Is the letter 'h' silent when Americans pronounce the question 'What's his name?' in casual speech? The question 'What's his name?' phonetically looks like: [wʌts_ɪz neɪm].

I think the words "WHAT'S" and "IZ" can be linked together because of the consonant + vowel. Am I right? Which words should I stress when I pronounce the question? "What" and "name"?

Any suggestion appreciated. Thank you!

  • 2
    Are you asking about this question in general? I.e. when you want to know the name of a male? Or are you referring to the phrase "Whatshisname?", used when you can't remember the name of a particular individual? In the latter case, I think the "h" will almost be dropped.
    – JMB
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 18:12
  • 2
    In "casual speech" (and "normal, formal" speech, for an increasingly large number of speakers) the aspirated "h" in such words is less and less common. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    If I were trying to speak clearly, I would definitely pronounce the h, but in normal speech, not at all; your phonetics look accurate. This is in contrast to a word like honor, in which I would never pronounce the h. Basically, I realize that it should be voiced, but I don't do it out of habit. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 19:15
  • 1
    Then there's the nickname "Herb", where the h is pronounced, and vegetable "herb", where it is silent. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 20:39
  • Except that the "h" in the vegetative "herb" is pronounced in British English, IIUC. Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


To answer your questions simply:

  1. the h can be silent, and generally is in casual English when pronouncing words that begin with wh- such as what, where and whip.
  2. In casual conversation, the h of his can become very subtle, but full omission of the h pushes this from proper English to regional dialect. When I say, "What's his name?" the h is subtle and flowing from the word preceding it, but omitting it entirely forces a glottal stop such as that heard in Cockney h-dropping, which would pronounce the same sentence as "Wots 'iz nayhm?"
  3. For pronunciation of the words in casual English, the stress will be on the vowel: the /aht/ or /uht/ of what, the /hih/ of his, and the /ay/ of name.

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