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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One of the error patterns which is common for non-native speakers of English is to say an extra syllable in certain words. This usually occurs because the spelled word looks like it should have additional sounds/syllables, or the root word has a different syllable pattern.
Here are a few common words with this error pattern:
different This word has 2 syllables: dif - rent. Avoid saying 3 syllables, dif-er-ent.
difference This word has 2 syllables: dif -rence. Avoid saying 3 syllables, dif-er-ence.
vegetable This word has 3 syllables: veg - ta - ble. Avoid saying e syllables, veg-e-ta-ble.
several This word has 2 syllables: se - vral. Avoid saying 3 syllables, se-ver-al.
interest This word has 2 syllables: in - trest. Avoid saying 3 syllables, in-ter-est.
interesting, interested These words can be pronounced with either 3 syllables or 4 syllables. In most cases, we use 3 syllables to make our speech more fluent, especially when the word is in a sentence. Using 3 syllables will typically make your speech sound more American, and using 4 syllables will make your speech sound more accented.
3 syllables (preferable): in - tres - ting, in - tres - ted
4 syllables: in - ter - est - ing, in - ter - es - ted
groceries This word can be either 2 syllables: gros - ries or 3 syllables: gro - ser- ies. Like the above words, using 3 syllables will typically make your speech sound more American, and using 4 syllables will make your speech sound more accented.
general This word can be either 2 syllables: gen - ral or 3 syllables: gen - er- al. Using 2 syllables is preferable to sound like a fluent American speaker.
preferable This word can be either 3 syllables: pref - ra - ble or 4 syllables: pref - er- a - ble. Using the reduced version will help you sound like a fluent American speaker.
Adverbs with -ally:
basically, typically These words have 3 syllables. Ba - sic - ly; ty -pic - ly. Avoid using 4 syllables ba-sic-a-ly; ty-pic-a-ly.
specifically This word has 4 syllables. spe - ci - fic - ly. Avoid using 5 syllables, spe-ci-fic-a-ly.
automatically This word has 5 syllables. au - to - ma - tic - ly. Avoid using 6 syllables, au-to-ma-ti-ca-ly.
actually, especially These words can be either 3 or 4 syllables. Using the reduced version is advised.
3 syllables: ac-tul-ly; es-pesh-ly
4 syllables: ac-tu-a-ly; es-pe-shu-ly
For more help with words ending in -ly, see this post.
You can use the recording below to practice saying these words with the correct number of syllables.
How to Pronounce Words with PRO
When a word begins with the letters P R O, the letter “o” can make 3 different vowel sounds, depending on the word.
O can say “o, ” as in programmer.
O can say “ah” as in problem
Or, O can say “uh” as in provide.
The best way to find out the pronunciation for words with pro is to look them up. I recommend using the Oxford learner’s dictionary, so you can see British English and American English pronunciations. You will also see that there are sometimes more than one way Americans say these words.
Words with PRO that have the stress on the first syllable will have “o” /oʊ/ or “ah” /ɑ/ for the vowel, because the stressed syllable in a word has a long, clear vowel. Pro——grammer, pro——blem. Words with the stress on another syllable will have the vowel schwa in the “pro” prefix, because it is short and unstressed. Pro-vi——de.
Let’s look at some common words which have the “O” /oʊ/ vowel.
programmer profile program protest protocol
These words are all stressed on the first syllable. Other first syllable stressed pro words have the vowel ah /ɑ/. For example,
problem process produce proxy progress profit
When the "pro" prefix is unstressed, it will have vowel schwa /ə/, "uh." It is short and unstressed. Provide promote propose protect procedure professional
Because we see the letter o in these words, we might say the “o” /oʊ/ vowel when we should say "ah" /ɑ/ or "uh" /ə/. Try looking at these same words with the IPA symbol for the vowel instead of the words. Say the words with me, and use the visual cues to help you.
prɑblem prɑcess prɑduct
prəvide prəmote prəpose
30-Day Accent Challenge, Day 26
When we add s to make a plural, the voicing of the s (whether it says "s" or "z") depends on the voicing of the word. If the word ends with a voiceless sound (p, t, k, f), the s will be voiceless /s/. If the word ends with a voiced sound (b, d, g, v, r, w, m, n ng. l, vowels), the s will be voiced /z/. When the word ends with an s, z, sh, ch or j sound, we add the letters -es and pronounce an extra syllable "-ez"/əz/. Below you will find plurals for the most common nouns, sorted by voiced and voiceless sounds.
Words ending in voiceless sounds p, t, k, f. For these plurals, pronounce /s/.
Words ending in voiced sounds (b, d, g, v, r, w, m, n ng. l, vowels). For these plurals, pronounce/z/.
Words ending in s, z, sh, ch or j. Add -es, and pronounce an extra syllable -ez /əz/.
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