The Crazy T

The Crazy T
The Crazy T

Let us start with one of the most distinctly American consonants, the letter t. The letter “t” can be pronounced in several different ways, depending on its position in a word and depending on the other sounds that surround it.

The Strong T

This is the regular, fully pronounced /t/ sound. The tip of the tongue is touching and releasing the gum ridge, which is the upper part of the mouth, right behind the front teeth. It sounds /t/ when it’s in the beginning of a word, or at the beginning of a primary or secondary stressed syllable. For example: Tom, time, table, maintain, photographer, Italian.

The Silent T

When you make the /n/ sound, the tongue goes up and the front of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth. This is the same as the starting position for the ‘t’ sound. So instead of trying to make two separate sounds, just don’t say the T! For example: internet, interface, interview, international, percentage and painter.

There are two different spelling patterns, the -sten pattern, as in the word listen, fasten, moisten and glisten, and the -stle pattern, as in the word whistle, castle, hustle, nestle, rustle, bustle and gristle. Both of those patterns are pronounced with no t sound.

The Held T

let the tongue stay on top, touching the gum ridge, with no air coming out when you say the t. Try to press the vocal cords together to stop the airflow, and then release.

When should I held the T?
The t is held when it is followed by an /n/ sound within a word, for example: certain, mountain, cotton, eaten, forgotten, gotten, lighten, Britain, written, frighten or when the “t” comes in the final position of the word. For example: cat, right, that white, yet, plate, foot, fat and heat.

The Flap T

When a t is between two vowels, it is generally pronounced like a fast /d/ sound. It also sounds the same as the “rolling r” sound of Arabic, when the tip of the tongue touches the upper gum ridge. This sound is also sometimes called a “tapped t” because you quickly tap the tip of the tongue on the gum ridge when pronouncing it. For example: better, little, beautiful, butter. When the t comes after an “r” and a vowel, the t should be tapped. For example: party and forty.

The /tʃr/ Sound:

When a t is followed by an /r/ sound, the t changes and becomes an almost /tʃ/ sound. To create this sound correctly, say /tʃ/ as in chain , but just make the tip of the tongue a bit more tense when it touches the gum ridge, and focus on creating a stop of air. For example: travel, tradition, translate, traffic, turn, Turkey, introduce, interest, extremely and terrific.


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