It seems difficult to pronounce the
th sound from "the" after the
s sound from "that's"
So my question is: Is it ok to omit the
s sound? (see below)
"That the thing"
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A lot of non-native speakers have trouble pronouncing th. If it comes out sounding more like a d, it will probably be OK — you'll just sound like you have a foreign accent.
However, if you omit the 's sound, then you will effectively have dropped the verb from the sentence, and it's going to sound like pidgin or broken English. If you have difficulty with the consonant cluster, perhaps you would be better off not using the contraction, and saying "That is the thing" instead.
All the sounds in That's the thing are mandatory. In IPA the sounds are written like this: /ðæts.ðə.θɪŋ/. The hardest part is the bold in that's the thing: /ðæts.ðə.θɪŋ/. This is because there is no vowel sound between /s/ and /ð/.
When I do this extremely slowly there is a gap between /s/ and /ð/. However, when speaking at a natural speed I don't notice any gap, although there probably is one.
The two th sounds, /ð/ and /θ/, in English are not often found in other languages. They will take practice to a) sound correct and b) feel natural to you. By repeating the correct motions slowly at first you can gradually get used to how it feels, and get your muscles used to moving that way too.
Hobbs' answer is very good but consider why you do not drop the 's':
Grammatically, the apostrophe (') tells you the word is a composite statement. For Proper English would read "That is the thing!", which is why English speakers say "That's..." at all.
So when people say it is mandatory, that's because (see what I did there?) it helps make the sentence understandable with a verb (that cannot be used as a verb). Remember, English may be weird, but we do have our rules. :D
'That' is a pronoun describing the main object ('thing'), 'is' the verb, and 'thing' the subject of the sentence.
Lastly, keep trying!