How do you pronounce the letter "t" before "h"? For example how do you pronounce "What happened?"? Is it like "whadappened?"

  • 4
    How does who pronounce it, and in what contexts? Careful pronunciation? Rapid, connected speech? Phonemic /t/ is variously [tʰ], [t], [ɾ], or [ʔ] phonetically — depending on region, register, speaker, and utterance. See here. – tchrist Jun 18 '19 at 12:58
  • Re what @tchrist said, in American English, the tendency in everyday speech is for the 't' to be a flap (like the 't' in 'writer'. In British English I think it is a more clear aspirated stop (but in Estuary, likely a glottal stop). – Mitch Jun 18 '19 at 19:06

The correct answer is really that you should pronounce both words as you would in any other context. However, you will hear a difference in regional dialects, and also it is natural for any native speaker to speak quickly and run words together which can result in some letters being dropped or at least under-pronounced.

When a word ends in a consonant sound, we often move the consonant sound to the beginning of the next word if it starts with a vowel sound. So, "what happened" may sound more like "wha-tappened?"

"Dropping" 'T's (T-glottalization) is a fairly common thing and in accents affected by this you may not hear the 't' sound in "what" in any context. Similarly, dropping 'H's occurs in some dialects so your phrase in question may even sound like "wha' 'appened?"

Prouncing "T" as "D" (as in "whaddup?") is also present in some dialects, particularly American accents.

Over-pronouncing the 'T' in "what happened" would stem the flow of natural speech so it may be under-pronounced by many. It will be present, but not as pronounced.

  • Can also be heard as "Wharappened" in some accents where the 't' the 'h' and the space between them disappear to be replaced by an 'r'. – BoldBen Jun 18 '19 at 17:43
  • So is it pronounced like "whad happened" or "whadappened" in an American accent? Without a glottal stop? – Edinburgh1 Jun 20 '19 at 13:02
  • There are lots of different regional American accents, and as a British English speaker I'm hesitant to say this is right for all of them... but to my ears, yes, it would be "whad happened" with less emphasis on the 'H' depending perhaps on how quickly the person spoke. – Astralbee Jun 20 '19 at 14:50
  • Another related item is combining T and D, as in "what do you know" becoming "whadduh ya know" – Barmar Jun 24 '19 at 19:12

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