What is the correct pronunciation of the words "clothes" and "February" in the American English? A lot of people pronounce "clothes" as /kloʊz/, dropping the 'th', as for "February", I hear that the first 'r' is often dropped. Are these variants correct?

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    I doubt that one US citizen in ten would pronounce the "th" in "clothes" (beyond maybe a token effort). As to "February", I'd guess it's about 50/50, or maybe 60/40 in favor of dropping the first "r". (Though I favor keeping the "r".)
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 29, 2015 at 17:37
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    In the USA it's /kloz/ and /'fɛbəwɛri/ (or /'fɛbwɛri/ in rapid speech). I've never heard a native speaker say /'fɛbruwɛri/, but I have heard /'fɛbɚwɛri/. The tense /o/ in clothes may be longer than usual for some speakers /klo:z/, but that's normal for any vowel preceding a voiced consonant like /z/. Apr 29, 2015 at 17:49
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    In Britain one seldom, if ever, hears the first 'r' in February. I think it was only after I left secondary school that I discovered it contained a first r, and when I started work was embarrassed to find it wasn't spelled Febuary. But those speaking in the Received Pronunciation (possibly fewer than 5% of the popuIation) would show some sort of respect, however limited, for the 'th' in clothes.
    – WS2
    Apr 29, 2015 at 17:51
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    It should be noted that in the US the R-less "February" may be pronounced (roughly) "feb-you-ary" or "feb-oo-ary". The latter is not easily distinguished from the R-full version when used in rapid speech. The former sticks out like a sore thumb.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 29, 2015 at 18:04
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    One should look in a dictionary. All three dictionaries I looked in list the pronunciations close /kloʊz/ and Febuary /fɛb(j)uɛri/ first, which usually means they're both more common and also not considered incorrect. But the pronunciations with 'th' and 'r' are also listed, and I would say those are considered correct as well. Apr 29, 2015 at 19:49

3 Answers 3


Often, I hear this in casual speech:

  • Clothes turns into "close" (especially in a word like "clothespins")
  • February turns into "feb-you-ary"
  • Close and Febuary. Exactly right from all I've ever said out here in hillbilly land.. I didn't even realize February had two R's until I was in my 30s. Misspelled it for years. Restaurant next one to get right without spellcheck. Restarant Mar 11, 2016 at 20:34
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    @Chenmunka the OP wanted to know if these variants were "correct" -- but what does that mean? Heard in the wild? Spoken by the Queen? Seemed to me he wanted to know whether people said things this way in real life. The answer, for better or worse, is "yes".
    – Tom Hundt
    Mar 14, 2016 at 23:56

My dictionary allows no option at all, for dropping the first 'r' in February. However it does give the option to drop the 'th' in clothes. It just goes to show how diverse and flexible is American English.

I personally always at least try to give both of them their full pronunciations (they're tongue-twisters!), often wincing whenever I hear the more reckless versions.

But I refrain from over-reacting or lecturing anyone about it. I just take notice and file it away for future reference; not to hold it against anyone, but as a means of understanding people better.

Webster's New 20th C. Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, 2nd Ed. c.1959


I'm an American who is arguing on quota about "clothes". Being in the dictionary doesn't mean it's correct as much as it is just really common. Saying "close" instead of clothes is just lazy and calls to mind all the brain dead followers who say "literally" for emphasis when they are speaking figuratively. Just because a lot of people say it, doesnt make it correct. Loads of people say "17 year locusts" when in fact, they are cicadas which have no relation whatsoever to locusts other than they are both insects.

  • Jim, I so very much agree with just about every part of that. Thank you. Mar 5, 2020 at 18:00

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