Ends of Words — A Special Trick

Consonant sounds at the ends of English words are difficult for many students, but it is definitely important to pronounce them well. This is explained in Ends of Words.

If you have difficulty pronouncing word-final consonants in English, here is a special trick that can make it easier: link the end of the word to the beginning of the next word.

Let’s use the sentence “He saved up his money”, for an example. 

In the phrase “saved up”, pronouncing the “-ed” can be tricky, and skipping this “-ed” is a fairly common mistake for students. But in normal conversation, the [d] at the end of “saved” links to the beginning of the word “up”, and it actually sounds like: “save-dup”.

This kind of linking is a normal part of English pronunciation, so it is a trick that makes you sound more natural, and moving the [d] sound to the beginning of the next word makes it easier to pronounce.

Linking can also help to avoid the problem of added vowel sounds. In “saved up” the [e] is silent, but some students have trouble saying the [v] next to the [d] without sticking a vowel sound in the middle. But that could cause a problem, because if the [e] is not silent, then it will end up sounding like “save it up” instead.

Even though linking can make pronunciation easier, it can sometimes make listening harder. Some students have asked me “Why do we have to say the last letter, if native speakers don’t?” They mistakenly think that native speakers skip the last letter, because they don’t hear it at the end of the word, since it is delayed until the beginning of the next word.

Linking a consonant to a vowel

When the second word starts with a vowel, it is easier to hear the linked consonant:
talked about:  “talk-dabout”
hard enough: “har-denough”
stops it: “stop-sit”
turned off: “turn-doff”

Linking a consonant to a consonant

When the second word starts with a consonant, the ending of the first word is harder to hear, so it may seem like it is missing. However, if it is actually removed, then it would sound different. For example, in the phrase “keep speaking”, you might think that the [p] is missing, but if I acutally take it away, then it would sound like I am saying “key speaking”!

Here are a few more examples:
“might buy” (not “my by”)
“teen center” (not “tee center”)
“seat cover” (not “sea cover”)
“home plate” (not “hoe plate”)

Listen for linking when you hear native English speakers. And give it try yourself. It can help you speak more clearly.


A tongue-twister: Thistle sticks


Six thick thistle sticks.
Six thick thistle sticks.
Six thick thistle sticks.

This tongue-twister is good for practicing 2 things:

1. Short-i. In all of these words, the [i] uses the Short-i sound. The key to Short-i is to relax your tongue so that it doesn’t sound like Long-E (see This or These ).

2. “TH”. Be careful –“TH” should not sound like the “S”! (see TH Part 1 & TH Part 2 )

Homographs Part 3

A homograph is a word that has two different pronunciations, and the different pronunciations have different meanings. The words in Homographs Part 1 have a change in vowel sound, and Homographs Part 2 deals with words that have a change in a consonant sound. However, the words here have a change in word stress.

One important thing to know is that changes in word stress often cause changes in vowel sounds, so in some of these words you may notice a vowel sound change, but that change goes with the shift in stress. The primary way that vowels change with word stress is by becoming weaker and reducing to Schwa when they are in a syllable that is not stressed. Here is an example:

OBject (noun – a thing):
–the first syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the strong syllable and has a Short-o sound

obJECT (verb – to voice disagreement):
–the second syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the weak syllable and sounds like Schwa

(The capitalized letters show the stressed syllable, but this is not normal spelling).

Word-stress homograph examples

ADdress (noun – the location of a building)
adDRESS (verb – to write down an address OR to speak to a group of people)

COMpound (noun – something made of two or more parts)
comPOUND (verb – to combine or add)

CONtest (noun – a game or event of competition)
conTEST (verb – to challenge or dispute)

CONtract (noun – a written agreement)
conTRACT (verb – to make smaller in size)

DEcrease (noun – the total reduction in the amount of something)
deCREASE (verb – to become smaller in amount)

DIgest (noun – a compilation of information)
diGEST (verb – to break down food in the stomach)

ENtrance (noun – a place of access such as a door or gate)
enTRANCE (verb – to completely captivate someone’s attention)

EXtract (noun – something taken from a larger work or substance)
exTRACT (verb – to remove or pull out)

INcline (noun – a slope or hill)
inCLINE (verb – to lean, tip, or tilt something)

INcrease (noun – the amount that something has grown)
inCREASE (verb – to become greater or larger)

OFfense (noun – the players on a sports team that attack or advance)
ofFENSE (noun – an illegal act)

PERfect (adjective – something that is as good as it can possibly be)
perFECT (verb – to improve or make something as good as possible)

PREsent (noun – a gift)
preSENT (verb – to show or give something formally)

PROduce (noun – food that has been grown, such as vegetables)
proDUCE (verb – to make or create something)

PROject (noun – a large or extended task or piece of work)
proJECT (verb – to estimate, forecast or predict)

PROtest (noun – an group of people organized to display objection to something)
proTEST (verb – to express an objection)

REcord (noun – a written account of information)
reCORD (verb – to keep or store information for future use)

REfund (noun – the amount of money returned to someone)
reFUND (verb – the action of giving money back to someone)

REject (noun – an item that is defective or inadequate)
reJECT (verb – to refuse to accept something)

SUBject (noun – the topic of a conversation or a book)
subJECT (verb – to cause or force something to undergo a process)

TRANSport (noun – a system for moving objects or items)
transPORT (verb – to carry or move goods from one place to another)

UPset (noun – an unexpected defeat of a champion sports team)
upSET (adjective – to be disturbed or extremely unhappy)

This is not a complete list — there are many other words like this. Also, these definitions are not complete — they are just to help show how the meaning can change when the stress changes. Many of these words actually have several definitions.

Perhaps you noticed that these words start with a prefix, such as, “re-” “com-” or “in-“, for example. Most of the homographs that follow this alternating word stress pattern do start with a prefix.

So now that you know about these homographs, you can keep your eyes open for words with prefixes, and keep your ears open for changes in word stress, and that will help you be less confused with words that are pronounced in more than one way.

Homographs Part 2

Homographs are words that have two different pronunciations, and different meanings. The word pairs in Homographs Part 1 differ primarily in the vowel sounds. In this list, there is a change in a consonant sound rather than a vowel, and difference in the meaning is very slight.

There are not many words in this group, but it is good to know about them because there is a small change in grammar that goes with the small change in sound. In these pairs, the letter “S” alternates in voicing and switches between /s/ and /z/.


use — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “He would like to use your phone for a minute.”
use — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “I have no use for another vacuum, I already have three.”

close — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Please close the door quietly.”
close — (adjective, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Her house is close to mine.”

excuse — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Could you please excuse me for a moment?”
excuse — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “I don’t want to hear another excuse for not finishing your work!”

abuse — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “They were afraid that he would try to abuse the employees.”
abuse — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Drug abuse is often seen as a social problem.”

house — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “This apartment can house up to 6 people.”
house — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Their house is very old.”

Similar Words

In this next pair, the vowel spelling looks different but the vowel sound is the SAME!
lose — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “I don’t want to lose any more time waiting here.”
loose — (adjective, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Don’t sit on that chair! One of the legs is loose.”

In this pair, the change in the consonant sound is visible in the spelling.
advise — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Could you advise us about which car is best?”
advice — (noun, [c] sounds like /s/)
    “We need some advice about which car to buy.”

Even though these words follow the same pattern of  pronunciation, they are not considered to be homographs because of the change in spelling.