77 votes

Can fluent English speakers distinguish between “steel”, “still”, and “steal”?

Still (/stɪl/) and steel (/sti:l/) are distinguishable. The vowel sounds in these two words are different. Steal and Steel (/sti:l/) are homophones and are pronounced exactly the same. However, the ...
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  • 149k
70 votes
Accepted

Why is "iron" pronounced "EYE-URN" but not "EYE-RUN"?

TLDR The pronunciation of 'iron' in standard varieties of English is EYE-URN (BrE: /'aɪən/, AmE: /'aɪrn/) and not EYE-RUN (which is also a common pronunciation of 'iron' in some varieties of English) ...
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  • 17.7k
63 votes

Why is the t in "often" silent?

It's an example of medial cluster reduction. The t was once pronounced but in the 17th century, the t in some words was dropped whenever it was preceded by a fricative (/f/, /v/, /s/, /θ/ etc) and ...
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  • 17.7k
62 votes

Do all native English speakers actually pronounce the "th" sound?

Most native English speakers you hear will effortlessly pronounce the th digraph you're having trouble with. While there are some dialects of English that pronounce it /d/ or /t/ or /f/ depending on ...
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  • 14.3k
52 votes

Do all native English speakers actually pronounce the "th" sound?

All "standard" accents maintain the sounds /θ/ and /ð/ It will definitely stand out if you can't pronounce the "th" sounds (there are two, the voiceless version /θ/ and the voiced version /ð/). For ...
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  • 6,642
43 votes

Do native speakers distinguish well the pronunciations of "L" and "R"?

There are always some people who are exceptions, but yes, native English speakers in general do clearly and easily distinguish these sounds. I'm not a linguist, but from what I've read and seen it ...
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  • 627
36 votes

Can fluent English speakers distinguish between “steel”, “still”, and “steal”?

Context is the key to understanding. If your reader or conversation partner understands you are talking about someone or something with a habit of misappropriating steel, then it is perfectly ...
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  • 17.5k
29 votes
Accepted

Why are there three pronunciations for the plural "-s"?

TLDR The short answer is that there are certain rules regarding what kind of sound sequences are possible in English, if we used a single pronunciation for the -s endings in every situation, we would ...
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  • 17.7k
28 votes
Accepted

Why is "threepenny" pronounced as THREP.NI?

𝑇𝐿;𝐷𝑅 I don't know how it was pronounced in the past, but it must have been /ˈθriː.pɛ.ni/ (THREE.PE.NI) at some point, which is a three-syllable word having a 'tense' vowel in its first syllable, ...
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  • 17.7k
22 votes

Do native speakers distinguish well the pronunciations of "L" and "R"?

English speakers distinguish these sounds almost perfectly. Certainly with well over 99% accuracy. As pointed out in another post here, any phonemes that create a difference in meaning in a language (...
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21 votes

"Ball" and "bowl" do they really sound the same?

English has a lot more vowels than most languages, so most learners need to re-train their ears to recognize the additional vowels. In both British English and American English, the difference between ...
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  • 56.2k
20 votes

Do native speakers distinguish well the pronunciations of "L" and "R"?

I would say that not only do most native speakers have no problem distinguishing them, but that they sound so different that the idea of mixing them is surprising and therefore somewhat comical (...
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  • 1,518
20 votes

Why is "threepenny" pronounced as THREP.NI?

I grew up with the 12-sided 3d coin. We did not call it "threepence" but "thruppence" with the u pronounced according to your dialect, sometimes as e. A penny, tuppence, thruppence....
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  • 13.4k
19 votes

Do all native English speakers actually pronounce the "th" sound?

There is African-American Vernacular English. The th sound appears to be used more rarely (if ever): When occurring in the beginning of a word, the th- sound is pronounced as a d- sound. ...
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  • 11.2k
19 votes
Accepted

Why do we write /-ɪŋ/ instead of /-iŋ/?

Phonemically1 -ing is always /ɪŋ/. The vowel phoneme2 is decided by linguists to be /ɪ/, though it can be realised in many different ways. Phonetically3, however, it's realised as [iŋ] in some ...
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  • 17.7k
18 votes
Accepted

Why is the t in "often" silent?

In 1988, research by J. C. Wells for the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary showed that only 27% of British English speakers pronounce the "t". Subsequently, 1993 research showed that only 22%...
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  • 22.4k
17 votes
Accepted

Anyone succeeded to teach/recognize the difference in L and R listening wise?

(The following adopts the common convention of using slashes to denote phonemes and square brackets to denote phonetic realizations.) Background Japanese speakers' inability to distinguish /r/ and /...
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  • 288
15 votes
Accepted

Are English consonant sounds [p], [t], [k] aspirated before another consonant?

When we make a voiced sound, for example a vowel sound, our vocal cords vibrate. This gives the sound pitch. We can make voiced sounds with a high pitch or a low pitch. For this reason, you can sing a ...
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14 votes
Accepted

Do most Americans pronounce 'months' as 'mons', and 'clothes' as 'clos'?

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 ...
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  • 27.4k
14 votes

Why is "iron" pronounced "EYE-URN" but not "EYE-RUN"?

In some regional accents it is /aɪrən/, but this is rare enough in most regions that people may never have come across it and will consider it an error, so learners aren't advised to pronounce it that ...
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  • 22.4k
13 votes
Accepted

Do native English speakers pronounce every final letter when speaking fast?

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: Rhotic accents: Rhotic ...
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  • 17.7k
12 votes

Is there a word where `w` can not be replaced?

Unlike some languages, like Hindi and German, /w/ and /v/ are different phonemes in English, and you cannot replace one with the other (except if you're speaking 19th century Cockney, the way Charles ...
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12 votes
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Pronunciation of past participles of words that end with 'thed' (e.g. bathed)

The standard pronuncation of 'bathed' in both British English and American English is /beɪðd/. In Southern British English, 'bath' (noun) is pronounced [bɑːθ] while the verb 'bathe' is pronounced [...
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  • 17.7k
11 votes

Do all native English speakers actually pronounce the "th" sound?

I have heard Newfoundlanders in Canada replace the "th" sound with "t" as "tree" instead of "three" or "Tursday" instead of "Thursday." But to help you learn to pronounce it properly, I am ESL ...
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  • 111
11 votes

Why do we write /-ɪŋ/ instead of /-iŋ/?

The short answer is that some people do pronounce the vowel in sing, king, think, zinc etc. as [iŋ], but some people pronounce it as [ɪŋ]. Because there is no possible contrast between [i] and [ɪ] in ...
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  • 6,642
10 votes

Do native speakers distinguish well the pronunciations of "L" and "R"?

I don't think most native speakers experience any such difficulty; but the fact is, distinguishing phonemes is only a small part of understanding speech. Every speaker has his or her own way of ...
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10 votes

Two vowels together: "Go out" and "Go upstairs"

The word "go" has a vowel that ends in the sound [ʊ]. When words that end in this sound are followed by another vowel, we like to put a small /w/ sound in between to separate out the two vowel sounds. ...
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10 votes
Accepted

How is “X” pronounced in English?

As a rule of thumb, the prefix ex- is pronounced with /ks/ when the prefix is stressed.: 'excellent 'exit 'exile 'execute When this prefix is not stressed, then if the first sound in the root (the ...
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10 votes

Do all native English speakers actually pronounce the "th" sound?

The standard accent for Irish native speakers of English does not use /θ/ and /ð/. In novels Irish people are often depicted as invariably replacing /θ/ and /ð/ by /t/ and /d/, but that is described ...
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10 votes
Accepted

Pronunciation of ‘deduce’ as duh-DOOS

Dictionaries use phonemic transcriptions i.e. only contrastive sounds, not how native speakers actually speak. The word deduce is pronounced differently in both British and American English: American:...
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