I came across situations where it looks like they don't pronounce the final letter of every word in a sentence? Personally, I feel that skipping the final letter somehow seems beautiful? What is the extent of correctness in my thought? Secondly, is it a good practice to do so? I would love to hear from native English speakers.

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    To the thread starter: Please give some examples, that you feel as the cases of skipping the final letter in fast speaking, for native speakers to analyze. I am interested in your question as well.
    – NewPlanet
    Jul 15 at 6:36
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    Please clarify whether you mean the final letter or the final sound. I assume you mean sound. Please also explain the significance of "every" in your question. Are you exaggerating? Jul 15 at 7:07
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    It's a matter of region and opinion: what is beautiful to some is lazy to others. Jul 15 at 7:53
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    You need to be much more specific about what you're asking about. There are cases someone might leave out the last sound/letter, like I saw them runnin', and cases where no one would, like I need to go up.
    – stangdon
    Jul 15 at 11:41
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    @WeatherVane, and by situation. Dropping letters in speech might be ok in casual, colloquial situations, but frowned-on in more formal settings.
    – Seth R
    Jul 15 at 15:01

It's unclear what you mean by ‘every final letter’ (and I wouldn't say every letter is dropped), but I'll start off by classifying English accents into two main categories:

  1. Rhotic accents: Rhotic accents are ones in which the R is pronounced in all positions (red, park, car; the R in all these words is pronounced). Most American and Canadian accents are rhotic (there are also rhotic accents in Britain).
  2. Non-rhotic accents: Non-rhotic accents are ones where the R sound is only pronounced when it comes before a vowel sound (not the vowel letters a e I o u), so the R is pronounced in red, arrive, car is but not in bar, park, card etc. Most English-English accents are non-rhotic (there are also non-rhotic accents in the US such as New York and Boston). So the final (and pre-consonantal) R's in non-rhotic accents aren't pronounced.

Other consonants that are usually affected in speech include p, t, k. I wouldn't say they're dropped but rather ‘unreleased’. If you have noticed, p t k are produced by blocking the air at a particular place of articulation and then the blocked air is released:

  • p is made by blocking the air at the lips
  • t is made by blocking the air at the ridge just above the top teeth (called alveolar ridge)
  • k is made by blocking the air at the velum (the soft palate)

Sometimes in word-final positions (and before certain other consonants), native speakers block the air for p t k and don't release it (= ‘unreleased’), so they can be inaudible.

There's another phenomenon called ‘glottalisation’ that happens to word-final (or syllable-final or pre-consonantal) t's in some accents (chiefly British). What happens is that the closure for the t (which is normally made at the ridge) is made in the glottis (= glottal stop).

Further, as pointed out in Graham's answer, the -ing in some accents such as Southern US, Cockney and AAVE is reduced to -in (i.e. from /ɪŋ/ to [ɪn]) so words like singing, going, morning are reduced to singin', goin', mornin'. That is called NG droppin'.

Incidentally, most (perhaps all) non-rhotic speakers usually insert consonants that are not present in spelling (ghost consonants!), for instance, [w] in go[w]away, [j] ('y') in he[j]is and (the striking) [ɹ] ('r') in saw[ɹ]a film or idea[ɹ]of. I've explained them in this answer to a question asking 'Is 'idea of' pronounced 'idearof'?'.

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    Good answer, but I'd add a few pedantic observations: most accents of England are nonrhotic, but all Scots and NI accents are rhotic and so are some Welsh, so it's probably better to say that most English-English accents are nonrhotic, rather than most British. And, certainly in SE English and in Scottish accents, T-glottalisation can occur in any syllable coda, even in, for instance "lottery" /'loʔəri/ (very broad transcription there on the r and i, to be fairly accent-neutral). Jul 15 at 14:49
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    Oh and a feature of some SE English accents that I believe crops up in some American accents too, is devoicing of final D. Then, as a T, it can itself be glottalised: in the sitcom Birds of a feather, for instance, "I didn't" -> /aː 'dɪʔənʔ/ Jul 15 at 14:51
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    Probably related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairzy_Doats
    – user118305
    Jul 15 at 15:43
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    I think this answer would be more complete with an explanation of "droppin' Gs". (Another answer mentions this, but I think that this one is more comprehensive.)
    – Tashus
    Jul 15 at 17:10
  • Glottalisation isn't the only way that /t/ is lost (or transformed). It can also turn into a tap [ɾ]. Jul 15 at 18:27

There are a number of regional British accents which do not do this, in a variety of ways. This basically applies to consonants which are omitted, altered, or replaced with a glottal stop.

Much of Britain will pronounce words ending with "ing" as "in"; so "I'm going out" becomes "I'm goin' out". (You'll often see it written this way in books too.)

For a number of regional accents too, the letter "T" is unvoiced, or replaced with a glottal stop if it occurs in the middle of a word or sentence. "R" is often also unvoiced too. So "Put your hat on" can become "Pu-ya ha'n". This is common for Essex, Liverpool and Scotland, although with different vowel sounds in each case for the relevant regional accent.

More than this, in much of Lancashire (north-west England) there is a tendency to simply not voice the end of sentences, and the last word trails off without being fully enunciated. I used to do this myself, and my first singing teacher had to do the whole "My fair lady" thing to get me to sound out the ends of sentences properly!

Just for a few examples...

  • "the letter "T" is unvoiced, or replaced with a glottal stop if it occurs in the middle of a word or sentence": the T is already unvoiced but it gets voiced when flanked by vowels (and sounds like D).
    – Void
    Jul 15 at 14:52
  • @void I agree with your correction of course, but would disagree that voicing of medial T happens much in British accents (which I think is the context here). East Anglian and Westcountry accents do it, but it's otherwise quite American-sounding to my ears! Jul 15 at 16:22
  • I once transcribed a series of sermons and the speakers left out a lot more than final consonants; they often started the next sentence leaving the previous one unfinished, assuming that the listener had grasped the intent. Actors, I believe, are well aware that spoken dialogue sounds a lot more authentic when you do this. Jul 15 at 18:00

Apart from words ending in r, there are not many English words where the last letter is a single silent consonant. Many of those come from other languages, for example ballet, valet. Some words have a consonant combination where only one is sounded, eg lamb, crumb, rock. The final consonant combination ng (as in running) represents a single sound and it is sometimes pronounced with a different sound, which would be spelt without the g.

The letter r, when not pronounced as a consonant, acts as a modifier for the preceding vowel. So while the final e in ride is not pronounced (though it modifies pronunciation of the i) it is pronounced (as some variation of er) in all accents.

In general it is much more common to pronounce the last consonant or consonant combination, than not. When speaking very quickly consonants may be reduced, as outlined in @Void's answer. Most people I know think that dropping consonants makes speech less beautiful, not more beautiful.

  • I guess it would also depend on when you consider a letter "pronounced". Even in the question title itself, "every final letter" would likely not pronounce the L on the end of "final" when "speaking fast". Jul 15 at 13:41
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    I didn't think they were talking about silent letters, but letters that are normally pronounced but are often elided in smooth speech.
    – Barmar
    Jul 15 at 14:16
  • @Ian MacDonald Lovely example though! Syllable-final L is frequently labialised away almost to nothing in some British accents. I had a colleague who worked in London, and when a Chinese woman called Xiao joined his workplace, they perceived the name as Chelle, short for Michelle, so that's the Western name she adopted. Jul 15 at 16:25
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    @tea-and-cake: I agree but didn't you want to say vocalised rather than 'labialised'? Labialised L would still be an L with rounded lips whereas vocalisation makes the L sound like a vowel (or like [w]). (e.g. hell pronounced hew in Cockney.)
    – Void
    Jul 15 at 16:57
  • @Void quite right! TBH I nearly called it labiovelarisation, as I'm a bit muddled about the whole W thing, so I'll bow to your much clearer explanation. Jul 15 at 17:35

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