I know the correct pronunciation (I think) of the words "ask" and "asked", but I quite often hear them pronounced as "ahks" and "ahksed" (almost like an "r" sound). I've heard it both in conversation and on television shows (both Australian and American).

Are these pronunciations due to dialect, or are they alternative pronunciations or incorrect pronunciations? If they are the correct pronunciation, should I use them or the "normal" pronunciation?

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    If you are capable of pronouncing ask with the s before the k then you should do so; It is spelled A-S-K after all.
    – Jim
    Feb 27, 2013 at 3:12
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    It depends on your definition of "ok". If you want to learn normal standard spoken English, it's not okay. It's like you can pronounce "Thank you" as "Fank you" if you want, but it won't get you any marks in an oral test. Feb 27, 2013 at 3:18
  • @FumbleFingers what is "normal standard spoken English"? I'm hearing this pronunciation more often. There are many differences in pronunciation between US and UK english, for example "tomato" and "herb". Perhaps this is a bad question if the answer is obvious?
    – Deco
    Feb 27, 2013 at 3:59
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    This is an example of metathesis.
    – user230
    Feb 27, 2013 at 10:34
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    I think if you're reading a book within which a character's speech is transcribed as "Fank you, bruvver", you can pretty much take it as a racing cert that the character is uneducated and/or lower class. Are you seriously suggesting learners should consider th-fronting (and axing) reasonable options to learn? (Assuming they're capable of pronouncing the "correct" forms without extreme difficulty, obviously.) Feb 27, 2013 at 16:13

3 Answers 3


One of the earliest instances of the verb ask occurs in Old English as acsian. As the etymological note in the Oxford English Dictionary explains, acsian and axian survived down to nearly 1600 as the regular literary form, but was supplanted in Standard English by ask, originally the northern form.

As you have observed, a(h)ks is still heard in regional dialects. There is no doubt, however, that the standard form is ask, both in writing and in speech, and it is that form that foreign learners of English should use.


This is a sensitive argument, at least in the US.

As is noted, both pronunciations are ancient and were commonly mixed. In the US, for historical reasons, the /aks/ pronunciation was more commonly spoken in the south than the north, and the /ask/ more commonly spoken in the north. The pronunciation /aks/ has for the most part died among white speakers in the South, but is quite common among African-American speakers throughout the country (who migrated away from the south after the abolition of slavery).

In America, the African-American dialect is heavily stigmatized, and many otherwise racially conscious people, both white and black, will say quite ignorant and nasty things about it. In particular, some white Americans say /aks/ to make fun of the black dialect. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you not adopt it into your speech as a non-native speaker, as you will create serious problems if you are misinterpreted as doing this. Of course, if your accent is strong and you are obviously foreign, people will give you the benefit of the doubt, but it's ground I would not want to tread on. (If you are yourself black, you won't be misinterpreted as racist for saying /aks/ instead of /ask/, but racist people might make fun of you for it.)

  • The situation is similar in the UK, too. /aks/ is a feature of Multicultural London English, a melting-pot of dialects and accents including Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and African-American influences, which is spoken by people of all colours. It's stigmatised but also fashionable. Contrary to @FumbleFingers' comment on the question, it implies neither lack of education nor "lower class", but just indicates age and locale. That said, I don't think it advisable for a foreign learner to mix it in with an otherwise standard accent. May 24, 2021 at 10:01

This form of corruption of traditional pronunciation is a construct found in what are known as ghetto languages.

Though often seen as a substandard/subnormal level of English, there is some debate that these are learned dialects and are as valid as any regional or cultural patois.

However, if you are not of the culture or region, or very closely associated with it, you stand a large chance of coming across as either being condescending or offensive, so don't 'adopt' them if they're not part of your own circumstances. Also, due to ghetto language being mostly maligned (especially by conservative proponents), don't be surprised to find that people you speak to look down on its use.

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    I'm not sure "ghetto languages" is the best choice of words here.
    – user230
    Feb 27, 2013 at 10:41
  • @snailplane I was unaware there was an issue with it. Your alternate suggestion?
    – mcalex
    Feb 27, 2013 at 13:58
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    I think of this as a "local dialect". In Baltimore, when I was growing up, "ax" was a frequent (mis)pronunciation of "ask", and although the "correct" pronunciation was taught in schools, "ax" was sometimes used in informal conversation even by people with a high-school education. Feb 28, 2013 at 17:35
  • I've heard ask pronounced as ahks in Australia, (not ax as the vowel sound is quite different), but ask (ahsk) is standard.
    – Peter
    Aug 30, 2020 at 6:17

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