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I am Brazilian and I'm trying to improve my English-speaking skills. I having a tough time linking verbs in the past tense to words starting with consonants other than T and D. I learned that many native English speakers drop the D and T sounds when they come between two consonants sounds.

Here are some examples:

  • I talked with my manager yesterday about a raise.
  • The government has expressed support for the project.
  • His speech has heightened confusion and discrimination.
  • The premiss is based on a prediction proved false.

I don't know if there is a pattern, but I noticed some native speakers pronouncing these two letters when they are not speaking fast.

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    All of the highlighted consonants are actually pronounced in most dialects of English. You may be hearing the lack of a /shadow vowel/, which can often happen in slow speech or at the end of sentence. Also, in AAVE these terminal consonants can be different (glottalized or pronounced as glottal stop) but they are still pronounced there! (I wish there were an easy way to share audio clips here!) – BadZen Sep 8 '20 at 23:45
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    You're right, he doesn't pronounce the "t" sound, but that's probably because he is not a native speaker of English. – Nanigashi Sep 9 '20 at 0:06
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    Yes and no! When speaking normally, I don't pronounce the word "went" in "went for" the same way I pronounce the word "wen" (that's a type of cyst), so my pronunciation does reflect the fact that the t is there. However, I do not pronounce "went" the same way when saying "I went for it" as when saying "I went." (In the latter case, the tip of my tongue lightly touches the roof of my mouth just behind my front teeth, blocking and then releasing my breath audibly; when I say "went for," that doesn't happen, unless I am deliberately speaking very clearly.) – Nanigashi Sep 9 '20 at 0:28
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    Both of the speech clips are in fact "talk" /without/ an -ed. So, you're hearing them correctly! The first case is just incorrect use (tenses are different in Polish and Russian and you will often hear mixups like this in speakers more familiar with these languages). The second, however, is actually correct present tense: "In November, our topic is.... we talk". – BadZen Sep 9 '20 at 0:30
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    First, avoid using the words 'always' and 'never' in a question about English. Second, Try to enunciate every consonant if you can. Third, if you can't enunciate every consonant, you can usually drop some consonants like T and D when they come in between two consonants. That's simple elision and most native speakers do it all the time in fast/casual speech. I wouldn't drop the /t/ in your first sentence. – Void Sep 9 '20 at 3:03
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In some cases, /t/ and /d/ (alveolar stops) decay to [ɾ] (alveolar tap), which may be difficult for you to hear since it’s a less distinct sound and not the one you’re expecting.

As a native speaker, I can still hear the difference between “I talk with” and “I talked with”, or between “burn the toast”, “burned the toast” and “burnt the toast”, etc., but the faster I go, the more subtle it gets. If I slow down to hear it clearly, though, the original /t/ or /d/ comes back.

The best way I can explain it is with the words “tutor” and “Tudor”. These clearly have different sounds if you alternate between them slowly, but as you speed up, they will begin to merge into the same sound as the tongue is forced to move faster.

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  • @Wistful Thanks for the edit, I’m fairly new to IPA and don’t really understand // vs [] yet. – StephenS Sep 9 '20 at 12:54
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In casual speech glottalisation of /t/ (its replacement with [ʔ]) - in at least some positions - is far more widespread that AAVE or Cockney (the varieties that have been cited).

For instance, I believe Wikipedia is correct to state that:

In RP, and in many accents such as Cockney as well as all American English, it is common for /t/ to be completely replaced by a glottal stop before another consonant,as in not now [nɒʔnaʊ] and department [dɪpɑː(ɹ)ʔmənʔ].
(Emphasis mine)
[Glottal replacement]

Secondly, StephenS noted that /t/ and /d/ can change (especially in American English) to an alveolar tap [ɾ]. StephenS observed that /t/ and /d/ are alveolar stops - in English. The fact that English speakers pronounce /t/ and /d/ against the alveolar ridge, whereas speakers of French and (in many cases) Portuguese are likely to pronounce /t/ and /d/ as dental stops ([t̪] and [d̪] respectively) with the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth instead, may be an underlying factor here.

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  • (Slanty brackets are for 'phonemes' and square brackets are for 'allophones'. Glottal stop and alveolar tap are not phonemes but allophones of /t/ in English, so I replaced / / with [ ]. Always feel free to roll-back the edit.) – Void Sep 9 '20 at 8:00
  • @Wistful Ah, I knew that, but I wasn't thinking. I appreciate the corrections. Thanks. – rjpond Sep 9 '20 at 17:33
  • @Wistful there isn't dental stops for the T and D in brazilian portuguese. When they don't become other sounds, they are pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth behind the upper front teeth, with no air releasement. It is much smoother than the american pronunciation. – Ricky R. M. Sep 9 '20 at 21:24
  • Well, I didn't say it was the case for every accent, but thanks for the information Ricky, and don't blame Wistful for my comments. It sounds like there are nevertheless interesting differences between the sounds in the two languages (or in the two varieties - Brazilian Portuguese and AmE) - I think you're saying that the Br.Portuguese sounds are unaspirated or much less aspirated than the AmE ones. – rjpond Sep 9 '20 at 21:53
  • @rjpond If feel no aspiration pronouncing those two letters in my native language. If there is, it's very subtle. It wasn't easy to make the change (unaspirated to aspirated). The pronunciation of the D is much easier, though. – Ricky R. M. Sep 9 '20 at 22:42
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No - you shouldn't drop these sounds. If you dropped the -ed sounds from the end of "expressed" it would sound like "express", which is the wrong tense and the sentence would sound grammatically incorrect.

Let's look at your first example:

The government has expressed support

You're asking if you can drop the hard sound because it 'comes between two consonants'. By that you must mean the ss in "expressed" and the s in "support".

Native speakers have no problem pronouncing this. Otherwise we would be unable to say words like breasts, chests and nests. Listening to the way these words are pronounced might help with the transition between the two words in "expressed support".

The same goes for your other examples such as "heightened confusion". Words don't have to flow into one another, and there are even noticeable breaks in compound words such as "nutcracker" or "frontcourt".

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There is a basic rule here for English learners: ed has three different pronunciations in English based on whether the final consonant is voiced (using the vocal chords) or unvoiced (not using them) or a separate syllable. For example:

Here are the rules:

  1. The /t/ sound If the last consonant of the word is voiceless, then the ED is pronounced as a T. Be careful not to create an extra syllable or "id" sound.

talked (sounds like "talkt") kissed (the S sound comes from the front of mouth so it would sound like "kisst") parked helped

Voiceless means you do not use your vocal chords in your throat to make the sound, voiced means you do. Voiceless means you push the air out through your teeth for the t sound.

  1. The /d/ sound If the last letter of the words ends in a voiced consonant (or sound), then the ED is pronounced like a D (without creating another syllable)

played (sounds like "playd") closed (the S sounds like a vibrating Z so the word would sound like "clozd") opened lived

  1. The /id/ sound If the last letter of the word is spelled with D or T, the ED is pronounced as a separate syllable with an /id/ sound (it rhymes with kid and lid).

wanted (sounds like "want-id") waited needed folded

This is all taken from HERE: Woodward English which is an excellent site

And here is a chart from that site:

enter image description here

Please note: in Portuguese, for example, there are no words ending like this (final t as tapped) or with a final d. Most words end in separate syllable which is why it takes practice to understand this and learn it. Obviously, you have to know the pronunciation of the word in order to know how to pronounce the ED at the end. So, if you learn "talk",that k is voiceless, therefore, talked has a t sound. Likewise, if you learn "learn", you should be able to produce the final d in learned.

Be careful not to say walk-ed with ed as a separate syllable and practice saying: walkt. Many Portuguese speakers do not make that distinction in English, at least when they are beginners.

If you do not pronounce the final t or d or separate syllable, you will not be using the simple past. The only way to know that a verb is in the simple past when speaking is to pronounce the final phonemes correctly.

English speakers all make these distinctions and most of them have no idea why. Most don't until they learn how to teach formally teach the language or do some kind of phonology training in linguistics or speech therapy...

The good news here is that this applies to most varieties of English. Tnere is no difference, for example, between BrE, AmE, CanE, AusE,SaE with regard to these pronunciation rules.

[Even in cases like "I talked to my father" in AmE you get: "I talkta my father."" The final t is very clear though in speech squished together with the pronoun to which becomes an ah sound.]

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    I'm sorry for nitpicking every time but ... what to do... // "The only way to know that a verb is in the simple past when speaking is to pronounce the final phonemes correctly." ///// This is not true at all. Pronouncing the -ed is not the 'only' way to know that the verb is in past. Context will tell you which form of verb is used. For example, try pronouncing the -ed in "I bathed three times....". – Void Sep 9 '20 at 15:31
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    First, just because you've taught English, doesn't mean you know how speech sounds are articulated. Where does the air come from? Do teeth produce air??? Second, I would've upvoted your answer if it were not misleading. I upvote any answer I find useful (mostly in the pronunciation tag). – Void Sep 9 '20 at 16:12
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    I'm not arguing. You say you've taught English for years but that doesn't mean you're a phonetician. If you don't know phonetics, don't touch it because it makes your answers misleading. We're all here to learn (except perhaps you). The only thing I'm trying to do is to make your answer flawless because you've spend your precious time on writing out such an in-depth and enlightening answer. Also, it's our right to improve the site. Anyway, I'm sorry for annoying you. Have a nice one! – Void Sep 9 '20 at 16:26
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    @Ricky R.M.The verb is learn,. it has two forms in the simple past (also past participles): learnt OR learned. That verb in the form learnt (simple past or past participle) is irregular but the t is pronounced like talkt (talked). If you don't use ed as in learned or t as in learnt, you are not using the simple past. I did not go through every irregular form of all irregular verbs. There are first things first. The dropping of T and D between consonants is not about simple past tense. – Lambie Sep 9 '20 at 22:41
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    @RickyR.M. See? Another English speaker (the third or fourth now) is telling you the same thing. You are confusing this issue with another one. – Lambie Sep 9 '20 at 22:48

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