Philippine English is the variety of English used in the Philippines by the media and the vast majority of educated Filipinos. English is taught in schools as one of the two official languages of the country, the other being Filipino. Code-switching is prevalent in informal situations. Sub-varieties of Philippine English are emerging based on the regional location and thus linguistic influences of the speakers.

Orthography and grammar

Philippine English

Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English. English is also used in higher education, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business. Most educated Filipinos are bilinguals and speak English as one of their languages (see List of countries by English-speaking population). Still, for highly technical subjects such as nursing, medicine, computing and calculus, English is the preferred medium for textbooks, communication, etc. Very few would prefer highly technical books in the vernacular. Movies in English are usually not dubbed.

Because English is part of the curricula from primary to secondary education, many Filipinos write and speak in fluent Philippine English, although there might be differences in diction and pronunciation. Most schools in the Philippines, however, are staffed by teachers who are speakers of Philippine English and hence notable differences from the American English from which it was derived are observable.

Philippine English traditionally followed American English spelling and grammar, except when it comes to punctuation as well as date notations. For example, a comma almost never precedes the final item in an enumeration (much like the AP Stylebook and other style guides used in the English-speaking world). Except for some very fluent speakers (like news anchors), even in English-language media, dates are also often read with a cardinal instead of an ordinal number (e.g. "January one" instead of "January first") even if the written form is the same.

Tautologies like redundancy and pleonasm are common despite the emphasis on brevity and simplicity in making sentences; they are common to many speakers, especially among the older generations. The possible explanation is that the English language teachers who came to the Philippines were taught old-fashioned grammar, thus they spread that style to the students they served. Examples are "At this point in time" and ".. will be the one ..." (or "... will be the one who will ...") instead of "now" and "... will ..." respectively - e.g., "I will be the one who will go ...", rather than "I will go ...".


Philippine English

Most of the native Malayo-Polynesian languages of the Philippines do not contain the [f] phoneme. Thus, some Filipinos substitute [p] for [f] when they pronounce English words containing [f]. Some even pronounce English words that normally do begin with [p] with an [f] through hypercorrection due to confusion over which pronunciation is required.

Like [f], the [v] sound is also virtually non-existent in most major native languages of the Philippines. Partly because modern Spanish does not distinguish between [b] and [v] (both being pronounced as [b] and, intervocalically, as [β]), some of the older generation of Filipinos would pronounce the letter [v] in all English words as [b].

Languages of indigenous minorities that had limited contact with the Spanish colonial government often retain the [v] sound. The [f] sound also occurs in some of them. Examples are the Ivatan language, Ibanag language, and languages of the Lumad tribes in Mindanao and Visayas. All of them are minor indigenous languages of the Philippines. The Ibaloi tongue in the Baguio-Benguet area of Northern Luzon also has naturally occurring [f] and [v] sounds, as in sifa (interrogative who) and divit (a traditional wrap-around skirt). The modern spelling of the name of one of the most numerous ethnic groups of the Philippines, the Manobo tribes of Mindanao, is actually the hispanized spelling of the original Manobo word Manuvu.

Some of the other sounds that Philippine languages lack include [ɪ], [æ] and [ʌ]; only a few still retain [ə] (most notably Kinaray-a in Panay Island). The sound [ɪ] (/i/ in "brick") is replaced with [i] (/y/ in "happy") so the pronunciation of the words "bit" and "beat [bit]", "hit" and "heat [hit]", and "fill" and "feel [fil]" would be the same, respectively. The [θ] and ð sounds in all words are also absent in these languages, so they are pronounced [t] and [d] instead as a sign of th-stopping. Others hypercorrectly sound th in Thai, Thomas, etc. as [θ].

Words such as "back" [bæk] and "buck" [bʌk], "cat" [kæt] and "cut" [cʌt], and "pass" [pæs] and "pus" [pʌs] respectively would also have the same pronunciation since [a] (/a/ in Filipino word "alin"), [æ], and [ʌ] are not distinguished and all would be pronounced as [a]. Some speakers realize [æ] as [ɛ] instead, so bad and bed are homophones.

With the exemption of [ə] sound in word endings "ble", "fle", and "ple" which are replaced with [o] (/o/ in Filipino word "uso"), [ə] in "cle", "dle", "gle", "tle" is either replaced with [e] (/e/ in "egg") which is more commonly used or [o]. Google [ˈɡuɡ(ə)l] would be read as [ˈɡuɡel] and handle [ˈhænd(ə)l] would be [ˈhandel]. Also depending on the spelling as Filipinos read based on how the word is spelled, "travel" [ˈtræv(ə)l] would be [ˈtrabel], "computer" [kəmˈpjutər] as [komˈpjuter], and circle [ˈsərkəl] read as [ˈsirkel] or [ˈsirkol]. For that reason, the endings -cion, -sion, -tion rhyme like Shaun/Shawn [ʃon], which is somewhat similar with non-native pronunciation of English by speakers of Romance languages.

The schwa in unstressed affixes is sounded with its full equivalent vowels instead, so that the -ace/-ase É™s in "surface", "purchase", -ate [É™t in some words like "private", -ain in "mountain", "captain" (and -ane in "Brisbane"), and -age/-ege [ɨdÊ'] in "marriage" rhyme with "ace", "pain/pane", "eight", and "age" respectively, or not deleted in some affixes but still sounded fully, namely -ary, -ery, -ory, -mony, -erry, that is why words like "history [ˈhistori]" and "mastery [ˈmastÉ›ri]" are pronounced that way. Some other words and affixes like -ile and -ine are pronounced mostly like in British and Commonwealth English and some other speakers of Canadian and/or American English, thus "missile/missal" and "hostile/hostel" are not homophonous.

In addition to the schwa, the /e/ (actually a reduced vowel /ɨ/) in -es/-ess is pronounced with the full vowel instead, thus it sounds like ess (the letter S, [ɛs]). This feature is also somewhat similar with non-native pronunciation of English by speakers of Romance languages. Many have a difficulty with some initial-stress-derived nouns, so "complex" and "compound" sound alike whether as a noun or not.

A phenomenon among the older generation of Filipinos is their pronunciation of all the English words starting with s + consonant such as star, spade, stampede, slide, stigma, statue, sky, stable, strict, and stew. These words are pronounced by some of them as "istar/estar", "istampede/estampede", "istigma/estigma", "istatue/estatue", "istable/estable", "istrict/estrict" and "istew/estew" because these older people were exposed to the Spanish language and were used to the Spanish system wherein there are no words starting with s + consonant, but instead es + consonant. Thus, estrella (star), estampida (stampede), estigma (stigma), estatua (statue), estable (stable), estricto (strict) and estofado (stew). This phenomenon is called epenthesis. Another phenomenon is pronunciation by some speakers of the digraph qu before e and i in some words like conquest, liquidity so that they would be conkest and likidity to an English speaker's ear. Sometimes the ending -que is pronounced ke, not k. Again, this is a result of exposure to Spanish.

Another issue is suprasegmentals. In pronunciation, emphasis often tends to be put on the wrong syllable of a word (such as emphasizing the second syllable of "category", "celibacy", "ceremony", "delicacy", etc. instead of the first) or on the wrong word in a sentence as compared to North American English or British English. This issue is likely rooted in the aforementioned Spanish (Castilian) influence and often occurs with English words with Latin (and indirectly Spanish) roots. However, this is not the case for many fluent Anglophone speakers, who learn to pronounce and emphasize the proper stress correctly, mostly with help and guidance from their teachers or tutors. Despite this, some of these underlying mistakes remain in those speakers.

Yod-coalescence is also very common in certain stressed syllables of words in Philippine English. This turns the clusters [dj], [tj], [sj] and [zj] into [dÊ'], [tʃ], [ʃ] and [Ê'] respectively in certain words unlike standard American dialects which drop the yod. Words like dew, tune, and tube become pronounced as /ˈdÊ'uː/ (Jew), /ˈtʃuːn/ (Choon), and /ˈtʃuːb/ (Chube). Yod-coalescence in stressed syllables occurs in Australian, Cockney, Estuary English, Hiberno-English (some speakers), Newfoundland English, South African English, Scottish English, Welsh English, and many other varieties of English in the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations (except Ireland). Word-initial [j] also coalesces with word-final [d/ð], [t/θ], [s], and [z], giving the same effect as the clusters mentioned earlier, so "sees/seize your" and "passed your" sound like "seizure/seashore" and "pasture".


As mentioned above, the schwa is featured in some Philippine languages.


Among mother-tongue speakers, the phonology of Philippine English almost completely resembles that of the North American variant (thus, Philippine English is a rhotic accent), while the speech of those who are not native speakers is influenced to varying degrees by indigenous Philippine languages. Since many English phonemes (such as [f] and [v]) are not found in most Philippine languages, pronunciation approximations are extremely common.

Some examples of non-native pronunciation include:

  • Awry = [ˈari]
  • Filipino = [piliˈpino]
  • Victor = [bikˈtor]
  • Family = [ˈpɐmili] or [ˈpamili]
  • Varnish = [ˈbarnis]
  • Fun = [ˈpɐn] or [ˈpan]
  • Vehicle = [ˈbÉ›hikel] or [ˈbÉ›hikol]
  • Lover = [ˈlɐber]
  • Find = [ˈpɐjnd]
  • Official = [oˈpisʲɐl]
  • Very = [ˈbÉ›ri] or [ˈbejri]
  • Guidon = [É¡iˈdon]
  • Hamburger = [ˈhɐmburdzʲɛr]
  • High-tech = [ˈhajtÉ›ts]
  • Hubcap = [ˈhabkab]
  • Margarine = [mɐrɡɐˈrin]
  • Seattle = [ˈsʲatel]
  • Shako = [sʲaˈko]
  • Daniel/Danielle = [ˈdeɪnjel] or [ˈdanjel]
  • -ator in senator, predator = [ˈejtor] (by analogy with -ate)
  • Rachel/Rachelle = [ˈreiʃel]
  • Stephen, Stephen- in Stephens, Stephenson = [(i/É›)ˈstifÉ›n] or [(i/É›)ˈstipÉ›n]
    (the ph digraph has an eff sound rather than a vee)
  • Special (some speakers) = [(i/É›)ˈspeɪʃal] or [ˈspeɪʃal] rhymes with spatial
  • Twenty- (one, two, etc.) (many speakers) = [ˈtweɪnti]

The above list applies mainly to monolingual Filipino-language-speakers; a number of other indigenous languages, mentioned previously, employ phonemes such as [f], [v], and [z]. This form of mispronunciation, caused by the limited sound inventories of most Philippine languages compared to English (which has more than 40 phonemes), is generally frowned upon by Anglophone Filipinos, in particular, and businesses dealing with international clients.

Industries based on English

The abundant supply of English speakers and competitive labor costs have enabled the Philippines to become a choice destination for foreign companies wishing to establish call centers and other outsourcing operations. English proficiency sustains a major call center industry, and as of 2005, America Online (AOL) has 1,000 people in what used to be the US Air Force's Clark Air Base in Angeles City answering ninety percent of their global e-mail inquiries. Citibank does its global ATM programming in the country, and Procter & Gamble has over 400 employees in Makati, a central Manila neighborhood, doing back office work for their Asian operations including finance, accounting, Human Resources and payments processing. See Call center industry in the Philippines

An influx of foreign students, principally from South Korea, has also led to growth in the number of English language learning centers, especially in Metro Manila, Baguio City and Metro Cebu.

Recently, the Spanish Ministry for External Affairs and the Japanese government decided to hire speakers of the Philippine English as Language Assistants for their own respective countries.

Vocabulary and usage

Some words and phrases and their respective definitions or uses are peculiar to Philippine English. Some examples are:

Certain phrases uncommon outside of the Filipino community often crop up in Philippine English:

  • ".. will be the one ...", and "... will be the one who will ..." instead of "... will ..." - e.g., "I will be the one who will go ...", rather than "I will go ...".
  • "To open/kill/close an appliance/device" instead of "to turn on/off an appliance/device". The reason for this is because the Filipino words "buksan" (to open), "patayin" (to kill) and "isara" (to close), in the manner used in the sentence, have no direct translation to the English word "to turn on/off".

The usage of the first example is generally discouraged by most English tutors and teachers today as a form of redundancy.

See also

  • International English
  • English as a second or foreign language
  • Formal written English
  • List of dialects of the English language
  • Regional accents of English speakers
  • Special English
  • Philippine literature in English
  • List of loanwords in Tagalog
  • Englog (Konyo English), English-Tagalog code-switching based on English
  • Taglish, Tagalog-English codeswitching based on Tagalog


Further reading

  • Acar, A. "Models, Norms and Goals for English as an International Language Pedagogy and Task Based Language Teaching and Learning.", The Asian EFL Journal, Volume 8. Issue 3, Article 9, (2006).
  • Manarpaac, Danilo. "When I was a child I spoke as a child": Reflecting on the Limits of a Nationalist Language Policy. In: Christian Mair. The politics of English as a world language: new horizons in postcolonial cultural studies. Rodopi; 2003 [cited 18 February 2011]. ISBN 978-90-420-0876-2. p. 479â€"492.
  • Lerner, Ted. Hey, Joe, a slice of the city - an American in Manila. Book of Dreams: Verlag, Germany. 1999.

External links

  • The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines, by Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, with sections on Philippine English
  • Philippine English, by Tom McArthur.
  • Reinstatement of English as a medium of instruction by the Department of Education
  • English proficiency in Cebu
  • American or Philippine English? (video)

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