🇬🇧 T for two

How many ways are there to pronounce the letter t?

If you learn words one at a time, the pronunciation is easy – but can be very different from natural speed English.

Let’s look at this sentence:

It takes more than twenty minutes to get across London by train.

Depending on the speaker’s accent there are at least three ways of pronouncing the letter /t/.

  1. For many people, Londoners and Americans for example, the second /t/ of twenty disappears.
  2. The /t/ in train becomes more like a /ʧ/ as in church.
  3. Before a vowel, the /t/ at the end of a word can sound more like a /d/ (…to get across…)
  4. Also, when a word ends in /t/ and the next one starts with /t/ the two sounds join together to make a new one. (This is called twinning, or gemination.) It’s like there is a short pause as you are saying the sound.

It takes an hour

I’ve got two brothers

Is this the hot tap?

The same principle is true for other consonants:

Lamp post

Red door

Slapstick comedy

Listen carefully for these sounds as you hear native speakers talking English, and try to copy what you hear.

🇬🇧 Their, there and they’re

Their, there and they're

What are the differences between their, there and they're?

They’re really not very difficult; when you learn about their differences, there shouldn’t be too many problems.

Their is the possessive form of the pronoun they, like the more common possessive forms: my, your, his and her

 “They bought their car on eBay.”

Their is generally plural, but increasingly it is accepted in place of the singular his or her in some situations:

“Someone’s left their book on the table.”

There is an adverb which means “in, at or towards that place,” as in “He is there on holiday.” So, there is really the opposite of here. There is also used as a pronoun introducing a sentence or clause, as in “There is still a chance that we will win.”

They’re is a contraction of the words they and are, as in “They’re looking for a way to master these difficult words!”

Little tips for spelling:

  • There (like “over there”) contains the word hereHere and there go together nicely.
  • Their contains the word An heir is someone who inherits something, so (by coincidence) there is a sense of possession in this word as well.

🇬🇧 The contracted ‘have’.

A third pronunciation.

I have two sisters. Do you have a dog?

The pronunciation of “have” is easy, right?

In a recent post we saw that the verb ‘have’ is pronounced as /hæf/ when it’s used as a modal verb.

“I have to finish this essay today!”

But there is a third way to pronounce “have”. Listen to these sentences.

“If I’d passed my exams, I’d’ve become a doctor.”

“If my parents had stayed in France, I’d’ve gone to a French school.”

These sentences both contain contractions: I’d’ve is how we pronounce “I would have” in natural-speed English. So, “have”can be pronounced /əv/. This pronunciation is very common in conditional sentences, but it’s not the only time you’ll hear it. Here are some more examples.

“Your documents should’ve been delivered yesterday.”

“I would’ve helped you.”


Pronunciation: /æ/ and /ʌ/

Pronunciation practice: Angry or Hungry

When Argentina lost three-nil to Croatia last night, former footballer Pablo Zabaleta spoke to the BBC and said:

‘Everyone is so angry!’

Zabaleta speaks excellent English, but the presenter double-checked what he had said:


“Yes, angry.”

It is very common for learners of English to confuse words like this, that contain the sounds/æ/ (as in cap) and /ʌ/ (as in cup).

Angry – hungry

Ankle – uncle

Track – truck

If Mr Zabaleta had said that his team were hungry, that would have been a positive thing, because in sport, if you are hungry, it means you try your best to win. Unfortunately, he was angry because they were not hungry.

Oh yes, and my uncle injured his ankle yesterday. He was driving his truck around a race track

🇬🇧 You can do the can-can, can’t you?

Pronunciation practice

What is this? 

Image of a coke can.

Yes, it’s a can of fizzy drink. Probably quite unhealthy.

It’s a can. /kæn/ 

It must be one of the easiest English words to pronounce. Right?


When we use “can” to mean “able to” the pronunciation changes.

In the following sentence, “can” is an auxiliary verb with weak pronunciation:

My sister can speak three languages.

“Can” is now pronounced /kən/ (the schwa means that the vowel sound disappears almost completely)

and the stressed parts of the sentence are “sis” in sister and “lang-” in “languages”.

This weak form can also be used in questions:

Can I help you with your homework?

Can you play the guitar?


I don’t want to be negative, but…

When we make negative sentences using “can’t” the vowel sound is stronger again:

I can’t do this, it’s too difficult!

You can’t see the sea from here.

Also, there is now equal stress on the “can’t” and the following verb. [Listen to the above sound files again]

Pronunciation of can’t:/kɑːnt/

So, these sentences are easy to form, but not so easy to pronounce perfectly. Look at the examples below and see if you can say them out loud. Then listen…

1. Can you help me in the kitchen, please?

2. I can write better than I can speak.

3. You can do anything if you try!

4. How fast can you run?

Watch a video of this post on our Instagram feed: https://www.instagram.com/p/BizwJpwg5-d/


🇬🇧 The sound of ‘er’

Pronunciation practice

Bird eating a worm








Read these sentences out loud to yourself, and then listen to the sound files:

  1.  Earth Day was celebrated all over the world.
  2. I burned my shirt.
  3. The bird returned to the fern and then ate a worm.

All of the words written in bold have the same vowel sound. I know, it’s crazy!

“er” /ɜː/

It is no secret that the way English words are pronounced has only a small connection with how they are spelt, and this is a good example of many different spellings producing the same sound.

Look at the four words below. They all have different vowels, but yes, they are all pronounced in the same way:

bird / bɜ:d/                 burn /bɜ:n/               world /wɜːld/               earth /ɜːθ/

And by the way, /ɜ:/ is also a verbal filler: the sound that English people tend to make when they are unsure of what to say, or when pausing to find a word:

“Where’s the bank?”

Er… I think it’s… er… just up the street on the left.”

So remember: when you come across a new English word, there are three things to learn: the meaning, the spelling and the pronunciation.