The letter T in American English is quite a mystery for many English learners!
Did you know there are 8 different ways to pronounce it? So, in today’s lesson we’ll take a look at these different ways to say the letter T with plenty of examples!
When the T is just a T
In most words, the T is just a T. For example: tea, team, time, today, temperature.
When the T sounds like a D
This is where most English learners get confused because the T doesn’t always sound like a T! Why do Americans make the D sound when the letter T is there in many words?
Simply put, when the T comes between two vowels, it will generally become a D sound when spoken by American English speakers. It doesn’t matter if the word is spelled with a single T like “water” or a double T like “bottom.”
The sound you hear is not actually a D, but that’s the closest common way to describe it. It’s actually an alveolar flap, also known as a flapped or tapped T. To Spanish and Portuguese speakers, it may even sound like an R, because that’s the way you pronounce an R sometimes.
Anyway, here are some examples: water, bottom, butter, motto.
This also happens when the er sound comes before the T and a vowel, like the word “party.”
We also see the same thing when a T comes between a vowel and a schwa sound plus an R, in other words an “er” sound. For example: otter, liter, meter.
Additionally, the D sound happens when a T comes between a vowel and an L sound. For example: bottle, metal, total.
The exception to this rule is when the T begins a stressed syllable. In words like deTERmine and iTALics, the letter T begins the stressed syllable and therefore is not changed. It still sounds like a regular T.
In words like kitten, you’ll often hear a glottal stop, which is where we hold the air in our throats and don’t release it when we make this T sound. This kind of depends on the English speaker, and it’s more common in Scottish or British English.
The T may be unreleased at the end of words like “hint,” “bit” and “doubt.” This also depends on the speaker and the word’s position in the sentence. It generally would occur when these words are at the end of a sentence, like the examples in the video. Be sure to watch the video to hear all these examples!
When a T comes after an N, it is often silent when we speak quickly and casually. So, keep in mind that when we pronounce words properly and accurately, you’ll usually hear a regular T sound. When people speak more naturally, with ease, they get a bit more “lazy” shall we say with pronunciation and the T may be omitted.
For example: international, dentist, mountain
When the T is like a CH
In words that begin with TR, you may hear a slight CH sound. For example: train, travel.
In the words Venture and Ventura (like Ventura Blvd. in California), you’ll hear a stronger CH sound.
When the T is like a SH
In words that end in -TION, the T becomes a SH sound. For example: nation, function, position.
That’s it! I hope that you enjoyed this lesson and the T is less mysterious for you now. If you can think of more examples or want to ask about a certain word, leave a comment!
Now watch the video! You can download the video and the transcript if you click below.