Wells notes that some people in the northern regions of the UK, particularly around Lancashire, may make a distinction between the vowels of these two words. In these cases, speakers pronounce eight with the traditional diphthong /eɪ/, and ate with the long monophthong /eː/. The same contrast also exists between pairs like weight and wait, but such a distinction is becoming increasingly rare (1982: 357).
Although homophony between these words is slightly more frequent in southern accents than northern ones (95% compared to 85%), it is still predominant throughout most regions in the UK. However, there are certain pockets of speakers in the North who do still make a distinction between eight and ate; these include speakers from Blackburn, Bradford, Leeds and Hull.