How do I pronounce "can't" with a British accent without it rhyming with "punt" or "paint"?

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    I suspect you just don’t have quite enough phonemes. If you were from Lisboa, I would point out the difference in the quality of the stressed vowel between falamos in the present tense and falámos in the past tense. Even though you are Brazilian, you might know what I am talking about. Think of the Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan: the vowel in Khan is different from the one in pun or one or cunt. That isn’t quite the same as the Lisboeta’s distinction, but it is still far enough apart to be phonemically distinct. – tchrist Jul 15 '13 at 23:51
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    I understood the Portugal's portuguese example, and I agree that probably I don't have enough phonemes. In my head it pretty much the same thing "british can't" and "british "cunt". The Khan was a good example, I'll explore it. – Ericson Willians Jul 16 '13 at 0:05
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    I understood the difference now. It is because in my Portuguese the bloody encounter of "a" with "n" creates a different sound in "a" (ã), like in the word for bread "pão" ['pα˜w]. This makes my brain imagine "can't" like "cunt" and not "cAn't (Like the german A). – Ericson Willians Jul 16 '13 at 0:14
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    Also remember that the a in ‘can’t’ is long, whereas the ‘uh’ sound in ‘cunt’ is short. /a/ before nasals in Portuguese is closed to [ɐ], which sounds quite similar to the [ʌ] in ‘cunt’. It doesn’t sound similar to the [ɑː] in ‘can’t’ at all, though. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 '13 at 10:49
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    No homework. Question does not show any previous research effort. – Kris Jul 18 '13 at 6:35

/kɑːnt/ (BrEng pronunciation)

k as in "k ite"

ɑː as in "c ar"

n as in n ose

t as in t ie

  • Source? Does that by some chance make the question a GR? The rest of the answers make this an opinion question, OT. – Kris Jul 18 '13 at 6:33

Say it like "Kant", as in the name of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

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    The problem seem to be that the OP just Kahnt pronounce either. – Kris Jul 18 '13 at 6:34
  • @Kris obligatory and awful – Ladlestein Jul 22 '13 at 23:41

I'm English and we pronounce can't like are, for example car-nt so just say car with nt on the end carnt or c-are-nt

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    Hi Megan, welcome to ELU! There are a great many different accents in Britain, and I haven't heard that particular pronunciation. Could you tell me which part of England that is? – Erich May 8 '15 at 0:23

I believe the British pronounce it "cawn't"

  • No, the ‘aw’ sound is not the sound found in ‘can’t’ in British English. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 '13 at 10:46
  • @Janus: Unless you're from a part of the U.S. (e.g. most of the West) that pronounces dawn and Don the same. Most of these regions pronounce them both with the same vowel the British use for "can't" – Peter Shor Jul 16 '13 at 12:06
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    No, they pronounce them both with a vowel that is not found in (standard) British English at all. Even so, using American-based pseudo-phonetics to explain British English pronunciation to a Brazilian does not seem like the best option available. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 '13 at 12:23
  • @Janus: I believe the vowel varies (since it's a merger of several vowels, any one of them will work), and that often it's pronounced with the same vowel that the British use in can't. However, I totally agree that West-Coast American based pseudo-phonetics is a bad idea to explain pronunciation to anybody. – Peter Shor Jul 16 '13 at 13:53

There are a great many pronunciations of can't in British English. I assume you mean a standard RP /kɑːnt/. In that case you need a vowel which you don't have in American English, the long back a. Fortunately, you have a short back a in words like palm and lot (in Standard American English), the open back unrounded vowel. You need to say the vowel in the middle of those words but make it longer.

It's a pure vowel, so first try saying it in a long, extended sound to make sure you understand the articulation in your mouth. In Britain this is the sound our dentists make us say so you get an impression of the shape that would be to allow a dentist to gain access. [Yes, British dentists do exist, ;-)].

When you can do that, try saying the vowel about twice as long as you normally would, but put the (uncomplicated) consonants at the start and end.

When you can reliably join those sounds together, listen to someone speaking the word and modify the length of the vowel accordingly.

Try to avoid regional or Scottish or Welsh accents (unless they're you're target) or extremely posh people, as this is a vowel sound with a great variety in England: it is one of the most important regional differences in England.

The link below sounds reasonably standard modern British English to me.



To say "can't" without it ryhming with "punt" is you make it rhyme like car. For example: carn't

  • I'm afraid that doesn't help. There's no r there, and they can't know that. – tchrist Mar 20 '16 at 12:29
  • I know there's no 'r' in can't but that 'r' was there to show how to say can't. – Trainer Gold Mar 21 '16 at 6:59

protected by tchrist Mar 20 '16 at 12:27

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