Flap T

Often in ordinary American speech the T sounds like a D. This happens when the T is after a vowel or an R, and before an unstressed vowel. It also happens in some other cases. It’s optional to use the flap T, but sounds much more natural than a regular T.

These pairs of words sound the same in ordinary American speech:

catty caddy

latter ladder

waiter wader

waited waded

fated faded

Examples of words where the T is usually pronounced like a D:

Metal

Whatever

Butter

Party

Seventy

Eighty

City

Sometimes the next word changes a stop T to a flap T, for example:

“What” Here, “what” ends in a stop T

“What about” Here, “what” ends in a flap T, and “about” ends in a stop T

“What about it” Here, “what” ends in a flap T, “about” ends in a flap T and “it” ends in a stop T

See if you can find the flap Ts in this text (The answers are at the bottom):

Ball Lightning, from Wikipedia:

British occultist Aleister Crowley reported witnessing what he referred to as “globular electricity” during a thunderstorm on Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire in 1916. He was sheltered in a small cottage when he “noticed, with what I can only describe as calm amazement, that a dazzling globe of electric fire, apparently between six and twelve inches (15–30 cm) in diameter, was stationary about six inches below and to the right of my right knee. As I looked at it, it exploded with a sharp report quite impossible to confuse with the continuous turmoil of the lightning, thunder and hail, or that of the lashed water and smashed wood which was creating a pandemonium outside the cottage. I felt a very slight shock in the middle of my right hand, which was closer to the globe than any other part of my body.”

R.C. Jennison

Jennison, of the Electronics Laboratory at the University of Kent, described his own observation of ball lightning:

I was seated near the front of the passenger cabin of an all-metal airliner (Eastern Airlines Flight EA 539) on a late night flight from New York to Washington. The aircraft encountered an electrical storm during which it was enveloped in a sudden bright and loud electrical discharge (0005 h EST, March 19, 1963). Some seconds after this a glowing sphere a little more than 20 cm in diameter emerged from the pilot’s cabin and passed down the aisle of the aircraft approximately 50 cm from me, maintaining the same height and course for the whole distance over which it could be observed.

Here are the words that have a flap T, in the order they appear in the text:

British, reported, electricity, cottage, noticed, what, that, 15, 30, cm, diameter, at, it, quite, that, water, creating, cottage, part

University, seated, metal, 539, Washington, 1963, little, cm, diameter, 50, cm, distance

Words with less syllables than it appears

It’s important to say all the syllables. But there are some words that have less syllables than you’d expect; the spelling of the words is misleading.

Vegetable only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the second E: veg-table
Hear vegetable.

Reference only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: ref-rence
Hear reference

Laboratory only has four syllables, not five. You can skip the first O: lab-ratory
Hear laboratory

Temperature only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the A: temper-ture
Hear temperature

This also applies to the plural forms of each of these words.

Here are some more:

Jewelry only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: jew-lry
Hear jewelry

Comfortable only has three syllables, not four. Pretend comfortable is spelled comfterble.
Hear comfortable

Should Of

The contraction of “should” and “have,” “should’ve,” sounds like “should of.” But remember to spell it “should’ve.” (Native speakers, including me, forget this sometimes and spell it “should of.”) The same thing is true for more contractions with the word “have”: “could’ve,” “would’ve,” and “must’ve” are some examples.

In casual speech these contractions are often further reduced to “shoulda,” “coulda,” and “woulda”; the “V” sound is left off.

Eating food or foot?

In English, Ds are almost always pronounced the same. A D at the end of a word is usually pronounced the same as a D in the middle or at the beginning of a word. For example, the D in “feed” is the same as the D in “feeding” or “feeds.” The D in “head” is pronounced the same as in “heading.” Both Ds in “headed” are pronounced the same. Both Ds in “did” are pronounced the same. The D in “dog” is the same as the D in “food.”

These words all sound different:
oat owed
pat pad
port poured
pot pod
quit quid
route rude
short shored
slight slide
sought sawed
tent tend
tight tied

An exception to this is for some verbs in the past tense, ending in ed, the D sounds like a T. For example diced, tasked, wiped, and watched.

In English, D is a voiced sound:
Voiced and Unvoiced Sounds

Give “The” Some Time

“The” is a very common word, and a good word to practice. Read some text, and focus on “the.” To make “the” sound good, it alway needs to be said slowly. “Th” in any word will sound better if you let it have some time. Also, the vowel in “the” is the most common sound in American English, and in “the” it is a very long sound. So practicing “the” will help you get used to making vowels long.

Usually the vowel in “the” is the same as in “hut”, “luck”, and “but”. If “the” is before a word that starts with a vowel sound, the vowel in “the” is the same as in “heat”, “feel”, and “feet”. Here’s more about that vowel. Both these vowel sounds need to be long; the longer you make them, the more American you will sound.

Here’s some random text to use for practice: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archosaur

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