T Pronunciation

In American English, there are many ways that we say the letter T in normal speaking situations. These three ways can help you understand more — and to help others understand you! You can start by watching Eric explain and say the words, or you can read the information below.
A man holds a bottle of water
by Pixabay User derneuemann

Type One: “normal” T

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol: [t]

Notice the air that follows the t!

  1. Beginning of words:
    • teacher
    • today
    • two
    • tall
  2. After most consonants (but not R!)
    • best
    • faster
    • guilty
    • alter / altar
    • doctor
    • optimist

Type 2: Flap T/ Quick T

This is a “fast d” sound. There is no extra air with the T! The IPA is: [d] or [ɾ]

This usually happens when we have a “t sandwich” — a vowel before the T and a vowel after the T.

  1. vowel + t / tt / d + vowel
    • writing
    • bottle
    • water
    • tutor
    • city
  2. This combination (vowel + t + vowel ) can happen with more than one word together in normal speech.
    • It isn’t my problem.
    • Can you figure it out?
    • Wait a minute!
    • What if you’re wrong?
  3. Exception: If the “t” is in the beginning of a stressed syllable, we use the “normal T”:
    • until
    • attorney
    • attack
    • eternal
  4. Notice: This fast d / flap t sound is the same for words that usually have a “d” with a vowel before and after. So, these words sound the same for most American English accents:
    • writing / riding
    • liter / leader
    • metal / medal

Type 3: Glottal Stop T /ʔ/

The glottal stop /ʔ/ is the stop of air in your voice. Example: uh-oh.

This kind of t sound happens when there is a vowel + t + n (or a vowel+n).

  1. Vowel+t+n
    • sentence
    • partner
    • important
  2. Common Contractions:
    • can’t
    • won’t
    • haven’t
    • couldn’t
    • shouldn’t
  3. -tten or -tain spellings:
    • written
    • gotten
    • mountain
    • fountain
    • Britain

Other spellings and sounds

T can change into some other sounds, too:

  1. T becomes a “ch” sound or, in IPA: [tʃ ]
    1. T+R together:
      • true
      • tree
      • attribute
    2. T + U together — specifically, when “u” is pronounced with a [j] + vowel sound
      • picture
      • natural
      • capture
  2. T becomes a “sh” sound, or in IPA: [ʃ]
    1. with -tion endings
      • information
      • caption
      • station
    2. with -tious endings
      • cautious
      • superstitious
Practice the words on this page. Can you hear all the different kinds of T? Can you pronounce the American accent sounds if you say them slowly?
Here are all the words on this page. Can you read them and remember the pattern?
  1. Normal T
    1. teacher
    2. today
    3. two
    4. tall
    5. best
    6. faster
    7. guilty
    8. alter / altar
    9. doctor
    10. optimist
    11. until
    12. attorney
    13. attack
    14. eternal
  2. Flap T
    1. writing
    2. bottle
    3. water
    4. tutor
    5. city
    6. It isn’t my problem.
    7. Can you figure it out?
    8. Wait a minute!
    9. What if you’re wrong?
    10. writing / riding
    11. liter / leader
    12. metal / medal
  3. Glottal Stop T
    1. sentence
    2. partner
    3. important
    4. can’t
    5. won’t
    6. haven’t
    7. couldn’t
    8. shouldn’t
    9. written
    10. gotten
    11. mountain
    12. fountain
    13. Britain
  4. Other sounds (ch and sh)
    1. true
    2. tree
    3. attribute
    4. picture
    5. natural
    6. capture
    7. information
    8. caption
    9. station
    10. cautious
    11. superstitious

 

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