I am able to pronounce the r in pretty much the standard way, but I still feel the faintest discomfort, especially when there are many r sounds in a row. On the other hand the trilled r is very natural for me. Lately I have been listening to several English productions, such as this one:

Asimov, Foundation trilogy

The trilled r can be heard several times before 1:45. If actors are permitted to do this for clarity, it should be acceptable for me as well. Yet, it seems, even the speakers who trill the r do not trill all occurrences. For instance, around 2 hours 51 minutes in the aforementioned video one of the actors always rolls the r in "prosperity", but not in most other words. Furthermore, please consider this video right after 3:45. The Dowager Countess rolls the r in "experience", but not in a lot of other words! Therefore my question arises:

When using the older standard pronunciation with the trilled r, which is apparently still used by actors, may we trill all occurrences of r, except such that are part of a final er (as "father", "mother"...)?

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    P.S. For watchers of the video, skip to about 1:45 for section without fanciful production effects and hence clearer dialogue. Jun 20, 2017 at 16:37
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    @LukeSawczak good point, but after 1:45 they don't use the trilled r. I shall search for a clearer occurrence. I am afraid that speaker is always accompanied by effects.
    – Ludi
    Jun 20, 2017 at 16:42
  • Ahh, there's always a catch... Jun 20, 2017 at 16:45
  • The trilled r is a part of so-called "received pronunciation," or RP. Interestingly, it's a relatively recent development. For more than you want to know on the subject, see this. This is a youtube presentation on the history of it. Googling "received pronunciation" will give many other audio examples as well.
    – BobRodes
    Jun 20, 2017 at 18:01
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    Some of the discussion here may be relevant: dialectblog.com/2012/01/10/was-there-a-veddy-british-r According to one contributor: "Dame Edith Evans, in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ did something quite similar, rolling her r’s syllable-initially and tapping them intervocalically."
    – rjpond
    Sep 6, 2017 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


The fact is that in normal RP the "r" isn't trilled. It is a "post-aveolar approximant". Trilling the "r" is associated with either the Scots accent, or with "stage speak": a style of enunciation intended to be heard in a theatre. Noel Coward used this when on stage, but not in his not normal speaking voice.

The trilled "r" is therefore familiar enough that you can be understood if you say "rrround the rrrugged rrrock". You may say this, but it isn't RP.

The "r" that is written as part of "er" and "ar" is not pronounced, unless followed by a vowel, and even then not trilled.

The recording that you like to is not an example of 21st century English, it was recorded in 1973, 45 years ago. Accents have changed.


As many of the comments suggest, there are numerous videos to help you work on imitating one accent or another. My feeling is that accents are like music -- with enough work, some people can imitate almost any accent they hear. Others have no "ear" for it and will never quite get it right.

This particular accent seems to be called "received pronunciation" or "RP". Here is a link to a training video but I can't guarantee how accurate or effective it will be for you. Probably the best way to improve this accent is to live in someplace like London and listen carefully to those who use it. This might be challenging, because there are many accents in London, but with enough practice you should be able to hear the differences.

In addition to the accent, RP speakers seem to value proper diction, pacing, and word choice. Again, imitation is your best bet.

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