I'm having issues pronouncing barter, order, harder, smarter using General American pronunciation. I can pronounce the individual sounds as well as combinations ɾɚ as in better and ɹɚ as in bearer but the sequence of the three sounds trips me up. I think the problem is that the ɹ sound puts my tongue in a position that is so high and back that I cannot produce the flap anymore, so I force it (and touch the roof of my mouth) and then it sounds like ɹdɚ. What am I doing wrong?

  • 1
    This seems to be relevant in many words containing rter, which is a lot of words.
    – waterlemon
    Sep 25, 2021 at 12:51
  • I wonder if you learned to pronounce English using the "retroflex" or the "bunched" R? I have heard that non-native speakers often find the retroflex version easier, but it does involve putting the tip of the tongue quite high in the mouth, which I imagine would make following it up with a flap rather more difficult. I use a bunched R and the tip of my tongue is not particularly involved in producing that sound, which perhaps leaves it more free to jump in with the flap when required.
    – trent
    Sep 25, 2021 at 21:03
  • A general comment: have you recorded yourself speaking? I assume you have, but it's not clear from your question that you have. Your voice will certainly sound different from the way you perceive it internally, so do make sure you're working on how you actually sound rather than how you hear yourself internally. Sep 26, 2021 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


Don't flap it, then — use a /t/ and not a flap; /ɾ/ and /t/ are allophones in American English, so it doesn't matter which you one use (except maybe if you're trying to speak with a perfect American accent).

Possibly the Americans who use a flap in the sequence /ɹɾɚ/ use a different variety of /r/ than you're using. I'm American, and I use one kind of /r/ in door and harder and a different /r/ in heir and weirder, and I would use a flap in door to and harder but not in heir to and weirder.

  • I'd like to master the flap because I feel like it is by far the most common way to pronounce these words. But now that I think about it, maybe the r before the flap is not the issue but the er sound after it. I can pronounce /ɹɾ/ in party just fine.
    – waterlemon
    Sep 25, 2021 at 12:45
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    But your original post seems to say that you can pronounce potter just fine, as well. So it seems that it's the combination of all three sounds that's difficult. If this is the case, probably all you need is practice. Sep 25, 2021 at 14:55
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    Yes. Practice. Mutter to yourself constantly. And if at all practical, talk to native speakers and imitate their deviations from what you were taught. Sep 25, 2021 at 15:13
  • 3
    And now I'm sitting here muttering "party harder, Potter" to myself. Thankfully nobody's around. Sep 26, 2021 at 3:56

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