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.

Silent Letters

There are lots of silent letters in English. Some of the silent letters follow patterns. Here are a few of the more common patterns:

If a word starts with k and the next letter is n, the k is silent. For example knee, knit, and knot.

If a word starts with g and the next letter is n, the g is silent. For example gnat, gnaw, and gnome.

If a word starts with p and the next letter is s, the p is silent. For example psalm, psychology, and pseudonym.

If a word ends in mb, the b is silent. For example bomb, comb, and thumb.

 

 

How To Say The Vowel In “Leave”

This vowel sound is the name of the letter E, and usually the letter E is part of the vowel.

The vowel in “leave” is made with the mouth almost closed and the tip of the tongue almost touching or slightly touching the back of the bottom front teeth, and the middle of the tongue lightly touching the roof of the mouth.

This sound is represented several ways in written English:

ee, for example feed, bleed, and green

ea, for example peach, leap, and meat

ie, for example thief, brief, and berries

y, at the end of a word, for example many, berry, tiny, salty, family, and rainy.

Note, the letter I by itself rarely makes the vowel in ‘leave.’ Click here to read more about the letter I

Pronunciation Exercises, Free Ebook

Here’s my book of pronunciation exercises. Most of the exercises use minimal pairs to help you hear and say the sounds of American English. I use this book when teaching English lessons:

Jonathan’s Pronunciation Exercises

Click here if you’re interested in taking English lessons to improve your pronunciation or fluency.

How to Pronounce the Letter I

Usually the letter I makes the vowel sounds in pin or pine. Only rarely does the letter I make another sound; the vowel sound in the words eat and feet; the name of the letter E. That is also an important sound, click here to read about it.

Your tongue should be low in your mouth when saying the vowel sounds in pin or pine. If your tongue is touching your upper teeth or the roof of your mouth, lower the back of your tongue, so that it’s not touching anything. Listen to how the sound changes when you move your tongue. Now you’ll be making a sound that is probably close to the vowel in the word pin. To make this vowel sound, your mouth should be almost closed, and relaxed. The tip of the tongue should be touching or almost touching the back of the lower front teeth.

Here are some more words with the same vowel sound:

it

is

fit

did

still

ship

Here are some words with the other vowel sound that the letter I makes:

white

bite

fine

wine

lime

dive

right

might

fight

light

Notice none of the words in the first list have a vowel, for example an E, at the end of the word. However, many in the second list do end in E. The ones that don’t end in E contain a silent GH. (There are exceptions to these patterns.)