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I am watching a video course which teaches American accent (The video course is called 'The American Accent'). The teacher inside it says that most of Americans actually omit the [th] sound and pronounce 'months' as 'mons' and 'clothes' as 'clos', because they have problem to pronounce them as [ths] specified in dictionary. Of course, they still pronounce 'month' and 'cloth' as it is.

The 'ths' and 'thes' sound is indeed difficult to second language learners like me. But I am a bit surprised that most Americans feel the same as us:-)

Is it real?

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    Sad but true. In my experience we say "munts" and "clos" unless we are trying to be exceptionally clear. – Mark Hubbard May 27 '16 at 15:00
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    I don't think it's sad at all - "nths" and 'thes" are difficult to articulate quickly and it makes sense to elide the 'th' if it's obvious what the word is from the context. It's not lazy, it's efficient ;) – ColleenV May 27 '16 at 15:07
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    There is some value in learning to pronounce it precisely before you learn to pronounce it with an accent or informally. – ColleenV May 27 '16 at 15:53
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    My first reaction was to say "No way, we don't say that!" But after thinking about it I will say yes, we do tend to slur and elide sounds, particularly in combinations that would be hard to say quickly. For example, in the phrase "months to go", that combination n-th-s-t is awkward to speak quickly and clearly, so the "th" tends to drop out or get softer, so it can sound a little more like "munts tuh go" or even "munsta go". Same for "clothes" - in "clothes for", the combination "ð-z-f" is hard, so it approaches cloze instead of "clothes". But in isolation, the words sound much clearer. – stangdon May 27 '16 at 16:38
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    Every accent of every language has similar shortcuts. I'm sure your native language does, too, even if you're not consciously aware of them. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 27 '16 at 19:46
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Some do, some don't. Even one person's pronunciations can shift depending on the situation.

I pronounce months /mʌnθs/, with the θ. I think most people I know personally also pronounce the θ. But not all. When I hear it without the θ, I cringe (inwardly). To my ear, that sounds sloppy. There are also some East-coast regional accents that make it /mʌnts/. I've even heard /mʌmfs/.

When I was a kid, I pronounced clothes /kloʊz/, without the ð. That's how most Americans pronounce it. But I have heard some people pronounce it /kloʊðz/. To my surprise, many of those people grew up in the same region that I did, central Ohio. When I heard that pronunciation, it sounded clearer, more elegant, and more formal than my pronunciation, but also a bit fussy (to my ear, not theirs). As an adult, my pronunciation of this word tends to vary. While giving a talk at a research conference, I would probably pronounce it /kloʊðz/; while asking about when the washing machine will be ready, probably /kloʊz/.

If you want to sound educated, intelligent, high-class, or formal, then articulate every vowel and consonant clearly, in the standard way. If you want to sound uneducated, not-so-intelligent, low-class, or casual, then slur anything that's hard to pronounce. There's more subtlety to the way people perceive clarity in speech than that, but if you master clear speech first, you'll be fine. Later, you can learn when to "lax up".


By the way, for some time when I was a little kid, I was puzzled about how you could make "clothes" singular. No one says /kloʊ/. And "clothe" (/kloʊð/) is a verb. I had to wait a long time before I learned the phrase "article of clothing", which is the singular.

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    Stick to the formal/casual dichotomy. I never, and would be offended if others did, consider eliding parts of pronunciation an indicator of stupidity. – person27 May 27 '16 at 17:51
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    Folks could just as easily say that fully articulating words like clothes is a good way to sound pretentious. I agree with @Joshua that it's better to say formal/informal. – ColleenV May 27 '16 at 18:09
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    @JoshuaLamusga Are you suggesting that speakers should not take into account how their chosen eliding might be taken by their audience? Whether good or bad, I don't think we should ignore the connotations and assumptions that surround our language - particularly when someone else is attempting to understand how best to communicate. Ignoring that it happens isn't a good solution to resolving it. – Adam Davis May 27 '16 at 18:10
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    It's simply not true that eliding certain sounds in certain situations makes you sound stupid. It's also not true that articulating every vowel and consonant makes you sound smart. Accent comes down to "normal" (aka like me), "foreign" (aka not like me), and "weird" (aka there's something wrong with you). If you speak too slowly and carefully, you fall into the "weird" category. If you've recently moved from Boston to central Texas, you're somewhere in between the "foreign" and "weird" categories, even though you're "normal" in Boston. – ColleenV May 27 '16 at 19:23
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    If you had said in your answer what you said in your comment, there probably wouldn't be any commentary on it. But what you said was articulate every vowel/consonant='educated, intelligent, high-class, or formal' and 'elide anything that's hard to pronounce'='uneducated, not so intelligent, low-class, or casual'. I'm not arguing that certain dialects are perceived as uneducated. There's a (very angry) TED talk by Jamila Lyiscott about the three ways she speaks English that covers that. Eliding difficult sounds, however, is 'normal' for most folks in many contexts. – ColleenV May 27 '16 at 20:22
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I've lived all over various parts of the USA.

Months often pronounced as munce, sounding like dunce. Some people use proper annunciation, but it's more rare than common.

Clothes often pronounced as close, sounding like the normal word. Common alternative is clo'th's, extended phonetically as clo (hard O) th (th sound, clipped and brief) s (extended s, like a brief hiss). Like months, some people use proper annunciation, though it's more rare than common.

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    On the topic of how dropped consonants reveal a person's social background, let me guess: you're not Catholic, are you? Please don't correct the error, though. It really is a nice illustration and it makes your answer informative in a surprising and genuine way. – Ben Kovitz May 27 '16 at 23:13
  • You want get any statistically or anecdotally useful categorization information from me unless your focus is mutable, roaming vagabonds :) – kayleeFrye_onDeck May 27 '16 at 23:34
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I don't know about most Americans, but /kloʊz/ is a standard pronunciation of "clothes" (noun). It's not a mark of being uneducated or lazy, it's just a pronunciation. Just like thumb is pronounced without the b sound. Anyone who insisted on pronouncing the b would be looked upon as weird.

Many speakers of American English are unaware that they pronounce clothes as /kloʊz/ , until you bring it to their attention. And even when you do, some will still deny that they pronounce it in this way. It's similar to how most English speakers don't know that in everyday conversation they pronounce handbag as hambag. ('I dropped my handbag in the parking lot'.)

The th sound can cause difficulty in certain environments. Many native English speakers do not pronounce the second f in fifths. Or the d in width.

But the pronunciation is not impossible. The same people who pronounce the noun clothes without saying the /ð/ do say it in the third person singular verb form

/kloʊðz/

as in

She clothes the tree with holly before Christmas.

Probably few would drop the /ð/ here, despite the ensuing /ð/ in the. Thus, the /ð/ sound is maintained to distinguish the noun from the verb, even though the two can rarely be confused.


Thanks for this sharing. I guess I have three points I'm not sure. 1) Do you mean some native speakers would drop the second /f/ sound in 'fifths'?

Yes, the second f in fifths is not pronounced by many native speakers.

2) The last paragraph seems to imply that /ð/ in 'the' would influence the pronunciation of 'clothes'. What is exactly it? 3) Do you mean some speakers would use /ð/ to imply that they are saying a verb instead of a noun?

I know of no one who would pronounce the verb clothes as /kloʊz/.

The verb phrase ... clothes the (door) is a difficult sequence. I meant that we might expect the pronunciation of the verb clothes to change in this environment. But, in fact, if speakers were to make a pronunciation change, they would most likely change the pronunciation of the. Why? The is unstressed and it is not a content word.

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    Thanks for this sharing. I guess I have three points I'm not sure. 1) Do you mean some native speakers would drop the second /f/ sound in 'fifths'? 2) The last paragraph seems to imply that /ð/ in 'the' would influence the pronunciation of 'clothes'. What is exactly it? 3) Do you mean some speakers would use /ð/ to imply that they are saying a verb instead of a noun? – Hua May 29 '16 at 4:28

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