This tag is for questions about the sounds, intonation, and stress of how words are uttered or produced.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

103
votes
14answers
88k views

When should I use “a” vs “an”?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
76
votes
12answers
67k views

When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

A basic grammar rule is to use an instead of a before a vowel sound. Given that historic is not pronounced with a silent h, I use “a historic”. Is this correct? What about heroic? Should be “It was a ...
20
votes
5answers
21k views

What is the pronunciation of “the”?

I read that the definite article is pronounced differently depending on the word that follows it. Which is the exact pronunciation of the?
12
votes
4answers
25k views

What is the pronunciation of the possessive words that already end in s? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When did it become correct to add an ‘s’ to a singular possessive already ending in ‘s’? Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe? ...
13
votes
5answers
13k views

Why is “t” sometimes pronounced like “d” in American English?

Why, in American English, is the word Italy is pronounced /ˈɪdəli/ and not /ˈɪtəli/? What is the rule that is followed in the pronunciation of Italy to make the letter t pronounced like a d? Why is ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

“A” vs. “An” in writing vs. pronunciation

When starting a word with a vowel, the preceding "a" becomes an "an". I often find that when writing words that start with letter "N" or "M", I will pronounce them "EN", "EM", etc. (This is because in ...
26
votes
4answers
4k views

Pronunciation of “have” in “I don't have to” [do something]

Normally when I say "I don't have to do that" (meaning I'm not obliged to), I find that as well as putting heavy stress on the word "have", I pronounce if haff. Is this common? If so, why does the ...
15
votes
3answers
26k views

Pronunciation of “a”

I'm really confused about the pronunciation of the letter "a". Why is there a difference when it is used in a sentence and when "a" is single? When it is single, we read it like dwelling on it, like ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Character vs Charm - Pronunciation

Is there a rule to understand how the group "Cha" has to be pronounced? "Character" sounds with a hard first syllable, while "Charm" sound softer, but I don't find how to tell which sound to use ...
12
votes
3answers
4k views

How can I distinguish “can” & “can't” from pronunciation?

It's very difficult for me to separate them. I was just listening to some video and it said "Fat cells can’t reproduce themselves." What I thought I've heard is "... CAN reproduce ..." Frankly, ...
29
votes
4answers
54k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
20
votes
1answer
23k views

Why is “ask” sometimes pronounced “aks”?

We've recently moved from New Zealand to New York City, and have noticed that many people (most of whom have good English) pronounce "ask" as "aks". For example: Could you please go aks her ...
12
votes
5answers
26k views

How does one pronounce the '@' symbol?

How can I pronounce @ symbol: At / At the rate? Can I use it in a sentence? Please explain with an example.
24
votes
4answers
22k views

What is the correct pronunciation and spelling of “asterisk”?

Every now and then I get caught out by a spellchecker around the word asterisk. I can accept that this is the correct spelling, however I hear a lot of people pronouncing it as asterix also. Is it ...
5
votes
1answer
921 views

What is the IPA for “trade”?

Some of my students have a disagreement about transcribing the pronunciation of "trade" in American English. Some say it's (a) [t͡ʃeɪd] while others (and they point to dictionaries that support them) ...
11
votes
4answers
12k views

Why we say “an historical” but “a history” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h? Why do we say an historical but a history? This question was ...
23
votes
3answers
7k views

Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word?

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced. Is there a rule or reason for the differences?
35
votes
9answers
17k views

How are 'marry', 'merry', and 'Mary' pronounced differently?

The way I pronounce these words is the same. Similarly for other words like these: I pronounce ferry and fairy the same, carrot and caret. Yet, dictionaries show different pronunciations for these ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Rhyming conventions of Early Modern English

I was reading the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell when something struck me as odd. Let me quote two passages: Thou by the Indian Ganges' side Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide ...
7
votes
10answers
70k views

Is there a rule in British English about how to pronounce “either”?

There are two common pronunciations of "either": British /ˈaɪðər/ and American /ˈiːðər/. If Americans are more or less consistent in this regard, then the Brits seem to be freely using both. In fact, ...
15
votes
14answers
3k views

When is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation?

When reading to an audience, or speaking in conversation, when is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation (assuming you know the appropriate ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

“nt” pronounced as “n” in American English (as in “Internet”): what is it called?

I know that pronouncing "t" as "d" is called a flap t, but is there a name for pronouncing "nt" as "n" in some words, as is common in American English? Examples: "Internet" is pronounced as "inner ...
12
votes
2answers
5k views

What makes a word offensive?

Whilst I was sat on the bus yesterday, I overheard a group of teenagers discussing various things. As per the usual social requirement at that age, every 5th word was an expletive. Not exactly the ...
9
votes
2answers
9k views

Is pronouncing “The” as in “Thee” still correct in titles?

When saying the title of JRR Tolkien's masterpiece, which is the correct pronunciation (Yes, I know that they're spelled wrong, but I'm trying to emphasize the pronunciation): Thuh Lord of thuh ...
8
votes
4answers
4k views

Why does “ow” have two different sounds

Why is it that the "ow" in now makes the /aʊ/ sound while "ow" in snow makes the /oʊ/ sound? Has this always been, was it spelled differently and then changed, or was it spelled this way but the sound ...
4
votes
4answers
6k views

Pronouncing acronyms

I've noticed that some people in my office spell out "data import tool" as D. I. T., whereas others will say "dit" (like "ditty"). Is trying to pronounce an acronym as a word, as opposed to spelling ...
38
votes
6answers
3k views

Pronunciation of the English alphabet

Why are there inconsistencies in the pronunciation of the consonants of the alphabet? For example: 'b' is pronounced like 'bee' but 'm' is pronounced as 'em' rather than 'me'. The pronunciation of 'h' ...
14
votes
5answers
21k views

What are the rules for pronunciation of years in English?

We pronounce 1923 as nineteen twenty-three; but 1900 as nineteen hundred. Why isn't year 2000 pronounced as twenty hundred instead of two thousand? What are the rules for pronunciation of years in ...
16
votes
5answers
53k views

How to pronounce the letter 'i'

Every time I read a new and unknown word containing the letter 'i' I wonder how I should pronounce it. What's very frustrating for me is that, when I look up the words, I find out that my gut feeling ...
17
votes
2answers
19k views

How do I know when a word with “ch” is pronounced hard or softly?

I'm hard-of-hearing, so when I read, I pronounce things phonetically because I don't hear a lot of soft sounds (like /sh/). To my surprise over the years, I've been continuously corrected on words ...
21
votes
8answers
3k views

Are “traitor” and “trader” pronounced the same?

Are "traitor" and "trader" distinguishable when spoken with any English accent? My English-speaking friends seem to pronounce them exactly the same way.
12
votes
5answers
2k views

How should “often” be pronounced?

I heard people saying "Of-fen" as well as "Of-ton". Till now I have been using the first one but few days ago I had an interviewer who pronounced often "Of-Ton" while interviewing.
6
votes
9answers
29k views

What is the correct pronunciation of the word “route”?

I have always used both "root" as in route 66 and "rooter" as in the networking device. The latter has gotten me funny looks often, however I could not bring myself to accept the inconsistency. Today ...
5
votes
8answers
7k views

The + vowel letter

I've been told that when "the" is proceeded by a vowel sound, like "apple" or "hour", it's pronounced as "thee" and not as "thu". But after listening to a couple of songs, I noticed that sometimes ...
0
votes
2answers
432 views

The elision of alveolar plosives

when the phrase "Can't complain" is pronounced [ˈkænt kəmˈpleɪn] I think that the T is dropped in fast speech because of the alveolar plosives. Right? I read that when T comes before these letters: / ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Reading out numbers in English

What are the accepted guidelines for reading out numbers in English? For example, should 1351 be read out as "one thousand and three hundred and fifty one", or should the "and"s be removed ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Correct pronunciation of “TT”? [closed]

A single t between vowels sounds like a d to me (or like an r in my language, Brazilian Portuguese). May I say the tt spelling the same way, or does that only work for a single t?
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Why there is an “h” in proper names like Afghanistan, Baghdad and Lamborghini?

An "h" may be used to prevent the "g" from being soft, as in spaghetti, but there is no need for an "h" in the mentioned proper names.
3
votes
6answers
4k views

Why is “go” spelled with the same vowel as “do” and “to” since it is pronounced differently?

These two-letter words ending in -o are pronounced with the vowel /oʊ/: bo, go ho, jo, lo, no, so, and yo whereas do and to are pronounced with the vowel /uː/. Is there an explanation for the ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Pronunciation of voiceless alveolar fricative /s/ as ʃ (/sh/) in slang?

Observed some words get pronounced with a /sh/ rather than /s/ in certain situations. Stripes as "Shtripes" (from some "The Wire" episode) Screw it as "shcrew it" (from a rap song) In both ...
2
votes
5answers
2k views

Variations in the pronunciation of “the”

Although there are rather simple rules determining the pronunciation of "the", native speakers quite often deviate from these rules (including, e.g., TV shows). According to the Longman Pronunciation ...
30
votes
7answers
120k views

Data pronunciation: “dayta” or “dahta”?

I hear "dayta" more often, but what's the correct pronunciation?
12
votes
8answers
8k views

Is there a rule for the correct pronunciation of words starting with “ex”?

The following words are pronounced starting with an iks / igz: extent [ɪkˈstent] expect [ɪk'spekt] exterminate [ɪk'stɜːmɪneɪt] external [ɪkˈstɜːn(ə)l] exhaust [ɪg'zɔːst] examine [ɪg'zæmɪn] ...
8
votes
1answer
12k views

Hwat, hwere, and hwy?

In which English accents do they put an h before every word that starts with wh? Example from Youtube. Notice his pronunciation of whisky.
8
votes
4answers
8k views

Pronunciation differences between “finite” and “infinite”

In my experience, "finite" is pronounced (IPA) ˈfaɪnaɪt while "infinite" is ˈɪnfɪnɪt. In general, the prefix "in" negates an adjective, but does not change the pronunciation. Based on this, I would ...
14
votes
6answers
7k views

What is the commonly accepted pronunciation of FAQ?

I hear FAQ(s) pronounced like a word in "FACK(s)", while I go letter by letter. In usage, what is more common? (Similar to SQL vs Sequel)
12
votes
1answer
3k views

Rules for removing last vowel when adding “-able”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When to drop the 'e' when ending in -able? Both are correct for these words: sizable, sizeable sharable, shareable takable, takeable But these words are ...
12
votes
3answers
6k views

Why does the ending -ough have six pronunciations?

There are "cough", "tough", "bough", "through", and "though" (and "hiccough", if you're not from the U.S.); each of which has a different pronunciation for the ending "-ough". Why is this? Edit for ...
8
votes
3answers
4k views

Term for words with identical spelling but different meaning and different pronunciation

What do you call words with identical spelling but different meaning and different pronunciation? A couple examples are bass and resume.
3
votes
3answers
382 views

The pronunciation of words which begins 'con' and 'com'

I know there is no strict rule on pronunciation of words in English but here my question is about the words which begin with 'con' and 'com', more than asking general rule. When I look at the words ...