Pronouncing “the” or “thee”?

Pronounce The or Thee

Pronounce The or Thee

A very common word in English is “the”.  But you might notice we pronounce it two different ways!

If “the” is next to a consonant, it will be pronounced [thuh]:

the book  [thuh book]

the car  [thuh kar]

the man  [thuh man]

If “the”is next to a vowel, it will be pronounced [thee] and often has a linking sound [y] to help you easy say the phrase:

the orange  [thee (y) oranj]

the ending  [thee (y) ending]

the acorn  [thee (y) akorn]

So practice the pattern for an improved American English pronunciation.


KT for Chinese Speakers

esl-studentsHere’s help for Chinese speakers to get a more American English sound.  When consonantsc” (k) and “t” are in the middle of a word (like “practice”), or between two words in a phrase. (like “take two”), hold out the vowel just before the “k” sound, then make a gentle, quiet “k” linked to the “t”.

DO NOT fully pronounce the ‘k’ sound or it will sound like pra  KA  tice (practice) or da KA tor (doctor).

Listen to the audio here.

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pra——>  ktis


do——-> ktor


a——-> ktiv



Free printable list of KT words here.



Pronunciation Apps & Internet Resources

Pronunciation Apps Listening Resources imageBe sure to use your tablet or computer for additional help with Pronouncing English. The following resources (free or cheap) focus on the North American English pronunciation.

MacMillan The Pronunciation App (free) This features words using the sounds of English with IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).  It has practice and quizzes for reading, writing and listening.

K12Phonemes (free) Learn the sounds of English with sounds and words, plus a nice video of a real person speaking.

Sounds of Speech  ($3.00) This is from the Iowa Phonetics project.  You’ll see and hear sounds of English with a video illustration of the mouth saying the sounds/words.  The app is $2.99.  You can access the program for free with your laptop by going to the University of Iowa Phonetics home (available on a computer or laptop only, not a tablet.)

Dragon Dictation (free) Set it to American English. and the Dragon Dication computer program will try to recognize and turn your spoken sentence into printed text.  See how well you’re pronouncing English!

Here are free resources for listening.  Audio is in beginner, intermdiate and advanced levels, many with audio transcripts.

  1. Randall’s Listening Lab
  2. English Listening
  3. Many Things
  4. Talk English
  5. Agenda Web
  6. Rong-Chang Listening

Keep up the good work learning English!

Linking Vowel to Vowel Using W or Y

Linking Vowel to VowelLinking a vowel to a vowel in English will sound smoother with adding a W or a Y sound.

Here are the rules.

Rule #1.  When a word ending in iy, ey, ay or oy is followed by a vowel, use Y

  • Be a sport = Beya sport.
  • Play a game = Playa game.
  • Tie it up = Tiyit up.
  • Employ a professional = Employa professional.

Rule #2.  When  a word ending in uw, ow or aw is followed by a vowel , use W

  • through it all = throughwit all
  • slow and steady = slowand steady
  • How are you? = Howare you?

See the free printable here (includes teacher notes and key.) These pages are from this resource for linking Hawaii EDU Pronunciation

Linking Help

linking English pronunciationIn our English Pronunciation Class we continue to practice linking when speaking English.

Linking is very important and must be learned to improve your compensability and efficiency of spoken English. If you are speaking sentences without linking expected words and sounds together, it is probably very difficult to understand your English.

Let’s look at linking consonants to vowels. A common pattern in English is liking the ending D sound to the word “it”: (consonant-vowel link)

  • find it   >   fin  dit
  • tried it   >   tri  dit
  • spread it   >   sprea  dit
  • wanted it   >   wan  ti  dit
  • needed it   >   nee  di  dit
  • added it   >   a  di  dit

You can hold out the vowel sound but then link the ending D to the “it”, kind of making it sound like you are saying “dit”. The linking connection should be smooth, without any breaks or pauses. it’s going to sound like a single word, and that’s ok!  That’s expected, and English speakers understand you more quickly and easily.

Reducing “Your” and “Our”

Pronouncing your our Accent Reduction Classes San Jose CAHave you learned these common reductions of English?

  • “gonna” is a reduction of “going to”
  • “hafta” is a reduction of “have to”
  • “I wanna” is a reduction of “I want to…”
  • “I gotta…” is a reduction of “I’ve got to…”

Some think reduced English forms are lazy or sloppy, BUT THEY ARE NOT.  Reduced forms are EXPECTED in most conversations, in both casual and formal settings. Your American listener is expecting reductions of English grammar in order to communicate in a fast and efficient way.

English listeners are also expecting linking.  See my previous post on How Linking Improves your Pronunciation.

Reducing your and our is very common in conversation. Your (also you’re)  is reduced to yer, and our is reduced to ar.  Some examples might sound like this:

  • Is he coming to yer house?
  • I want to see yer boss.
  • Yer going to college? (you’re)
  • I want yer opinion.
  • Should we go away for ar anniversary?
  • Ar class is cancelled today.
  • An animal dug up ar yard.
  • Ar post office is closed now.

See my 2016 free printable on reductions here.




How to Link An to Words Starting with Vowels

IMG_2644[1]In English, we use articles (a, an or the) before nouns.  If the coming word starts with a vowel, we use “an” and link /n/ sound to the word.

actor: an actor >anactor

expert: an expert > anexpert

author: an author > anauthor

If linking these words together, is unfamilar to you, you can practice the pattern in words like




Here’s a free printable list of words and sentences for practicing linking the “an” to the coming word.

Keep up the good work speaking English!



Why an Accent Reduction Course?

pronunciation courseClient – “Why do I need a course in accent reduction?  Can’t I just learn the ideas in a couple sessions?”

Me – I’m glad you asked.  We usually want our accent reduction clients to take a beginning course of 10 – 15 sessions.  Although some clients benefit from a few lessons, most should take a course of sessions to learn new techniques, have time to practice and receive feedback from their instructor.

You learned your first language when you were 5 – 7 years old.  During that time you practiced and played with the sounds, linking and intonation.  You probably sang songs, recited rhymes and poems, talked to and listened to many different folks, all speaking your first language.  You received feedback from others (adults and children alike) if you were making the sounds and melodies correctly. You had time to practice and perfect your first language, the sounds, linking and intonation.

Years later you learned English. You learned the vocabulary and grammar so you could speak in sentences.  But your kept your sounds, linking and intonation patterns from your first language, and simply laid those on top of English.  So that is why you are speaking with an accent! The more similar your first language is to English, the less noticeable your accent will be.  The less similar your first language is to English, the more noticeable your accent will be and this will make it harder for others to understand you.

It may help you to know EVERYONE speaks with an accent. No matter what language you use….

no matter where you live on the planet….

you speak in the accent of your first, and home, language.

If you want to speak English well, you need to imitate English sounds, linking and intonation, and this takes time, practice and feedback! Here are some activities to support learning the new accent:

  1. Take a course for 10 – 15 lessons from a specially-trained teacher, like a speech-language pathologist.
  2. Record your lessons and play back for further practice.
  3. Befriend an American who is willing to talk with you and let you know about your mistakes.
  4. Watch TV, and listen to radio in English.
  5. Mimic the accent you want to learn.  Mimicry helps your brain to be comfortable in the new accent.

So why can’t this you learn a new accent in a couple lessons?  Because you need time, practice and feedback.









How to Pronounce “used to”

english pronunciation used toIt came up in pronunciation class this week. “How do I pronounce “used to“?  There seem to be 2 ways. ”  – and yes, there ARE 2 ways!

In both cases the D and T are linked together, making it sound like one word. But we’ll pronounce S or Z depending on the meaning.

In the sentence “I used to write in this notebook.” we say [yusto] with the S pronounced like an S. This means it is something we did, or took care of in the past.

  • I used to [yusto] live in Santa Barbara.
  • They used to [yusto] go to college in New York.
  • I used to  [yusto] work in a hospital.
  • He used to  [yusto] work at the grocery store.
  • She used to [yusto] own a dog.

In the sentence “It is used to teach pronunciation.” we say [yuzto] with the S pronounced like a Z. This means we are talking about the function, or use, of the object.  Essentially we are describing how something is “used” [yuzd].  When pronouncing this “used”, with a Z sound, be sure to hold it out longer, or make the duration longer, than with an S sound.

  • Sometimes games are used to [yuzto] teach English.
  • These markers are used to  [yuzto] color pictures.
  • The boombox is used to  [yuzto] play CDs.
  • Her tea kettle was used to  [yuzto] heat up water.