I wonder if Americans usually make an unaspirated sound when the letters "k", "p" or "t" is at the end of a word and when the next word starts with a vowel. I know that I should make a flap sound when there is a vowel or an "r" letter before "t" like in "See you at eleven o'clock" and also I know that in the cluster "nt" Americans usually make an unaspirated sound like in "I can't even", but what about other situations when "k", "p" and "t" are at the end of of a word which is behind a word that starts with a vowel? I mean in the sentences like

  • "I like animals"
  • "He is the best cop of the town",
  • "This is just unbelievable",
  • "He never liked rock and roll",
  • "The aircraft is descending",
  • "He never liked Arizona",
  • "This shop is neat",
  • "And I was like 'I am not enjoying this'"

etc. do Americans usually make an unreleased stop sound? I feel like especially when they don't need to stress the word that ends with the voiceless stop, they usually don't aspirate the stop sound before a word that starts with a vowel. Am I right?

  • 1
    This is obviously going to vary by dialect, but in a sentence like "I like animals," I do aspirate the k, but it ends up being more attached to the following word, as if it were written, "I lie canimals." Likewise with pretty much all of your other examples, with the exception of "And I was like 'I am not enjoying this,'" where my instinct is to sharply aspirate the k and stick in a brief pause before I so as to emphasize that a quote is beginning. (For reference, I grew up in the American northeast, now living in Canada.) Jan 10, 2018 at 19:58
  • Bear in mind, English speakers do not "eat final" sounds, Spanish does. It there is one sound that is actually heard it is these final syllables on words with p, k or t. Otherwise, what is being said cannot be understood. This shop is neat. You would not hear: This sho is neat. Or lie instead of like animals.The only one that might change is just. Some people will drop the t but they will drop it everywhere, not just when it is followed by a vowel sound.
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:24
  • They actually sound sort of like aspirated when they are not aspirated too. For example in the word "apple", the "p" shouldn't be aspirated; but when you aspirate it, it does sound similar to the unaspirated pronunciation of that word. The way I sound when I aspirate those voiceless stops in those example sentences is similar to the way I sound when I don't aspirate them. But when I don't aspirate them, it sounds more correct to me. And in the sentence "And I was like 'I am not enjoying this'", unlike you, for letting people understand that I am giving a quote, I make an unaspirated "k" sound. Jan 10, 2018 at 20:25
  • Let me give you a concrete example: My husband is partially deaf. He was going around saying stree instead of street because he couldn't hear it. He is also a Spanish speaker. I had to teach him to "see" the t because he can't hear it in a work like street. An unvoiced final sound. The best co in town would never be heard. The p is always there; best cop in town. And it's best cop in town by the way.
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:27
  • 1
    "I wonder if Americans usually make an unaspirated sound when the letters "k", "p" or "t" is at the end of a word": aspiration occurs via pronunciation, fyi.
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2018 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


As Canadian Yankee's comment says, the two words will simply blend together:

  • I lie k'animals.

Or will combine into one word:

  • The aircraft's descending.
  • That shop's neat.
  • He never liked rock'n roll.
  • This is just'unbelievable

and so on.

This varies with what you want to say. You may want to emphasize a particular word, in which case it will sound separate from the following word.

I would like a cat, but I don't really want'it.

When making speeches or other kinds of oration, it is advised to speak with good diction, and emphasize each word rather than slurring them together. Obviously some public speakers have their own unique style and say what they want, but many will speak on stage (or on TV) differently from how they would speak in natural conversation.

This also varies by dialect. Some are characterized by exaggerated diction, and those speakers might choose to make the two words completely separate.

Lastly, I wouldn't try to create this sound. When you speak full sentences fluently and quickly the natural cadences of English will force you to blend words together without thinking about it.

  • 1
    When I create that sound by making an unaspirated sound like the "p" sound in "apple" or like the "t" sound in "start", it sounds correct to me. I also heard from many English teachers that the voiceless stops should be unaspirated at the ends of syllables, but I didn't know much about the rule about the situations where the next word starts with a vowel. Jan 10, 2018 at 20:53
  • In this video this channel claims that voiceless stops are usually pronounced as unaspirated at the ends of syllables. At 4:48. youtube.com/watch?v=yFPbLcUCraQ Jan 10, 2018 at 21:40
  • 1
    For me, it does depend on whether there's a vowel sound following the syllable. If I just say "stop," then my mouth stays closed at the end of the word and there is no aspiration. If I say "stop it," then the "p" is aspirated before the "i" as if it were the initial sound in the word "pit". So while it's true that the "p" isn't aspirated at the end of a syllable, the "p" ends up migrating to be pronounced as the initial consonant of the following syllable if it starts with a vowel, and is thus aspirated. Jan 11, 2018 at 16:17
  • When I don't aspirate it, it still sounds kind of like the initial letter of the next word but it sounds less stressed. So that it sounds more correct to me when I pronounce that way. For example in the words "apple", "clipper", "chopper" etc. the voiceless stops are unaspirated but they still sound as if they are the first sounds of the next syllable. Or in the words like "star", "scar", "storm" etc. the voiceless stops are unaspirated but since there is a vowel after them, they sound kind of like released. Jan 11, 2018 at 18:02
  • So I think that the situation's the same when a word ends with a voiceless stop and the next word starts with a vowel. I think you guys actually usually don't release the sound, but because of the next sound, it sounds kind of like it is being released. I hope you can understand what I mean. Jan 11, 2018 at 18:02

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