I’m asking about American English, but feel free to answer about other dialects.

The ‑ing verbal inflection ending is, in the abstract, a phonemic /ɪŋ/. Those phonemes usually get realized phonetically as literally the sounds [ɪŋ] in General American, and this is the way it seems to be pronounced by most Americans.

Even so, there are many Americans I’ve heard pronounce the ‑ing ending as [əŋ]. You can "spot" that pronunciation if the verb ends with a ‑t like eat. They say eating /ˈitɪŋ/ as one of these instead:

  • [ˈiɾɪŋ] with a flap for phonemic /t/, or
  • [ˈiʔəŋ] with a glottal stop for the /t/ and a schwa for the /ɪ/, or
  • [ˈiʔən] with [n] for phonemic /ŋ/, or
  • just plain [ˈiʔn̩] with a syllabic consonant

A comical example

My questions are:

  1. How common is that pronunciation?
  2. Is it a regional thing? and if so, in which regions?
  3. For me, [iʔən] sounds a bit dumb and uneducated* (when Americans say it, but not for English people). Do Americans also share that notion?

* I thought this way even before watching the linked clip, but the clip really made that notion strong for me.


1 Answer 1


Yes, I agree with your observations, except that (1) I would identify the second vowel of your [ˈiɾɪŋ] as barred i, a high central-to-back vowel produced by assimilation to the following velar n, and (2) I don't hear a schwa after the glottal stop (so the glottal stop is explained as due to the change of t to glottal stop immediately before a non-fricative consonant). Also, I think that for the variant with flap and barred i, the final velar can readily change to alveolar, which is interpreted as phonemically velar because of its backing influence on the preceding vowel.

  • 1
    While the velar-alveolar vacillation of the -ing suffix is generally quite loose, I think the flap variant given here is one of the few places where it doesn’t apply. The flap allophone of /t/ is in complementary distribution with the velar allo(morpho)phones of the -ing suffix: [ɾ] appears only with [ɪŋ] (I have no raising before the velar), and [ɪn ~ n̩] appear only with the glottal-stop and alveolar allophones of /t/ and /d/. Feb 16, 2018 at 17:03
  • 1
    As a non-linguist, I argue that one can't really hear the schwa sound after a consonant and before l/m/n/r in natural speech speed, it's simply gets absorbed by the second consonant. the schwa is there simply for consistency, IMHO.
    – David Haim
    Feb 17, 2018 at 12:00

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