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Is it true that only unstressed words in a sentence, which have H at the beginning of the words, will be dropped in American English?

Off course, these H words will not be the beginning of the sentence.

For example, "Was he there?" will be spoken as /wə zi ðer/

But "He's right here" will be spoken as /hi raɪt hɪr/ not /hi raɪ tɪr/

The he in Was he there? is unstressed so its H will be dropped, but the here in He's right here is stressed so its H will not be dropped?

I also heard that nowadays young American people don't drop the H too much but the old American ones may drop the H more.

Personally, I think speak with H no matter it is stressed or unstressed words is much easier for people to understand?

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    I believe this depends on the speaker. I drop all the 'h's in unstressed syllables that don't follow a vowel or start a phrase. And I don't think any Americans drop 'h's in stressed syllables. – Peter Shor Feb 8 '15 at 2:41
  • "Was he ..." will tend to be pronounced as "wuzzy" (hence the old Fuzzy Wuzzy nursery rhyme). It's hard to argue that the H is not pronounced, though, since the "ZZ" sound ending "was" puts the tongue in exactly the right position to produce the initial part of the "H" sound. It's just that it takes an unusual (and awkward-sounding) effort to insert a pause between "was" and "he" so that the H is distinct. – Hot Licks Feb 8 '15 at 2:53
  • The answer to this question depends on what exactly American English means here; does it refer to all Americans, or just some standard dialect? For example: some NYC speakers will drop H even if a word is stressed, e.g. the word "human" would be pronounced /ˈjuː.mən/ . – jprogers272 Feb 8 '15 at 7:20
  • @jprogers272: NYC speakers only drop "h" in stressed words if they start with /hjuː/ — human, huge, humid, etc. – Peter Shor Feb 8 '15 at 11:23
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    @HotLicks The right position to produce [h] is with an open glottis and no closure or approximation at all anywhere in the vocal tract. [z] requires partial closure of the tongue to the alveolar ridge and/or the teeth. So no, the tongue is not in the right position to pronounce [h] at the end of was; that requires movement. The main thing is, however, the ‘pause’ as you call it: [h] is voiceless, whereas both [z] and [i:] are voiced, so to pronounce the h in he, you have to briefly stop the vibration of your vocal chords, blow out a bit of air, and then start the vibration again. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 9 '15 at 13:16
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It depends on whether one is speaking formally or informally. Formal-style speech will include the fully aspirated /h/, whereas in casual speech it is usually omitted. The difference is similar to the use of, for example, the more formal he is versus the more informal contraction he's.

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  • In longer words like "human", "house" and so on, this is true, but for short unstressed words like "he", "his", "him", I wouldn't think formality would affect their pronunciation so much. – herisson Feb 8 '15 at 9:52
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    @sumelic: When would a speaker of standard American English ever omit the /h/ from house? – jdmc Feb 8 '15 at 14:05
  • @sumelic: Do you remember the character Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation? He never used contractions, such as he's or it's. That is the "formal" style of speech I'm describing. Data would've never said, for example, I believe 'e is correct; he would've aspirated the /h/ in he. – jdmc Feb 8 '15 at 14:09
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I think the 'h' should be pronounced regardless of whether the word is at the beginning of the sentence.

It's not uncommon, however, to hear people do as you describe and drop syllables.

But I'd encourage you always to enunciate and pronounce the letter 'h.'

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    If people always pronounced the H, we wouldn't have the "fuzzy wuzzy" nursery rhyme. :) poetpatriot.com/poems-rhyfuzzywuzzy.htm – Barmar Feb 8 '15 at 6:20
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    This is bad advice, since it will accomplish nothing but making you sound either like a non-native speaker, or (as jdmc says) like Data from Star Trek. In either case, you’ll sound anything but natural. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 9 '15 at 13:18

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