When I listen to the Beatles' "LET IT BE", I can distinctly hear that the first T is pronounced like Polish or Russian or Spanish "R", only more quickly and softer. But when I watch "The Negative Reaction" episode from COLUMBO TV series, I can distinctly hear that when Lorna says "Mrs Peterson", her "T" is pronounced like Polish or Russian or Spanish "D", not "R". I asked my Tennessee friend about it and he says that he hears no differences. But I hear the differences! Even that edition of Advanced Oxford dictionary that I own says that "it is like a brief /d/ or the r-sound...". That is the dictionary implies that there can be two versions of flap-t. But all Canadian and American students I ask about it say that they see no difference. Can native British English-speakers tell me if I am right when saying that I see the differences in pronouncing this FLAP T.

For example, Abba pronounces "D" in "waiting" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ7C127Q-GY. But they pronounce Polish/Russian "R" in "takes it all" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyIOl-s7JTU

  • 1
    We’d need sound recordings to answer whether the two particular instances you're talking about are different. But flapped /t/ (like all other sounds) can vary in its exact pronunciation, and yes, both [d] and [ɾ] are possible values depending on context, speed of speech, dialect, etc. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:32
  • Thank you, Janus Bahs Jacquet, for you immediate answer. I have just edited my question to give links to some recordings. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I may be completely off, but I’m guessing by the way the asker has used phonemic slashes instead of phonetic brackets here, combined with how they’ve clustered several kinds of ever-so-slightly different coronal flaps in their question, suggests to me that they may have a broader classification in mind here than would necessarily apply with exact pronunciations. Wide variations in realization lead to virtually infinite allophones, depending on how many digits of precision your measuring tool has.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:42
  • 3
    Relevant post on John Wells’s phonetic blog: tap, tap
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:50
  • 3
    bit weird to use abba as an example being non natives with accents that show it, but if it illustrates your point why not I suppose...
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


As per the comments from Janus Bahs Jacquet and tchrist, there is bound to be a range of variations in the way flapped T is pronounced, which could be regional, social or idiosyncratic to a particular speaker.

In terms of standard forms of English, flapped-T is primarily an American phenomenon (it also occurs in Australian English and some regional accents of England and Ireland). It must be borne in mind that, whilst The Beatles (Paul McCartney, at least) and Abba undoubtedly sang with American-influenced pronunciation, neither group was from the USA, so their pronunciation was almost certainly influenced to some extent by their native accent/language.

  • 1
    And it should further be noted that in very many cases the pronunciations of song lyrics are often not the pronunciations that even those singers would use in normal speech, but rather they have been modified to suit the song.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.