In the dictionary, the pronunciation of actually is written as /æktuəli/, which sounds like ack-chew-uh-li. Most of the time, we don't say all four syllables, but instead, we use three: "ack-chuh-li." Use the video above to help you hear and pronounce this word the way Americans do. Then try some sentences using the word.
In American English, we have 3 different ways of making a "T" sound. For all of the /t/ sounds, we use the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge (the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth). In the start of words, we always use an aspirated t. This means we have a puff of air which escapes when we release the t.
At the ends of words, Americans often use a stopped T. This means they move the tongue into position for the /t/, but they don't release the air.
In the middle of words, we use aspirated T, stopped T, and flapped T. A Flap T is different because the voice is on (unlike the other types of T, which are voiceless), and a flap T does not have any build-up of air like a T or a D. The tongue contacts the alveolar ridge lightly and releases immediately. If you have difficulty with flap T, it can help to think of it as a light D sound.
Unfortunately, we don't always use a flap T in the middle of words. The video below gives you examples of the following patterns:
Medial T is usually flapped when between 2 vowel sounds. This includes final T when the next word begins with a vowel and we link words. (Final T Linking is discussed here.)
Most words with -ter, -ted, -test, -ting, -ty
better, batter, butter, letter, waiter, writer, water, litter, greater, lighter, wetter
waited, righted, lighted, matted, sighted, fitted,
metabolic, artificial, comforting, dirty, city
greatest, hottest, fatal, hospital, turtle
Medial T (stopped when followed by syllabic n or -ment, -ance, -ly, -m)
Button kitten mittens rotten cotton mountain threaten
Appointment, department, commitment, disappointment, adjustment, treatment
Important, Importance, combatant, pollutant,
Medial T between 2 vowels (aspirated when second syllable is stressed, other exceptions)
Guitar potato eighteen hotel motel retirement material
Architecture laboratory irritant militant
Medial T (aspirated when not any of the above: in a cluster, not between two vowels)
Distant, Opportunity, transportation, Intonation, enter, interpretation, reputation, representation, concentrate, multi-, sophisticated, documentation, investigate, particular, metro-, consultation, continuation, anticipation
Medial nt words, can sometimes omit t: wanted, Santa Barbara, counter, anti- (eg antibiotic) inter-(eg international), representative, identification, disappointing, advantage
One of the most frequently occurring accent error patterns is using and "s" sound at the end of a word when you should be saying a "z" sound. Use the videos below to learn how to correct this error pattern, and how to know when letter s says "s" and when it says "z."
Guidelines for pronouncing letter "s" at the ends of words:
If you see an s or se at the end of the word, it is usually pronounce /z/. Check the dictionary to be sure.
Spelled letters -ss, say /s/
examples: glass, grass, less, guess
Spelled letters -ce, say /s/
examples: ice, place, space, face
Spelled letter -s, Usually /z/
examples: was, is, goes, his, as, eyes (say "waz, iz, goez, hiz, az, eyez")
Spelled letter -s, (sometimes s)
examples: yes, us
Spelled letters -se, Usually /z/
examples: those, use, these, please (say "thoz, uz, thez, pleaaz")
Spelled letters -se, (sometimes s)
examples: house, goose, lease
The word the is the most frequently used word in English. Many non-native speakers mispronounce it. Use the videos below to help you learn to pronounce the correctly.
Need more help for the sounds in the word the? The video below goes into detail on the American Th and how to correct it in the most frequently used word in English.
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Many people mispronounce the word says. Even though we have vowel ay /eɪ/ in the word say, says has vowel ɛ. This is the vowel in our anchor phrase red tent. Says rhymes with fez and rez.
Also make sure you use a /z/ sound on the end of the word. Say "sez" /sɛz/, not "s-ay-s" /ses/.
For more help with vowel /ɛ/, go to our practice for vowel /ɛ/.
For more help with final /z/ sounds, check out our practice for final /z/.
For more everyday mistakes, see our YouTube playlist and our Quick Fix Practice.
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