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

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

Vowels

Americans and Canadians like vowels. For good pronunciation and accent reduction, often vowels need to be held for a long time. Listen to some Americans talking, and pay attention to the length of the vowels. For example, listen to this scene from “Scary Movie”:

American English has 14 vowel sounds. The following words all have different vowel sounds and clearly sound different:

fall fell fill feel full fool file foul fail foil foal

hat hot hit heat hut hoot height hate

lack lock lick leak luck look Luke like lake

mat met mitt meet mutt moot might mate moat

Here’s a chart showing more lists of words like these: Vowel Chart

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.)