As titled, both of these words always sound similar to me. Sometimes, the stress of these words will shift. For example, "seventeen" will say "SEVENteen". I am not sure whether it is correct or not. If so, and why?

  • 2
    They are indeed very similar, but the pronunciation of the n at the end of seventeen should allow you to make a distinction between the two words.
    – Vlammuh
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 13:45
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    In American English, 17 is pronounced /sɛvṇ'tin/, with an aspirated /t/ followed by a stressed tense vowel on the last syllable. 70, on the other hand, is pronounced /'sɛvṇi/, with stress on the first syllable and a minimum last syllable /i/. The stress is the most important difference, but the final syllables are quite different. Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 14:17
  • A dictionary will typically contain the difference in pronunciation. Please specify which dictionaries you have consulted, what they said, and why that was of no help. As to the question "I would like to know how many ways to pronounce these two words?", it is entirely unclear what that even means. Please clarify.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 15:15
  • John, how is 70 pronounced sev ni? I have never heard that...it completely misses the t and is a two syllable sound...even if the t is "light." Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 15:43
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    @michael_timofeev The /t/ is very commonly completely missed, yes. Most commonly, the /nt/ in seventy is reduced to either /n/ or /ɾ̃/ (a nasalised tap). But what John wrote, /ˈsεvn̩i/ is three syllables, not two: the little vertical stroke under the /n/ means it’s syllabic, so it’s basically /sεv.n.i/ with dots separating the syllables. Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


When speaking, you can distinguish between them more easily by stressing a different syllable:

  • 17 = sev en TEEN
  • 70 = SEV en tee
  • Plus, the /t/ is usually not pronounced in 70, so it sounds like "sevenee". But you're right, the stress is the significant clue. Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 14:18
  • In my neck of the woods,we say sevendy, not sevenee.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 15:40
  • I agree with Tim; 70 is pronounced with a distinct /d/ sound and it's how I teach students to say the "ty" numbers to avoid ambiguity. I'm not an expert on regional accents so I'd like to know. Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 15:47
  • Ah, perhaps in connected speech the /d/ or /t/ in "seventy" is barely heard. Must watch more American movies.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 16:06
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    This answer is not intended not go into depth about how people do pronounce these words. It is intended to recommend concisely a way to pronounce these words so that (1) every English speaking listener will understand the speaker and (2) it is easy to hear the difference. Refer to @tchrist's answer for a perfectly fine comprehensive explanation.
    – Jordan
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 5:10

TLDR: Seventeen is /sɛvənˈtin/ but seventy is /ˈsɛvənti/. (However, those are not phonetic transcriptions.)


Regarding your edit, you are right than the stress varies in seventeen. Normally its last syllable is stressed, but sometimes other factors can change this.

For example, when it forms part of a recited sequence of numbers like when counting up to twenty, stress normally shifts to the first syllable. That way the part that varies dominates.

Stress and Aspiration

The honest answer to “how many ways do these words get said” is a great many. However, both words have a cluster of related pronunciations that vary only slightly between region, speaker, register, and environment or context.

The common pronunciations in General American are:

17: seventeen

Phonemic /sɛvənˈtin/ may be realized as phonetic [ˌsɛvɪ̈nˈtʰiːn], [ˌsɛvəⁿˈtʰiːn], [ˌsɛvn̩ˈtʰiːn] (amongst other things).

70: seventy

Phonemic /ˈsɛvənti/ may be realized as phonetic [ˈsɛvn̩di], [ˈsɛvəɾ̃i], [ˈsɛvɾ̃i], ['sɛvṇi] (amongst other things).

As you see, these two words differ from each other in multiple ways. What stands out most is that the /t/ phoneme in seventeen gets pronounced as an aspirated [tʰ] because it is stressed, while in seventy that same /t/ phoneme either reduces to an unaspirated and flapped [ɾ] in careful speech — or, more commonly, is lost altogether.

So stress and aspiration are your main distinguishing features here.

However, those aspects can sometimes be hard to catch in connected speech or over faulty connections. Indeed, over the telephone — especially when one or both parties are stuck using inaudibly supercompressed cell transmission — it is often difficult even for native speakers to distinguish between sixty and sixteen, or between seventy and seventeen.

For more details about the reduction of phonemic /ɛnt/ in this context, see Prof. Lawler’s answer to “How to pronounce twenty correctly?”, in which he concludes with:

Upshot: In American English, /'twəni/ is the normal pronunciation, /'twɛni/ is somewhat more formal and careful, and /'twɛnti/ is fastidiously careful.

The same applies here. Context can help with this if it’s there; for example, someone even quickly reciting the numbers by tens would always be understood because the ‑teen versions wouldn’t make sense there. Imagine kids rapidly counting off by tens while playing hide-and-go-seek; their sequence of:

  • ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eight, ninety, a hundred

becomes a somewhat blurred but completely unambiguous:

  • [ˈtʰɛ̃ˈtʰwɛniˈθɝɾiˈfo˞ɾiˈfɪɾiˈsɪɾiˈsɛvniˈeɪ̯ɾiˈnɐĩ̯ɾijəˈhʌ̃d͡ʒɻʷəd̚]

Better Questions

The more background you give in your question, the better we can answer it. I cannot tell from your profile what your country of origin or native language might be.

  • It may be that you are not used to English sounds reducing under fast speech rules; this reduction happens not only to vowels (virtually always) but also sometimes to consonants, including here.

  • It may also be that you are not hearing the different phonetic allophones of the same underlying English phonemes as “falling into the same bucket”, so to speak.

But without more information from you, we cannot guess what more you need to know for this to become clearer for you.

  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thanks for that. I couldn't decide whether to mark the reduced vowel or the reduced consonant for nasalization, so I ended up going with an alternate representation that may have left something to be desired.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 19:20
  • I agree that twenty is reduced to twenni however I just can't agree that seventy gets this as well. Also, lately I have seen several posts in which people claim that native speakers have trouble understanding each other in various situations...I have never experienced this and I don't have conversations in ivory towers. I also think that the difference between 17 and 70 is a timing issue as well as sound reduction and stress. This goes for all the teens and ty parallels. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 1:32
  • @michael_timofeev Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t. As with most things in language, not only do multiple possibilities exist, it is impossible to select any one of them as being somehow “right” and consign the others to being somehow “wrong”. We can only document what occurs.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 1:38

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