I know that try to is pronounced /tɹaɪɾə/, but how is tried to pronounced?

It wouldn't make sense for it to have the same pronunciation, because then we wouldn't be able to differentiate between those two, since context might not be enough. Is it the vowel length?

I was thinking maybe /tɹaɪdtə/, but I'm not sure.

  • 1
    They might not be quite the same, but they're very similar. However, context is usually enough. Consider put (past tense) and put (present tense). How are you going to distinguish those without context? Sep 10, 2016 at 1:33
  • Oh right, I forgot about "put". Now that I think about it it really isn't that hard to differentiate by context. But either way, do you know what's the difference between thise two?
    – Phonsar
    Sep 10, 2016 at 1:44
  • The two sound almost the same, except that there is a very abbreviated "D" sound in "tried to". The tongue position is slightly different between the two.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 10, 2016 at 2:40
  • @HotLicks What do you mean by different tongue positions? Aren't they both supposed to be alveolar?
    – Phonsar
    Sep 10, 2016 at 3:07
  • @Phonsar - I said slightly different. And that slight difference makes all the difference. The tongue touches the roof of the mouth slightly farther back when you say "tried to". The tongue also touches the roof twice.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 10, 2016 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


For most North Americans, excepting only the Deep South, Canadian Raising applies to try to [ˈt͡ʂɻʷʌɪɾə] — but not to tried to, which is just the un-raised form [ˈt͡ʂɻʷɾə]. This is the same thing that happens between writer and rider, despite both being flaps; the one that originally had a /t/ is raised.

The diphthong in tried to is also held longer than the one in try to. I think this may be because of the original /d/ phoneme at the end of tried, which assimilates into the merged flap of tried to. As Peter Shor observes, trite is probably a better example of Canadian Raising.

For the record, I have the Inland North accent of the Great Lakes, so plenty of Canadian Raising and no cot–caught merge. However, I don’t have the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

  • Really? I would have thought Canadian Raising would treat both of them the same. From Wikipedia: Canadian raising affects vowels before voiceless consonants like /f/, /θ/, /t/, and /s/. But tried ends with /d/. I certainly pronounce the vowel in trite slightly differently than the one in try or tried, but I suppose this might work differently depending on your accent. Sep 10, 2016 at 2:09
  • Ah ... maybe you raise the vowel in try to because in try to it's followed by a /t/. I don't—the vowel and consonant have to be in the same word for it to be raised in my speech. Sep 10, 2016 at 2:14
  • @PeterShor Now that you mention it, trite does seem a little different: shorter maybe; perhaps it’s the real [t] on the end. I think the lengthening effect from the tried may be more noticeable than the raising in try to, which I agree doesn’t seem so high with try to as it does in trite. I have an Inland North accent but without the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.
    – tchrist
    Sep 10, 2016 at 2:31

The two are easily distinguibile in pronunciation. (Context could help if a speaker does not enunciate clearly.)

tried to has a distinct d sound not heard in try to. And yes, the vowel length is probably longer in the latter.

For instance, I try to brush my teeth and I tried to brush my teeth are easily distinguished by listening.

I can't find two sentences that are the same except for try to/tried to, but the following may help:

try to -> http://forvo.com/phrase/i_might_try_to_explain/

tried to -> http://forvo.com/phrase/she_tried_to_reach_the_vase_but_overbalanced_and_fell_off_the_stool./

Note the speakers above speak at s different rate, so it's not s perfect comparison, but it should illustrate the difference. Of course, the ending t in might is not pronounced fully before the beginning t of try to, unless the speaker is deliberately speaking slowly and stressing each word.

  • These are two different speakers talking with two completely different accents. I don't think it's very helpful. And it's easy to distinguish them in British English, but not in American English, because try to has /t/ and tried to has /d/. Could you explain how tried to differs from try to. Is it the vowel or the consonant? Sep 10, 2016 at 2:04
  • nope, that's the best I can do. meanwhile no one else has yet answered Sep 10, 2016 at 2:08

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