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Different pronunciations for T -examples- (Rachel's English)

The letter T in English can have different pronunciations, and that is certainly one of the big issues in English phonetics. Read the explanations below to know the theory and then watch the video and get some practice. It is not important if you memorize all the rules, the important thing is that you become aware of the different pronunciations of the letter T.

Good for American and for British English (although in BrE you can also pronounce /t/ in every position).

This video practises what you learnt on the previous video Different Pronunciations for the T.

This is a follow up video to Different Pronunciations for the T.  If you haven't watched that video, you should, because everything that was learned there is going to be reviewed via testing in this video.  First what we're going to do is look at a list of words and decide how the T is pronounced in the word.

First, this word.  How do you pronounce that T?  It is at the beginning of the word, therefore it is pronounced with the real T sound, T, time.  This word.  How to pronounce this T?  This T comes between two vowel sounds.  Therefore it is pronounced as the flap/tap T, or, in other words, the D sound.  Water, water.  How do you pronounce the T in this word?  It comes at the end of a syllable in the consonant cluster FT.  Therefore, as it is part of this cluster, it is pronounced as a real T sound.  Softer, tt, tt, softer.

How do you pronounce the T in this word?  In this word it is followed by a schwa [] and the N sound.  Therefore it is pronounced as a stop.  Fountain, fountain.  How do you pronounce the T in this word?  It ends the word.  It is not part of a consonant cluster.  Therefore, it is a stop.  Carpet, carpet.  How do you pronounce this word?  It is part of a consonant cluster, therefore, it is pronounced as a real T.  St, st, string, string.  How do you pronounce the T's here?  They come between two vowel sounds.  Therefore, it is the flap/tap T or the D sound.  How do you pronounce the T here?  It is beginning a stressed syllable.  Therefore, it is pronounced as the real T.  Tt, tt, until, until.

Let's compare these two words.  In one of the words, the double T is pronounced as the tt, real T sound.  In the other word it is the flap or tap T, in other words, the D sound.  Which is which?  The first word: the stress falls on the second syllable, which is begun with the T sound.  Therefore, it is a true T.  A real, tt, T sound.  Attack, attack.  In the second word, it begins an unstressed syllable, and it falls between two vowel sounds. Attitude. Attitude.  Therefore it is the flap/tap T or, dd, the D sound.

Let's look at some sentences now.  How do you pronounce the first T?  The T at the end of the word 'what'.  Well, the T is at the end of the word, it is not part of a consonant cluster, and it does not link to a next word that begins with a vowel or diphthong.  Therefore, it must be a stop.  The second word, how do you pronounce that T?  It begins the word.  Therefore, it is the, tt, actual T sound.  What time, what time.  And the next T, also it's beginning a word.  Therefore, it is the actual T sound.  What time tomorrow?  And the answer, how do you pronounce that T?  Again it is ending a word, and the word that comes after does not begin with a vowel or diphthong sound.  Therefore, it's a stop.  At, at, at, at seven.  At seven.  What time tomorrow?  At seven.

This sentence.  How do you pronounce that T?  It's at the end of a word, but it does link to the next word, which begins with a vowel sound.  Therefore, the sound comes between two vowel sounds.  It is then going to be pronounced as the flap/tap T, or, in other words, the D sound.  I'm outta, I'm outta.  Now, in this particular phrase, the word 'of' is generally reduced to simply being the schwa sound.  No consonant.  I'm out of here.  I'm out of here.  How do you pronounce the T in this sentence?  Not the TH.  It begins a word, so it would be the tt, real T sound.  But as I said in the different T pronunciations video, it is a reduced word, and it might be reduced to the point of actually having a voiced sound there.  Dd, dd, rather than tt, tt.  I'm going to the bank, I'm going to the bank, I'm going - to - the bank.

How do you pronounce the Ts in this sentence?  In the first word, it begins the word, so it is the tt, actual T sound.  Tell.  The next T is part of the TR consonant cluster, and also, it's beginning a word.  Again, it's the tt, real T sound.  Tell me the truth.

How do you pronounce the Ts in this sentence?  In the first word.  It is part of a consonant cluster at the beginning of a syllable.  It is pronounced as a real T.  Tt, chemistry.  Chemistry.  How do you pronounce the next T?  It's at the end of a word, not part of a consonant cluster, but it does connect to the next word, which begins with a vowel sound.  Therefore it would be dd, dd, the flap T sound, or, the D sound.  At eight, at eight. I just gave away the next word.  How do you pronounce that T?  Well, the next word, Anatomy, does begin with a vowel.  But there's a comma there, which means we're not going to connect it.  Therefore it is a T at the end of a word, not part of a consonant cluster, it's a stop.  At eight, at eight.  Chemistry's at eight.  how do you pronounce the T in the next word?  Again it is a T between two vowel sounds.  Anatomy, anatomy.  Therefore it is the flap T sound, or, D.  Anatomy.  And again, the T in the next word is pronounced as a stop. It comes at the end of the word.  At, at.  And finally, it begins the word.  Therefore it is pronounced as the real T.  Tt, ten.

How do you pronounce the T's in this sentence.  The first T.  It's followed by the schwa and N sounds.  Therefore, it is a stop.  An acquaintance, an acquaintance.  And the next T?  It begins a word.  Therefore it is, tt, the actual T sound.  An acquaintance told me.  How do you pronounce the Ts in this sentence?  The first T finishes the word, but it is part of a consonant cluster, therefore it is pronounced as the actual T.  I slept, tt, tt, I slept.  The next T?  Again, it is part of a consonant cluster at the end of a word.  It is pronounced, tt, as an actual T.  I slept well last...  And finally, the T here is the end of the word.  Not part of a consonant cluster.  It is a stop.  I slept well last night.

How do you pronounce the T in this sentence?  It's an ending T, it's part of a consonant cluster, but remember NT was the exception consonant cluster.  So the T here is a stop.  I was sent, I was sent, I was sent home.  I was sent home.

I hope this has helped to clarify this pretty complicated situation:  how to pronounce a T, depending on where it falls in a word or sentence.  That's it, and thanks so much for using Rachel's English.

The letter T can have different pronunciations depending on its place inside a word or a sentence. The variations we will explain here are the rule for American English, but also the colloquial alternative for British English. The British can use the /t/ sound in all positions if they want to have a careful formal pronunciation, but for Americans there's no option, they have to make all these variations whether they use a formal or an informal pronunciation. So, for example, the word "matter" is always pronounced "madder" /mædər/ in American English, whereas in British English it sounds /mætə/ in formal pronunciation and sometimes /mædə/ in informal pronunciation. Let's now give the general rules for the different pronunciations.

-- T's with a non-t sound --

TH- /θ/ or /ð/  (no rules to know the difference)
Examples: thing ɪŋ/, then /ðen/

-TION- /ʃn/ (sh-n) words ending in –tion
Examples: station /steɪʃn/, creation /kri:eɪʃn/

Silent T- The letter T is not pronounced in some words (you need a dictionary to learn which words): castle, whistle, chestnut, Christmas, fasten, listen, often (also with T), soften, mortgage, mustn't, thistle, mistletoe...
and in the cluster TCH: catch, watch, kitchen, etc.
and final T in many modern words with a French origin: beret, ballet, buffet, chalet, gourmet, valet, depot, debut... (the final French -et is pronounced /eɪ/ )

-- Three variations of the T sound --


The basic pronunciation of the letter T is placing the tip of your tongue behind the upper teeth, stopping the air flow and then suddenly releasing it with an explosion. That basic pronunciation is the one you can use everywhere in a formal careful British pronunciation. But in American English or in informal British English, this pronunciation only happens in certain positions. These are the 3 variations you can hear:

1- Official T /t/ == at the beginning of a word, at the beginning of a stressed syllable, etc.
2- Flap T /d/ == between vowels (v+T+v) or R and a vowel (vr+T+v), etc. (this is a strong and quick version of D, similar to the pronunciation of the letter R in the Spanish words "sombrero", "toro" or the Italian words "vero", "Maria")
3- Stop T /t|/ == used at the end of a word, etc. (we suddenly close our throat to stop the air flow, but make no sound; IPA symbol /ʔ/, called glottal stop)

4- N+T=N == This rule is not part of the American or English accent, but you can hear it very often in American English, especially in some parts of the country, when people have a careless and/or quick pronunciation. This basically means that the T may disappear in American English (not BrE) after an N, so the word "wanted" may sound "wanned" /wɑnɪd/ and "interesting" may sound "inneresting".

WHEN TO USE THEM

There are rules and exceptions to rules, but what we just said about every variation should be enough for most people. Now, if you really want to know more and more deeply about when exactly these rules apply, we'll give you the details, and then you can practise these rules with the video and check if you understood everything correctly.

1- OFFICIAL T  /t/

A- At the beginning of a word = Tom, time, tall, tin...
B- At the beginning of a stressed syllable in the word = pretend, fourteen, itinerary, particular, attend (the stressed syllable is TEND, so the T is at the beginning of the stressed syllable)...
C- If it is part of a consonant cluster (two or more consonants together in the same syllable) = stop, train, street, star, connect, left, tilt, first, kept...
If the cluster comes at the end of a word, they will keep the official T pronunciation.
Exception: if the word ends in NT we often find the stop T in AmE: elephant, rampant, saint... (but an official T is also common)
Note: grammatical words with a weak/reduced pronunciation (often pronounced with a schwa /ə/) may behave like just a new syllable instead of a new word, so in the sentence: "I go to work" the preposition "to" can often be pronounced with a flap T (only in American English) because it sounds "goto", so the T goes between vowels, not at the beginning of a stressed syllable (grammatical words have no stress), so it may sound "go-da" /gdə/ . For the same reason, the phrase "I want to go" may sound "I wanna go" because the rule N+T=N applies here ("wantto" = "wanto" = "wanna"). A similar phenomenon gave us "gonna" (going to > goin' to > gon' to > gonto > gonna). The words "gonna" and "wanna" are also used in British English, being the only case in BrE where the rule N+T=N applies.

2- FLAP T  /d/

A- Between vowels (v+T+v) = Peter, better, waiting, mutter
B- Between an R and a vowel (vR+T+v) = sorting, quarter
C- This also happens when the following vowel is in the next word: "what about it?" = "wadaboudit?"; "part of me" = "pardov me".
Exception: vowel + T + schwa + N = Stop T /t|/, for example: written = /rɪt|ən/ (that is because the schwa disappears in that position so the real pronunciation is in fact /rɪt|n/, and the T doesn't go between vowels anymore)
Notice: Rule 1 is more powerful than rule 2, so if we have a T between vowels but it begins a stressed syllable, the pronunciation is the official /t/, for example, "atone" /ətn/ (a-TONE) or "between" /bətwi:n/ (be-TWEEN) but "beating" sounds "beedding" /bi:ŋ/ (BEA-ting) because the T begins an unstressed syllable.

3- STOP T  /t|/   (/ʔ/)

In the exceptions we have seen, we already commented two cases:
Exception to rule 1: the ending cluster NT (sent, paint, environment)
Exception to rule 2: v+T+schwa+N = v+T+N = /t|n/ (tighten, written)
But most of all, we find this pronunciation at the end of words or syllables (about, fitness)
There are two exceptions (because rules 1 and 2 are stronger than rule 3)
Rule 1: consonants clusters have the official T except NT, which may also have stop T in AmE.
Rule 2: if a final T is followed by a vowel (example: "but I don't") then it's pronounced with the flap T (/d/: "bud-eye don't").
BrE Notice:  In colloquial British English rule 3 may be stronger than rule 2, so a T followed by a vowel can also be pronounced with the stop T, for example: water, "but I", "what are...?"). Inside a word (water), it is considered a vulgar pronunciation, but between words ("but I") it is perfectly acceptable even in formal pronunciation..
-----------------------------
Assimilation (BrE & AmE)

/t/ + /j/  = //  (T+Y=CH)

An assimilation is when two sounds merge to produce one new single sound. The T can assimilate with a /j/ to produce the sound CH, either inside a word or between two words:
- question /kwesən/ (from  kwestjən/)
- but you /bʌu:/ (also  /bʌt ju:/ )
The /j/ sound may be spelled as a Y or as an I (as in the examples above), but also as a U (pronounced /ju:/):
- future /fju:ə*/ (from an old /fju:tju:ə*/)
- Stupid /stju:pɪd/or /stʃu:pɪd/ (sounds like "schoopid")

But in the case of the U, remember that in most parts of the United States the /ju:/ sound is pronounced /u:/, so if there is no /j/, there is no assimilation: AmE stupid  /stu:pɪd/ 
- Youtube--> (double stress) BrE /ju:/ /ju:tju:b/ = /ju:u:b/, most AmE /u:/ /ju:tu:b/

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