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Lately I read again my old English book and find out something that I don't understand. It's about Colloquial reductions, the book says that there are two ways to pronounce "to" in the sentences: /tə/ and /də/

Example:

  • /tə/: They hope to find it
  • /də/: We plan to do it

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==> I just want to known the rules to recognize these two cases to pronounce it in the correct way. Please give me some ideas.

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  • Sorry, but I don't get it. What kind of accent is this supposed to be? Brooklynese? Aug 20, 2019 at 14:13
  • I'm not sure, it's a book to teach US accent in my country Aug 20, 2019 at 14:16
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    It's crap. Nobody says "You've got duh pay duh get it" It's "gotta"...etc. Aug 20, 2019 at 14:20
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    There are times when "T" sounds like a "D", but most of those examples are bad. If the rest of the book is like that, throw it out. Seriously..."So /də/ speak..I go /də/ work.." Americans do not generally speak that way, unless they are from NYC. (or maybe I have been out of the states for too long.) Aug 20, 2019 at 15:08
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    Even watching films/tv where the duh is quite pronounced (on purpose, for effect), it's still not as bad as this.
    – Smock
    Aug 20, 2019 at 15:23

1 Answer 1

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There are some American accents that would pronounce to as /də/, but this is not standard, and I wouldn't recommend practicing it.

What is much more common is to "flap" the /t/.

Flapping or tapping, also known as alveolar flapping, intervocalic flapping, or t-voicing, is a phonological process found in many varieties of English, especially North American, Australian and New Zealand English, whereby the voiceless alveolar stop consonant phoneme /t/ is pronounced as a voiced alveolar flap [ɾ], a sound produced by briefly tapping the alveolar ridge with the tongue, when placed between vowels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flapping

This voiced alveolar flap is not really a [d] sound, but it's similar. The author of your book didn't want to confuse readers who probably know what "d" means, but not "ɾ".

This is not something native speakers are taught, and it's not something we try to do. Thus, there are not "rules" governing the use of the flap t. However, its use can be very consistent, and it's easy to see patterns. The pattern being presented in your book is this:

The exact conditions for flapping in North American English are unknown, although it is widely understood that it occurs in an alveolar stop, /t/ or /d/, when placed between two vowels, provided the second vowel is unstressed (as in butter, writing, wedding, loader).[5][12] Across word boundaries, however, it can occur between any two vowels, provided the second vowel begins a word (as in get over [ɡɛɾˈoʊvɚ]).

(Wikipedia, again)

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