The English concertina is a chromatic musical instrument. It contains reeds that produce the full chromatic scale for a certain number of octaves, depending on the instrument. The number of buttons varies but is usually more than those on the Anglo concertina. This makes fingering for tunes in the jig, reel or hornpipe styles more cumbersome.

Unlike the Anglo concertina, the English concertina produces the same note, whether the instrument is pushed or drawn, on the same button. Every button has two corresponding reeds, positioned in opposite directions, which produce the same note. This construction makes the style of playing different from the Anglo concertina.

A musician can play a tune while continuously drawing the instrument until its bellows are full, and then pushing the instrument until it runs out of air. The musician does not have to worry about the direction of airflow when pushing a button to produce a certain note, as in the Anglo concertina. This was the original design and was used mainly in classical music in the nineteenth century. Today, the English concertina is less popular than the Anglo concertina.