In my experience, a lot of Americans, on many occasions, don't make the standard /t/ sound in words like "wanted," "twenty," "accidentally," "presented," "interview" etc. I feel like when they don't make the /t/ sound in words of that type, many of them kind of go by the /t/, or probably make a sound that's similar to the flap /d/ sound.

I looked up videos on this occasion in American English on Youtube. In all of the videos I saw, the instructors say the /t/ is completely dropped when that happens, but when I hear Americans, mostly it doesn't sound like they completely ignore that consonant. It feels more like they go by it somehow or make a sound similar to the flap /d/ as I said. When I talk also, when I completely drop the /t/ in those kind of words, it sounds kind of off to me. I don't know if it sounds uneducated or totally wrong if I completely drop the /t/. I actually remember noticing that some Americans probably completely dropped the /t/ on some videos involving Americans that I saw before, but those moments were rare. It might depend on the region and education maybe?

This is one of the videos on this topic. What do you think? Do you think Americans can completely ignore the /t/ sound in words like, "wanted"? Do you think it is wrong? What kind of sound should I make if I want to go by the /t/ sound like Americans? This is pretty important for me since I have been learning American English for some time.


What kind of sound should I make if I want to go by the /t/ sound like Americans?

As another user has pointed out, the "going by the /t/" phenomenon you point out is called a nasalized flap in some instances, or a glottal stop in others, and is common in several American accents. However, America is a huge country, home to dozens of regional accents and dialects of English. There are regional accents where "twenty" rhymes with "honey" (Appalachia, for one). There are regional accents where the 't' in words like "wanted" is always pronounced as a /t/, and there are those where it is not.

Do you think Americans can completely ignore the /t/ sound in words like, "wanted"?


Do you think it is wrong?

Of course not! An accent is never "right" or "wrong," it's just how people say certain sounds differently.

Here is a video that very briefly summarizes several different American accents and dialects. You may notice it is actually a two-parter, and it still doesn't even cover all of the accents in the US! So the question of "how to pronounce this letter like Americans do" simply cannot be answered in general.

In conclusion: If you want to make your letter 't' "sound American," you will first need to decide which kind of American you mean.

  • Without using the examples, this is going nowhere. You cannot make the difference between wanto and wanted to without a t sound even if it becomes separated from the wan part: I wan-tidit. How can you avoid the tidit in the past? Hm? – Lambie Mar 18 at 20:12
  • I think the “nasalized flap” is the sound OP was asking about. My Northeastern American pronunciation of “wanted” is typically [wɑ̃ɾ̃ɨd̚], for example. – Jon Purdy Mar 18 at 21:48
  • @Jon Purdy Perhaps, but it's also common in the "inter-mountain west" (i.e. Idaho, Utah, parts of Nevada and eastern Washington and Oregon) to mutate the /t/ in "mountain" to a glottal stop: [ˈmaʊʔɪn] – R. Barrett Mar 18 at 22:46
  • @R.Barrett Hey, I am sorry for the late answer. I know about the glottal stop in words like, "button," "curtain," "mountain" etc, but I think the glottal stop sound is not made when you pronounce words like the ones in the OP, right? Thanks for your answer by the way. – Fire and Ice May 2 at 18:34

We don’t drop it, per se.

Word-medial /t/ and /d/ both often reduce to [ɾ] (alveolar flap) when we are speaking quickly, simply because the tongue is moving too fast to make either sound correctly. The faster we go, the less distinct the sound gets, but I always hear at least a hint of it from AmE speakers (unlike BrE speakers).


The verb want:

I want to go. /t/ is heard.

How people actually say it when speaking fast: I wanna go or I wanta go.

Now, if you "wanted to go yesterday", it is: I wan/t/ed to go.

If the /t/ is not pronounced, the speaker is not expressing a simple past tense. And, there is no: I waned to go. [a dropped /t/ sound in want]. That would be meaningless. And dropping the /t/ there would sound like: I wand to go. wand as in a wand, what a fairy carries. Some super Southern speaker might say that, but it's not really common at all.

Conclusion: One must either use: wan/t/to, wanna, or wanta for the present tense.

For the past tense, one must use: wan/t/ed, or it ain't simple past tense.

I have not written out all the sounds phonetically because they are not really relevant to my point.

And words like twenty pronounced "twenny" or interview or accidentally are completely different as they are not verbs and are not competing for a present/past tense sound meaning.

I cannot imagine any English speaker saying: I wanna go or I wanta go for I wanted to go (yesterday). Though some might say: I wand to go, for wanted to go.

[for those wanting a technical explanation, they can go to Wikipedia and see Flapping or Tapping.]

By the way, in New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn, many people say: I wan-idit, for I wanted it.

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    'If the /t/ is not pronounced, the speaker is not expressing a simple past tense. And, there is no: I waned to go. [a dropped /t/ sound in want]. That would be meaningless' //// For the speakers of Present day American English, there's nothing more illogical and meaningless than those few sentences. Some Americans do definitely drop their T's in that position (after a stressed syllable and before /n/). Most Americans, however, have a nasalised flap [ɾ̃] in that position. This is misleading the OP. – Void Mar 18 at 18:44
  • Yeah, so you are saying that people say: wán-ed? Most people will say: wán-ted for the past tense. But hey, believe what you wanna believe. – Lambie Mar 18 at 19:13
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    @Lambie absolutely they do. Omitting the /t/ sound in past tense is the norm where I live, for instance. – R. Barrett Mar 18 at 19:22
  • This woman claims there is no t but when I listen to her, I here it for wanted: youtube.com/watch?v=PxT6s4qmCr4&t=53s She does make it sound like wan-id. But I still hear the t. – Lambie Mar 18 at 19:24
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    It is already spelled out as an example that you linked. People where I am from say it the same way: ['wʌ nɪd]. There is no /t/ sound, nor a /d/ sound. This is the International Phonetic Alphabet and unambiguously specifies how to pronounce the word. – R. Barrett Mar 18 at 20:34

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