American "T"

kp   Friday, August 08, 2003, 07:19 GMT
Hey all,
Well, I have this big difficulty when it comes to the American “T” and how to pronounce it. In addition, I often confuse between when it is at the first, middle, and the end of any sentence. Could any one please help me through this?
wingyellow   Friday, August 08, 2003, 07:25 GMT
If the T is stuck between two vowels, it is pronounced as a D.
If it is after an N, it is not pronounced. I heard people pronounce "dentist" as "denist".
Clark   Friday, August 08, 2003, 07:38 GMT
The American "t" can be a bit tricky if you are not used to it (or hearing it).

Here is a rough sketch of how to use/pronounce the American "t:"

At the front of words, pronounce it hardly; "Tooth."
In the middle of words, whether doubled or not, make it a "d;" "boTTle" and/or "compuTer."
At the end of words (or words that have the silent "e"), swallow it; "faTe."
And as Wingyellow says, after the "n," do not pronounce the "t."

For the last one, a good way for me to explain it is to take away the "t," and double the letter that come before the it. For example:

twenty = twen/y = twenny
dentist = den/ist = dennist

I hope that this helps.
Tom   Friday, August 08, 2003, 07:48 GMT
"t" is always pronounced as "t" at the beginning of a stressed syllable -- even if an "n" comes before it, e.g. "entail".

It's best to listen to lots of examples. You shold get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Clark   Friday, August 08, 2003, 07:51 GMT
Yeah, sounds good. And that could evin go for words like "retail." You do not pronounce the "t" as a "d" in this word.
kp   Friday, August 08, 2003, 08:46 GMT
Well that's a bit confusing. But I guess you are right, Tom, I better listen to many examples.

Thank you all for your help.
Kiwi   Friday, August 08, 2003, 11:37 GMT
Or you could just not bother with this rule and pronounce T's like we do here, and I assume also in Australia and most of England. Who wants an american accent, they sound terrible.

twenty = twenty (wow, how strange)
dentist = dentist (even weirder)
tooth = tooth (obviously)
boTTle = boTTle (I'm not too sure what a boddle is)
fate = fate (at least I think it does, not sure what is meant by swallowing)
Lana   Friday, August 08, 2003, 15:44 GMT
I agree with Kiwi (Except the part about sounding terrible!). If you pronounce the T it is OK and you will be understood by Americans also. I can't think of a case where you would be misunderstood if you go ahead and pronounce the T.

Being able to understand the American pronunciations may be the difficult thing.
Ryan   Friday, August 08, 2003, 17:09 GMT
I wouldn't say educated Americans prounce twenty as "twenny" or dentist as "denist." I certainly don't and most of the Americans I attend university with don't either. The "t" in these words tends to be underpronounced, though.

The "d" sound in words like "water" (between two vowels) tends to be fairly universal, though, although the "d" sound is not as voiced as much as it usually is. You can still detect the "t" sound in there when words such as these are pronounced, at least in most accents.

Kiwi, in England a word like "bottle" has a glottal stop for the two t's, making it sound more like "bo'el." I don't see how this is any better than pronouncing the t's like d's. I'm not sure how the t's are pronounced in Oceania, though.

mjd   Friday, August 08, 2003, 18:50 GMT
I can understand why non-Americans think that our t's in words like bottle etc. sound like d's, but Americans do not think so. After listening to myself say these words, they do sound similar to d's, but the way in which the sound is formed is different than a d. It's not the same t sound as in "entail," but I disagree that one should just "substitute" a 'd' to make it sound correct. The best way to learn is through listening.


Sorry we sound so terrible to you....I'm sure your speech is impeccable.
Clark   Friday, August 08, 2003, 23:25 GMT
I agree; the sound made by the "tt" in "latter" is not a true "d," but it sounds closest to this letter.

Kiwi, sorry, but Australians do not pronounce every "t" as a "t" sound; infact, they pronounce many of them as a "d" or what sounds closest toa "d" sound. For example, I have heard Australians say the "teen" numbers (13, 14, 15, etc) and they sound something like, "thirdeen," fourdeen," "fifdeen."

Ryan, if you are American, than I would say that you are not being totally honest with yourself by saying that you pronounce your "t" as a proper "t" sound in words like "bottle," "fate" or "later." I had this same argument with my stepfather, and finally I won the argument after showing hime several books about the English language.

Whether uneducated or not, American usually pronounce "t" as a "d" if the letter is in the right place in the word.
Ryan   Saturday, August 09, 2003, 05:39 GMT
Clark, I didn't say I pronounce it as a proper t. I said that most Americans prounced the "d" sound in the middle of "bottle" with a slight "t" to it. Say the word "bad" and then say "bottle." The "d" sounds are not exactly the same. "D" and "T" are really the same sound, but voiced and unvoiced. Americans will voice the "d" sound, but then put a slight unvoiced "t" at the end of it. It's the same as Brits who say "bo'el" for "bottle." The "t" is still there. It is just barely voiced, though.

Clark   Saturday, August 09, 2003, 06:26 GMT
Why do you call the British "Brits" ?
Kiwi   Saturday, August 09, 2003, 13:33 GMT
Americans accents don't sound terrible I just said that for a bite and well, I guess it worked...

As for bottle, I do say it with normal t's, and I think thats pretty much normal here. Some people do say words like that with d's but it sounds very slang like. However I still don't think this whole d vs t thing is anything to get all worried about, people will still understand and there's no universal accent that says you must say one or the other.
Ryan   Saturday, August 09, 2003, 18:24 GMT
Because "Brit" is short for "British." Why do Brits call football "footy" or the television a "telly?"

And why do Brits call every American a Yank? Yanks are only northerners. Southern Americans get pissed when people from foreign countries call them Yankees, Yanks or the like.