italian starter ‘bruschetta’ leaves 25% of us flustered.

The researchers found that a quarter of British people (23%) feel so worried about getting words wrong they ask someone else to say them.

However, it seems men are less self-conscious with 35% of males saying they do not care if they mispronounce something.

The study said that 41% of us admit we interrupt a conversation to correct someone when they say a word incorrectly.

Regional differences were also highlighted, with 93% of people in Northern Ireland admitting that they trip up during conversations. Those in the North West of the country are least likely to pronounce their words wrongly, with only one in ten doing so.

More than half of us Brits (55%) attribute mix-ups to some words being spoken differently to how they are spelt while one in five (18%) think certain words are simply difficult to say. A small percentage (6%) insist confusing silent letters are to blame.

One in 20 (5%) instead pass the buck and suggest their errors come from repeating what someone else said.

Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis said: “We often fail to engage our conscious brain when speaking aloud what we are reading.

“Thinking before speaking and pausing before saying can save many embarrassing errors of pronunciation.”


Try testing the top 10 trickiest:


1. Ely Mispronounced by 59% of people EE-lee NOT Ee-Lie

2. Keighley (West Yorkshire town) 40% keith-lee NOT ki-lee or kay-lee

3. Sherbet 40% shur-but NOT sher-burt 

4. Et cetera 34% et-set-ter-eh NOT ecc-set-ter-eh

5. St Pancras 33% Saint Pan-krass NOT Saint Pan-kree-ass

6. Espresso 26% ess-press-oh NOT ex-press-oh

7. Bruschetta 25%  Brew-sket-a to be truly Italian NOT Brew-shet-a

8. Often 24% (traditionally offen, although off-ten has become increasingly common in the UK)

9. Prescription 21% Pruh-skrip-shun NOT per-skrip-shun or pro-skrip-shun

10. Greenwich 16% Gren-itch NOT Green-witch


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    • Roy Peters

      13 March 2014 • 19:42

      As someone from the older generation, I can remember the days when English was spoken correctly.These days the education level of most people is far below what it should be, and to top it all off, most people don’t care either.
      Ever since Tony Blair lowered education standards in order to impress people with his League Table of pass rates, English as a spoken language is almost unrecognizable today. You only have to view the comments people leave on internet news sites to realize how bad it is.

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