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, the standardized dialect of Tagalog.
Most Filipinos understand, write and speak English, Tagalog and their respective local language. English is used in education, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business, though the number of people who use it as a second language far outnumber those who speak it as a first language (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 and TV programs in English are not subtitled and are expected to be directly understood.
English, as it is taught in the Philippines, is very similar to North American English. However, most schools in the Philippines are staffed by teachers who are not native Anglophones and thus think using Austronesian instead of Germanic grammatical structures. Non-standard usage arises from their second language acquisition of English.
Orthography and grammar
Philippine English generally follows American
standards, except when it comes to punctuation as well as date notations. For example, a comma almost never precedes the final item
in an enumeration. Also, dates are orally said with the day as a cardinal number (e.g. January 1 instead of January 1st).
Vocabulary and usage
Some words and phrases and their respective definitions or uses are peculiar to Philippine English and may not appear in most English dialects. Some examples are:
- Accomplish - loosely means "to complete something"; forms, letters, anything.
- Aggrupation - A political group. From the Spanish word agrupación.
- Aircon - an air-conditioner, or air conditioning unit.
- Ala - Filipinos prefer to spell "a la," or more correctly "à la," as one word.
- Already - Filipinos use this word to state that they have finished doing something, even though it was completed past the original deadline. In standard English, by contrast, "already" is used only when something was completed ahead of schedule.
- Apartelle - A budget hotel. From apartment + hotel + le. Other terms used are "apartel," "apartment-hotel," and "condotel."
- Bad shot - to get on someone's bad side or to make a bad impression. (Example: Na-bad shot akó sa nanay niyá means I made a bad impression on her mom.) This term is usually a technical term in billiards when a player makes a bad shot.
- Bad trip - An unfortunate situation. May mean "bummer." (Example: "Bad trip! I got into a car accident.) In the US, "bad trip" is usually used to describe the bad experience of some recreational drug users while being intoxicated.
- Ballpen - any pen. From the type of pen called ball-point. The ball-point pen is a rather popular type of pen in the Philippines.
- Bananacue - Sabá (cooking banana, similar to plantain), rolled in brown sugar then deep fried and skewered. The hot oil caramelizes the sugar giving the banana cue a crunchy quality. Name thought to have come about because the bananas thus prepared were served skewered, in a manner similar to Pinoy Barbecue.
- Banca - Outrigger canoe
- Barbecue - Grilled meat, but not in the American sense: the Philippine barbecue is meat cut into pieces (usually the fat is included for pork barbecues) and skewered, in a manner commonly called kebab cookery outside of the Pinoy community.
- Bedspace - The use of a bed at private home, rent for which is paid by a lodger or boarder known as a "bedspacer."
- Biodata - Similar but inferior to a résumé; a form that lists a person's accomplishments.
- Blowout - A treat, paid for by one or two persons.
- Bold - Nude. Maybe because movies showing nudity were considered bold, as in daring. Possibly from the 1960s when conservatism in society was only beginning to break down.
- Bold movie - A movie with nude scenes. In the 1970s, the term for such movies was "bomba film," whereas in the 1980s it was "S.T.(sex trip) movie." These were also called T.F (tittilating films).
- Boodle fight - Originally pre-World War Two West Point slang meaning "a gathering where such luxuries (candy, cake, ice cream, etc.) are served, presently this term refers to food (usually pansít, or steamed rice and sardines) served on old newspapers or banana leaves spread over a table, and eaten with bare hands by a group of people. Although it is the practice for some Filipinos to eat with their hands, a group of people eating this way from one source is an unnatural and contrived practice. This way of eating, which was devised by PMA cadets, does not represent authentic Philippine culture.
- Boston - a type of metal or rubber pad placed in the heel and/or front of the sole of a shoe for antislip purposes.
- Boundary - An amount public transport drivers pay their operators daily; any excess belongs to the driver as his daily wage.
- Brownout - A complete outage of electrical power (vs. more usual usage where brownout indicates a reduction in power line voltage and blackout indicates a complete power outage).
- Buck - In America and Australia this refers to a dollar, however in the Philippines it refers to a peso.
- Bullcap - A baseball cap.
- Bull ring - A class ring about the size of a standard American men's class ring, worn by some members of the military, police, fire service, and merchant marine. The term "bull" refers to the ring's large size in comparison with Philippine class rings of civilian colleges, which are smaller. A "super bull ring" is a large class ring comparable in size to those of American institutions such as The Citadel, Norwich University, and VMI.
- By and by - later
- Cabaret - (pronounced /KA ba ret/) A strip club.
- Cabinet (furniture) - Refers to "closet."
- Cadette - A female cadet. From French. The Philippine pronunciation is dervied from West Point slang.
- Caesarean - C-section
- Calling card - Refers to a business card. A call card, on the other hand, is a phone card.
- Canteen - The usual term for cafeteria. Canteen in standard English is a water container.
- Carabao - water buffalo From Winaray karabáw.
- Carnapper - A car thief.
- Carnapping - Motor vehicle theft, auto theft, or car theft, carjacking
- Call Boy or CB - Any male prostitute.
- Call Girl or CG - Any female prostitute. In American English, a call girl is a prostitute contacted by phone.
- Cent - A centavo. "¢" the symbol for "cent" is also used as a symbol for "centavo." Formerly, "ctvs" was commonly used as the abbreviation for "centavo." "ctvs" appears to be a combination of "ctvo" the correct English abbreviation for "centavo(s)" and cs the correct Spanish abbreviation of "centavos." It should be noted that cénts is a Spanish abbreviation for céntimos and "centavos."
- Certain - Used to emphasize or to denote, as in e.g., "The desk officer of the UP police, a certain Corporal Kalibo, told the Inquirer ...", or "What we're really pushing for is diversification, maybe have a certain bucket in fixed income, a certain basket in equity-based funds and then a certain portion in the peso and dollar funds," (emphasis added). The word is used more in Philippine English than in other dialectal forms.
- Change oil - An oil change.
- Chancing - To make a sexual advance.
- Chicken - Something which is easy or easily accomplished. The final exam was chicken "The final exam was easy." This use is divergent from other colloquial uses of the word - I got chicken over the exam means that the student or person was afraid to take the exam.
- Chit - A restaurant bill, or a card.
- Chocolate Man or Crocodile - Refers mostly to policemen in charge of traffic in Manila. Also refers to some politicians.
- Co-ed - A college student. The use originates possibly in the 1950s, when exclusive schools were still the social standard for high school education and girls were not expected to mingle with boys (a "co-ed" (co-educational) setup) in an educational system.
- Coke - Term for a carbonated drink, usually referred to sodas with dark colour. From Coca-cola, which was earlier marketed in the Philippines than Pepsi.
- Colegiala - A female high-school student at an exclusive school, usually run by Catholic clergy or nuns. From Spanish.
- College ring/school ring - A class ring.
- Combo - Can refer to a musical band, a set meal in fast-food restaurants, or a set of moves on fight video games.
- Commute - To take public transport. However, "commute" is not used as a noun, eg. I'll miss the commute in Philippine English.
- Commuter - One who takes public transport, as opposed to motorists ("drivers").
- Cong - An abbreviation for congressman. This abbreviation is normally used for the terms "congress" and "congressional."
- Coupon bond - Bond paper, with the coupon diverging in meaning from accepted uses of the word, eg. "a stub". The word coupon is also used with that meaning in Philippine English. Coupon bond is pronounced /ko'pon bo'nd/, possibly due to the ambivalence of Philippine languages with the vowels o and u, as happens in most loanwords/co-optations in Tagalog.
- Course - In colloquial Philippine English, it is used to refer to a degree program. In formal Philippine English, it is used to refer to a subject eg. core courses.
- CR (Comfort Room) - Toilet, bathroom.
- De hilo - A white suit, commonly used during the American colonial period. Also the fabric used in types of white underwear.
- Dine-in - "Eat in," "for here.
- Dormer - A dormitory resident.
- Drawer (furniture) - Refers to the whole "dresser," rather than to individual drawers.
- Double-action bullet - An expanding bullet.
- Duster - A sun dress. "Although she is wealthy, she wore a duster to the market so she would not be overcharged." The cleaning instrument (a duster in other parts of the world) is known as feather duster.
- Eat-All-You-Can - All You Can Eat. Possibly from "Eat all you can!"
- Eisenhower jeep - An M38A1 jeep.
- Dollar-speaking - usually someone who speaks in English in public.
- Estafa - embezzlement or small-scale economic cheating activity. From Spanish "con art".
- Ex. - the abbreviation of the phrase "for example.", supplementary to Eg. This is used only in writing, and is read as "Example...".
- Fall in line - line up, form a queue.
- Exclusive School - Refers to any Philippine school of high rank and expense. Refers also to a school wherein sexual segregation is promoted.
- Filipino-Chinese - Chinese Filipino or Min Nan/Fookien.
- Fill-up - to fill out a paper or document, eg. Please fill-up this form.
- Fishball -Fish ball
- Flyover - This British English word is the preferred term for overpass.
- For a while - Used on the telephone to mean "please wait" or "hold on." A literal translation of Tagalog Sandalî lang.
- FX Taxi - A type of share taxi. Share taxis in the Philippines are usually Toyota Tamaraw FX, an exclusively Philippine brand of early SUV.
- Gay - Homosexuals. It usually includes transsexuals, cross-dressers and effeminate men. (See Homosexuality in the Philippines.)
- Gay bar - refers to a gay strip club.
- Get down / go down (a vehicle) - "Get off." Derived from Tagalog context (Bumabâ ka, literally meaning "(you) get down").
- Gets - "Understand?" From "Do you get it?". Ah, gets. "Ah, (I) understand." Gets? "(Do you) understand?"
- Gig - An event for bands. We got a new gig means "We got a new event to sing in."
- Gimmick - A planned or unplanned night out with friends. Also, any offering during evening hours by clubs, bars and restaurants to lure customers in.
- Go ahead - Leave in advance ("I'll go ahead" means "I will leave now, earlier than you guys"). "I'll go ahead " is a literal translation of Tagalog Mauna na akó, which means "I'll leave you now" more than "I'll go before you now".
- Green jokes - Dirty jokes (subsequently, to be "green-minded" is to have a dirty mind, e.g. always giving sexual connotations to everything). Unknown origin.
- Guinit helmet - A sun helmet made from coconut fiber (ginít), used by Filipinos serving in the American colonial army from 1935 through 1942. The American colonial gendarmerie also used this headgear about the same period. The Axis Second Philippine Republic's military, known as the Bureau of Constabulary, was another user of this type of sun helmet. Generally viewed as an inappropriate headgear for war it should however be noted that the German Afrika Korps and Italian elite units deployed in North Africa during World War Two also used sun helmets.
- Hard drink - Alcoholic drinks that are not wine, beer, or sparkling wine, usually 'strong' drinks.
- Holdupper - A holdup man, or stickup man.
- Hostess/GRO - a female waiter in a beerhouse. The same word is used to denote a prostitute, although the very word "prostitute" denotes people who ply the streets for customers. From the beerhouse practice of asking a female waiter out, in exchange for money, to have sex with her. GRO is an abbreviation for "Guest Relations Officer" and has the same source.
- Hyper - This prefix is used as an adjective to describe a person who is highly-strung. From the term "hypertension."
- Jeepney - Mass transit vehicles originally made from US military jeeps. (See "Owner" below)
- Jingle - To urinate
- Jueteng - An illegal numbers game. From Chinese.
- Kennedy jeep - An M151 MUTT.
- Kidnapable - A person who, because of his or her high social standing or considerable wealth, is a likely target for kidnapping for ransom.
- LRT/MRT - These abbreviations refer to the elevated railroad or elevated transit line of the Philippine capital region.
- Malabanan - A name referring to a firm specializing in septic tank drainage. Used by different companies of different owners. Similar to Roto Rooter.
- MacArthur jeep - A Willys MB.
- Marine tank - An amtrac.
- Masteral/s - a Master's degree.
- Melon - Cantaloupe
- Metro Aide - Refers to public street cleaners or broom sweepers employed by the Metro Manila Development Authority.
- Misa de galyo - Mass celebrated very early morning for the nine mornings before Christmas (December 16-24). From the Latin American term "misa del gallo" which refers to a midnight mass on Christmas eve.
- Mistah - a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (from Mister)
- Monito-Monita - Secret Santa, Kris Kringle, an exchange-gifts program for Christmas.
- Motel - Used mostly to refer to a love hotel, a hotel or a motel paid at an hourly rate, used primarily for sex. Often used with the word "short-time" as in the construction "short-time motel."
- Middle name - Usually the mother's maiden surname. Philippine culture is highly patriarchal and family-centered, so the name reflects the ancestral roots of the person, with the surname from the father, and the middle name from the mother.
- Mtrs/mts - Abbreviations for "meters" on road signs. Nowadays "m" is normally used.
- Nightclub - Used to refer exclusively to strip clubs, especially among the older generation. To avoid confusion, nightclubs are instead referred to as "dance clubs" or simply as "clubs."
- OB-Gyne - OB/GYN
- Officemate - a co-worker
- [Open/kill] the [light/computer/TV] - Turn or switch [on/off] the [light/computer/TV]. From Tagalog bukas (open) and patay (dead). The literal translation of Buksan/Patayin mo ang ilaw. "Turn on/off the light."
- Owner-type - ('onɚ) A Jeep-derived vehicle for private, non-commercial use. Usually constructed in bright stainless steel.
- Pack Up - Used instead of "wrap up" when referring to movie sets, presentations, etc.
- Parlor/Salon - Refers to a hair/beauty salon. "Salon" originally meant a place to gather.
- Payola - Filipinos prefer to use this term when referring to bribes or payoffs.
- Payphone - Filipinos prefer to spell "pay phone" as one word.
- Pentel pen - A marker. From the Pentel brand of markers.
- Pershing cap - A service cap.
- Pistolized - An adjective to describe a long gun with its shoulder stock removed and replaced with a pistol grip.
- Polo shirt - A dress shirt.
- Practicumer - Refers to a student who participates in a course of study that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory; an intern. (Practicum - internship)
- Presidentiable - A person aspiring to become president.
- Railway - The reason Filipinos prefer to use this British term probably stems from the fact that the first railroad in the Philippines was built by the British.
- Remembrance - A souvenir or memento.
- Revival - Cover version
- Rotonda/rotunda - rotary intersection, roundabout, or traffic circle. Adopted from Spanish, although the Spanish terms for "circle" or "rotary" are cruce giratorio; glorieta; or redondel.
- Rhum - This French word listed in Webster's Third New International Dictionary is the preferred spelling of rum. This variation in spelling is a little similar to "whiskey" (U.S. and Ireland) and "whisky" (Scotland and Canada).
- Rubber shoes - Sneakers or athletic shoes.
- Rugby - Rubber cement. From the Rugby brand of contact cement, popular in the Philippines.
- Sala - A courtroom. Another word for living room. From Spanish.
- Salvage - A slang word for summary execution. The meaning evolved from frequent usage in sentences such as 'The corpse was salvaged from the Pasig river,' when the real meaning is 'The corpse of a salvaged person was found floating on the Pasig River.' The word may also be related to the Spanish-derived Tagalog slang "sinalbahe" (literally "turned bad"). Possibly from the Marcos era.
- Sari-Sari Store - Refers to a convenience store or booth. Sari-sari is Tagalog for "mixed variety," but the term is generally used in Philippine English. Sometimes called a "variety store" in the Canadian sense.
- Scalawag - A rogue police or military man.
- See-through fence - A chain link fence. Cyclone Wire fence - term used even in government specifications.
- Senatoriable - A person aspiring to become senator.
- Sermon - refers to a disciplinary lecture/long admonishment given by parents. More often, this word is also used in Tagalog as a loanword with the same meaning. The word also means a moral or religious subject discussed by a member of the Catholic clergy during Mass, which is often seen as boring, hence the pejorative parallel with parental admonishment.
- Shako - Sometimes this term is used when referring to a bearskin.
- Shooting - filming
- Short-time - Used to describe a short-time stay (2 to 3 hours) at a love hotel for sex.
- Shrine - Memorials , as in Mount Samat Shrine on the Bataan Peninsula.
- Slang - May refer to strong foreign accents and pronunciation "Your English is very slang". Often implying that someone is hard to understand.
- Slippers - Flip flops.
- Softdrink - Filipinos prefer to spell "soft drink" as one word.
- Step-in - Stylish ladies' sandals minus the strap.
- Stow away - To run away from home.
- Stude - A student.
- Subdivision - a neighborhood
- Tablea - Chocolate in the form of a roll, usually used for making Spanish-style thick hot chocolate. This comes from the Filipino word tabliya, which in turn comes from the Spanish word tablilla.
- Text - In mobile phone, it is a text message or a single-syllable word for SMS.
- The other day - Used specifically to refer to the "day before yesterday" (from the Tagalog expression "noong isang araw").
- Third lieutenant - The lowest commissioned officer grade of the American colonial army from 1935 through 1942. The American colonial constabulary also had this grade. Similar to the American colonial army, the Spanish army in 1898 had a rank structure with four company grade officer ranks: captain; first lieutenant; second lieutenant; and ensign (alférez). In contrast, the Philippine army in July 1898, like the present Philippine army, had three company grade officer ranks: captain, first lieutenant, and second lieutenant.
- Thrice - Three times. While it is also used in other forms of English, it is much more prevalent in Philippine English.
- Toga - Refers to the commencement/graduation gown.
- Tomboy - A boyish girl. A "tomboy" is almost always presumed to be a lesbian, although it may also refer to straight girls who act like boys (see Gay, above). The word is rarely used, if ever, for feminine-looking lesbians.
- Tora tora - A T-28 Trojan formerly used by the Philippine Air Force and utilized during the counterinsurgency wars in the Philippines in the late 70s and 80s. The name "tora tora" is derived from the movie title Tora! Tora! Tora! This movie features aircraft which resemble the T-28 Trojan.
- Traffic - Implies a traffic jam, or heavy traffic. Usually used as an adjective, referring to heavy traffic volume.
- Trying hard - refers to an unsuccessful social climber.
- Tweetums - An adjective to describe a young lady, usually a "colegiala" (see above), who is very nice and very sweet. From t + sweet + ums. Akin to the British term "twee."
- University belt - A part of the Quiapo district in the Philippine capital Manila, which has a large number of colleges. Also called U-Belt.
- Village - A gated community. (See Subdivision, above)
- Washday - a day where an employee can wear casual clothes.
- Xerox - as noun, it means a photocopier; as verb, to make a photocopy of. From the Xerox brand of photocopiers.
- Yaya - This word means grandmother in Spain (Albacete, Aragon), but in the Philippines it means nanny. It is also possible that is an adopted Hindi word (aya) for nanny.
Certain phraselets that are not common 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 ...".
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 Tagalog and other indigenous Philippine languages. Since many English phonemes
are not found in most Philippine languages, pronunciation approximations are extremely common.
Some examples of non-native pronunciation include:
- Awry = ['awe-ree]
- Filipino = [pili'pino] or [pʰili'pʰino]
- Victor = [bik'tor]
- Family = ['pɐmili] or ['pʰamili]
- Varnish = ['barnis]
- Fun = [pɐn] or [pʰan]
- Vehicle = ['bɛhikel] or ['bɛhikol]
- Lover = ['lɐber]
- Find = ['pɐjnd] or ['pʰɐjnd]
- Official = [o'pisʲɐl] or [o'pʰisʲɐl]
- Very = ['bɛri] or ['bejri]
- Guidon = [gi'don]
- Hamburger = ['hɐmburdzʲɛr]
- High-tech = ['hajtɛts]
- Hubcap = ['habkab]
- Margarine = [mɐrgɐ'rin]
- Seattle = ['sʲatel]
- Shako = [sʲa'ko]
The above list applies mainly to Tagalog speakers; a number of other indigenous languages employ phonemes such as [f], [v], and [z]. It should also be noted that 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 Manila suburb, 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 lead to growth in the number of English language centers, especially in Metro Manila, Baguio City and Metro Cebu.