Should we pronounce the second d in "didn't"? What happens to the sound, phonetically speaking?

In British English it seems to merge with the n to produce something which isn't on the standard phonetic chart- as far as I can tell.

  • Are you talking about glottal replacement? – TypeIA Nov 25 '19 at 8:09
  • 3
    English is spoken in Britain with many different accents, some of which show the replacement, some don't. – Michael Harvey Nov 25 '19 at 8:39

"Didn't" has two syllables according to Webster's Dictionary.

For the first syllable, pronounce "did" as you normally would. For the second syllable, pronounce "not" but without a vowel sound. This is a nasal sound followed by a stop with the tip of your tongue on your front teeth.

Run these sounds together as quickly as you can and you have "Didn't".

To answer your question, you should pronounce the both d's in "Didn't".

  • This is the way I pronounce it. I notice that many of my fellow-Canadians slide over the second "d" and don't pronounce it so it sounds more like "di'n't" or "din't." However, the "i" is drawn out longer than in the word "dint." I would encourage an English Language Learner to pronounce the second "d." That way, you don't get mistaken for the wrong word. You can also say "did not," the long form of "didn't." – Sarah Bowman Jul 2 '20 at 3:15

When two consonants make a distinct sound it is called a consonant digraph, but I don't think that's what you have here. There is a transition between the d and n in 'didn't', and that transition sound varies depending on dialect. The two letters are not forming a diagraph.

"Didn't" is, of course, a contraction of "did not". The "n't" part of this, or any other word (*can't, don't, won't etc) does have a slightly different pronunciation in British English to American English - although within both there are many more regional variations of dialect that might disprove any such rule.

If you listen to the audio examples provided by Cambridge, you will notice that the British pronunciation appears to have a vowel sound in there, making the transition between the d and n in "didn't" a little like those in the word hidden. As stated, this is just a different transition between the two letters and not actually the two letters forming a diagraph.

  • Cambridge have audio examples there for "didn't" as well but I feel the mini-vowels they're inserting would be more characteristic of careful enunciation, "hidden" has the same sound and the US pronunciation here seems closest to what I'm thinking of - if there's a vowel between the d and n it's REALLY compressed. – Adrian Smith Nov 25 '19 at 9:25

It is a nasally released stop, marked in IPA with a small subscript 'n' (unicode U+207F).

I doubt that any dialect has a glottal stop in that context.

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