I wish to speak with a British accent?

What is the impact of using in instead of with in the above sentence?

  • You wish to speak like Brits do :) – Hanky Panky Apr 8 '16 at 7:01
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    On a side note, that superfluous punctuation renders the whole sentence completely unbritish, regardless of preposition. – Pavel Apr 8 '16 at 7:56
  • @ Pavel Petrman: Is it ok now? – Gt_R Apr 8 '16 at 16:11
  • @ Hanky Panky: Usually I speak with neutral accent. However, when I might come over to England, I try to speak in a Brits accent. Am I correct here? ;) – Gt_R Apr 8 '16 at 18:52

@Maulik is quite right that for OP's exact context, both prepositions are acceptable (though outside of "Indian English", with an [X] accent is far more common. But having said that, consider...

1: John spoke with an American accent.
2: John spoke in an American accent.

In any given context, it will probably be obvious whether either means (a) John [always / normally / inherently] has an American accent, or (b) He adopted that accent in a specific spoken context (both are valid). But if there is no such context, the default interpretation would be 1 = a, 2 = b.

To put that another way, assuming we accept that everyone has some kind of accent, we usually say they speak with that accent. If someone affects (puts on a pretense of) a different accent, we're more likely to say they're speaking in that accent (implicitly, for the duration of that speech act).

EDIT: This is pure speculation, but I suspect the IE tendency to stick with in for both contexts above directly arises from the fact that a very high proportion of non-native Anglophones in India regularly use English (with varying degrees of fluency). In such an environment, there's a lot of pressure to converge on simplified, general-purpose usages which are easier to learn, and far less pressure to fall in line with long-established idiomatic preferences that might apply to, say, AmE or BrE.

With that in mind, it makes sense for Indians to standardise on John speaks in an xxxxx accent, because that way they don't have to learn a different preposition for, say, John writes in Russian (native speakers will all accept #1 and #2 above, but they won't accept John writes with Russian).

  • +1 for those 'either' options. Solely for that, I liked this answer more than my own! :) – Maulik V Apr 8 '16 at 4:51
  • And, for the #2, I'd think John writes with Russian (of course, again, ignoring the article) i.e. There are many people from different countries, FumbleFingers writes with (an) Indian beside him, John writes with Russian! – Maulik V Apr 8 '16 at 4:54
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    @Maulik V♦: S'ok - I upvoted your answer. Partly because it's true (so far as it goes), but mainly because it got me thinking about the reasons / benefits of the IE preference for in. Many of my neighbours are 1st/2nd generation Indians, and mostly they're at pains to replicate "standard" syntax, so I/they are more often on the lookout for "deviations" they can "correct". I/they haven't tended to notice thing like this current case simply, because both versions are valid, so nothing stands out... – FumbleFingers Apr 8 '16 at 12:29
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    ...I've long been aware that the current "fluidity" of IE promotes the acceptance of useful neologisms in terms of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., but I wasn't consciously aware of how it can encourage subtle simplifications in syntax (that don't necessarily scream "non-native speaker!" to mainstream Anglophones). It's a bit like watching a real-life version of Orwell's Newspeak evolving - only this one is "bottom-up" rather than "top-down" driven, and should lead to better/simpler communication, rather than mindless conformity to current cultural norms as defined by "leaders". – FumbleFingers Apr 8 '16 at 13:36
  • wonderful points! Agreed to all extent! :) However, just to include that Indians in the US/UK still have better expose to better English. Unfortunately, here, in India, we lack it. – Maulik V Apr 9 '16 at 4:58

Both mean the same.

Ngram results show that 'with an American accent' is more common.

I also checked on dozens of news websites. I find both the uses.

In InE, you'll hear almost everyone using the preposition 'in' for such usage.

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    As for that Ngram, though, we might get more accurate results if we add an indefinite article – J.R. Apr 7 '16 at 10:10
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    I had no problem with the prepositions, but if we upvote this answer, we're telling our learners, IMHO, that you're free to use either I wish to speak in/with British/American accent, especially when the Ngram search this answer uses to support the argument is in American accent,with American accent. -- The search you recommend is much better. – Damkerng T. Apr 7 '16 at 10:12
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    You also need to include speak if you want a more accurate usage chart, otherwise results will be skewed by irrelevancies such as She married a man with an American accent, where I'm sure even Indian English wouldn't allow in. – FumbleFingers Apr 7 '16 at 12:44
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    @Damkerng T.: Good meta post (which I must have missed at the time). But as soon as I'd read just the question, I found myself thinking of Maulik here, who's posted many excellent answers - albeit it with the occasional "lapse". My position, which I'm sure he'd agree with, is that it's pretty much a win-win situation if someone like him posts an answer which is substantially correct, but contains something slightly "misleading" that gets corrected after an appropriate comment. So while I like that you raised the issue, I can't really endorse the implied "solution" to a supposed "problem". – FumbleFingers Apr 7 '16 at 21:30
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    @FumbleFingers That's not an accurate usage chart. N-grams with less than 40 occurrences have been removed from Google's publicly queriable index, so the numbers for in are missing entirely, and we can't see how big the difference really is. Check COCA or BNC to get a more accurate comparison. – snailplane Apr 7 '16 at 21:47

Perhaps consider the combination of language and accent...

e.g. I speak IN English WITH an American accent.

When at school, we were taught to take into account optional information that could be omitted if understood by the speaker or listener/ writer and reader.

So my 2c's worth is correct usage is probably - speak IN {language} - speak WITH a|an {accent}

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    I don't think the IN belongs here. Speak {language}, speak with {accent}. I've never heard anybody say, "I speak in English". – leftclickben Apr 8 '16 at 18:17

Change your accent to another way of speaking- for example:'lisp'. You would not say, I wish to speak in a lisp.
You would say, I wish to speak with a lisp.
Similarly with "a stutter"


Perhaps picky, but anyone saying "I wish to" is not speaking a brand of English that's been in regular use in Britain or America for over a century. "I want to" is correct. "I'd like to" is equivalent but more polite. Saying "I wish to" is not correct unless you're filming a historical drama set in 1850 or so.

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    Yes, it's "picky". And this isn't an answer to the specific point being queried. – FumbleFingers Apr 7 '16 at 20:14
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    It is utter nonsense to claim that "I wish to" is not correct. This phrase is perfectly correct, reasonable, and comprehensible English. – Théophile Apr 7 '16 at 23:22
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    @Théophile Comprehensible, yes. Grammatically correct, yes. Colloquially correct, categorically not. With a possible exception of the Queen or extreme upper-class "society" families. As a British person, this simply isn't capable of discussion - we just don't talk that way. (Unless you happen to be a toff, OK, but then the rules are different on a lot of things. #taxhaven ;) It's as wrong as suggesting Yosemite Sam is correct for how Americans talk. – Graham Apr 8 '16 at 8:11
  • "I wish to" doesn't strike my American ear as a nobody-talks-that-way phrase, but it does come off as either a bit formal or a bit pretentious. In Google Ngrams for 1980 to 2008, excluding republication of old books or letters, it seems to come up mostly in acknowledgements ("I wish to thank ..."). I also found it in a book that appears to be a vampire romance. For an American English speaker to speak with a British accent seems itself a bit pretentious, so combining this with "I wish to" (at least in that case) would make sense to me. – David K Apr 8 '16 at 13:20
  • It's certainly more formal than "I want to", and I'll grant that I would expect to see it in writing more often than hear it in casual conversation. That said, the OP was writing a question to the forum, not speaking to us. I searched through my personal and work e-mails for this phrase and found quite a variety of instances (not written by me): "I wish to add comments", "I wish to keep studying", "I wish to pursue", "I wish to understand", "I wish to share", "I wish to address", "I wish to amend", etc., etc. – Théophile Apr 11 '16 at 14:12

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