I thought it might be called a soft T, but upon looking that up, it seems a soft T is when T sounds like D, as in putty or letter.

What I mean though is when Batman uses his second favorite cup, it's his "backup bat cup", and both of those sound the samewhen I say them casually.

I'm not sure if this is local accent, or universal, but I notice when my family and I say any word ending in T, we don't emphasize the T and I couldn't find anything discussing it.

  • 2
    The technical term is an unreleased T. There's also the unreleased P of yep and nope. There's probly an unreleased K too, but I can't think of an example. Since voiceless stops like /p, t, k/ can be held indefinitely, they don't need a release the way voiced stops like /b, d, ɡ/ do. Aug 25, 2021 at 2:12
  • It might help to indicate your region.  In some regions there's a clear distinction between e.g. ‘buddy’ and ‘butty’.
    – gidds
    Aug 25, 2021 at 9:01
  • "both of those sound the samewhen I say them casually" indicates either a stiff local accent/dialect, or a speech impediment. There should be a clear tick sound at the end of "bat" in "bat cup", plus a short delay before the next word begins.
    – PcMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 10:35
  • @PcMan We do not put spaces between our words in connected speech, doncha know! What you've said to this poor fellow about a speech impediment is incredibly cruel and completely false. You are dangerously uninformed, even misinformed, so please study how people really talk; for starters, you will want to look up "allegro rules" or "fast speech rules" on Google Scholar. The phonological changes in real speech compared with citation forms are an entire field of linguistic study, far too extensive to cite here. Real people speak real English. They have no "speech impediment" while doing so.
    – tchrist
    Aug 26, 2021 at 3:05
  • @tchrist So you believe that "backup", "bat cup" and "bag up" are the SAME WORD? So if I ask you to "Bag up your backup tapes and take them back up to the second floor", you will be terribly confused? My co-workers would not be confused, because we all use different sounds to say those three words. (We do not regularly use "bat cup" though, so it's hard to use in the same sentence.)
    – PcMan
    Aug 26, 2021 at 4:02

3 Answers 3


John Lawler mentioned the term "unreleased" in a comment. John Wells has a blog post saying he prefers the term "no audible release". Both terms have been used in linguistics to refer to the phenomenon that you discussed. The "release" is the stage of pronouncing a plosive--a consonant like /p t k b d g/--where airflow stops being obstructed by the relevant parts of the vocal apparatus (the lips for the labial plosives /p b/, parts of the tongue and the teeth or roof of the mouth for other kinds of plosives). An audible release sounds like a puff of air after the plosive.

Wells says that when word-final plosive consonants have no audible release, it may be because the release is "masked" by a following consonant sound: for example, the /k/ in "bat cup", or in some cases a glottal plosive.

See also Araucaria's answer on this site.


Not sure if this is what you're talking about but there is something called a "held T", where as in this case the T is held at the end of words when the next word begins with a consonant.


Any letter which is never pronounced can be described as e.g. "silent T".

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons why, for particular words, a letter is, by convention, silent. In French the last letter of a word is usually not pronounced except when the next word starts with a vowel but this exception would not apply in English to loanwords of French origin so there are loanwords in English where the final T is never pronounced - e.g. parfait.

I am told that in American English there is a phenomenon known as an "unreleased T" which means that whether on not the T is fully pronounced depends on whether the speaker wishes to emphasise the word (T not normally fully pronounced but can be pronounced fully for emphasis) and that this might be what the OP is referring to. In British English we just use tone and speed for emphasis but do not change pronunciation so, depending on the particular word, the letter is either always pronounced or always not pronounced: it does not vary. Absent the phenomenon of an "unreleased T" in British English, not fully pronouncing the final letter of a word which, by convention, is always pronounced would be regarded in British English as an error or fault and we refer to it by saying e.g. "he drops his Ts".

  • Silent t is completely different. The t in question is 'unreleased'. E.g. the t in whistle is silent not unreleased. Aug 25, 2021 at 9:20
  • So I reckon y'all don't drop your P's in your cupboards either, do ya now? Do you shame people who do?
    – tchrist
    Aug 25, 2021 at 10:42
  • We would not say the P is "dropped", because it is meant to be silent. But shaming people who drop T's which they shouldn't, is a sociological and political phenomenon. Traditionally many people who would be considered "working class" dropped their Ts but leaders of political parties which made a particular appeal to the "working class" would speak conventional English. In recent decades leaders of those same political parties have come from very rich backgrounds but deliberately drop their T's to sound more "working class" and so, in some circles, dropping T's is a badge of honour!
    – Nemo
    Aug 25, 2021 at 11:04

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