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Lisa Mojsin, M.A.

Director, Accurate English, Inc.

Los Angeles, CA


This book is dedicated to my accent reduction students who came to the United States from all parts of the globe. Their drive to excel, passion for learning, amazing work ethic, and belief in the American dream have inspired me to write this book. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Thanks to all of the supportive and extremely professional people at Barron’s: Dimitry Popow, my editor; Wayne Barr for seeking me out to write this book; and Veronica Douglas for her support.

I am enormously grateful to Lou Savage, “The Voice.” His is the beautiful male voice on the recordings. He was also responsible for all of the expert audio engineering and audio editing. Thank you, Lou, for being such a perfectionist with the sound and insisting on fixing the audio “mistakes” I couldn’t hear anyway. 

I am also grateful for the contributions of Maryam Meghan, Jack Cumming, Katarina Matolek, Mauricio Sanchez, Sabrina Stoll, Sonya Kahn, Jennie Lo, Yvette Basica, Marc Basica, and Laura Tien. 

© Copyright 2009 by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Address all inquiries to:

Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

250 Wireless Boulevard Hauppauge, NY 11788 www.barronseduc.com

ISBN-13: 978-0-7641-4185-0 (book only)

ISBN-10: 0-7641-4185-6 (book only)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7641-9582-2 (book & CD package) ISBN-10: 0-7641-9582-4 (book & CD package)

Library of Congress Control Number 2008938576

Printed in the United States of America

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Introduction vi

Chapter 1: The Vowel Sounds 1

Main Vowel Sounds of American English 1

Production of Vowels 2

/i/ as in meet 3

/I/ as in sit 3

// as in take 5

/ɛ/ as in get 6

/ae/ as in fat 7

/ɑ/ as in father 8

/ɘ/ as in fun 9

/ɔ/as in saw 10

// as in boat 12

/ʊ/ as in good 13 /u/ as in too 13

/ɘr/ as in bird 15

// as in time 15

// as in house 16 /ɔɪ/ as in boy 17

Chapter 2: Vowels in Detail 18

Review of /I/ and /i/ Sounds 18

Review of /ɛ/ and /æ/ Sounds 19

Review of /ɘ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, and /ou/ Sounds 20

The Problematic o 21

The American /ɔ/ Sound 23

Review of /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ɘ/, and // 25

Review of /ʊ/ and /u/ Sounds 25

Comparing /u/ and /yu/ 26

Review of the /ɘr/ Sound 27 Vowels Followed by the /r/ Sound 27

Chapter 3: Consonants 29

Forming American Consonants 29

Voiceless and Voiced Consonants 30

Vowel Length and Voiced and Voiceless Consonants 31 Stops and Continuants 33

Chapter 4: Problematic Consonants 34

The Various t Sounds of American English 34

The “Fast d” Sound 38

The /tʃr/ Sound: tr 39

The /dʒr/ Sound: dr 39 The // Sound: du and d + y 40 The // Sound: tu and t + y 40


Words Ending in -ed 41

The th Sound 44 The American /r/ 48

The American /l/ 50

Understanding /l/ Versus /r/ 52

The /v/ Sound 54

Understanding /b/ Versus /v/ 55

The /w/ Sound 56

Understanding /v/ Versus /w/ 58

The /s/ and /z/ Sounds 59

The /ŋg/ Sound: Pronouncing ng 62 Consonant Clusters 63

Chapter 5: Syllable Stress 66

Stressed and Reduced Vowels 66

Dangers of Stressing the Wrong Syllable 68

General Rules for Stress Placement 69 Two-Syllable Words 69

Noun and Verb Pairs 70

Words Ending in -tion and -ate 71

-ate Endings of Verbs and Nouns 71

More Stressed Suffixes 72

Rules for Prefixes 72

Syllable Stress Changes 74 Reduced Vowels for Review 76

Chapter 6: Word Stress 78

Compound Nouns 78

Proper Stress with Adjectives 80

Phrasal Verbs 81

Noun Forms of Phrasal Verbs 82

Abbreviations and Numbers 83

Names of Places and People 83

Word Stress Within a Sentence 84

Lengthening the Main Vowel in Stressed Words 84

Which Words Should I Stress? 85 Content Words 85

Content Words in Detail: Verbs 86

Stress Nouns but Not Pronouns 87

Content Words in Detail: Adjectives 87

Reducing Vowels in Unstressed Words 88

Weak Forms 89

Strong Forms 90

Thought Groups and Focus Words 91 Contrastive Stress 92

Chapter 7: Intonation 95

Falling Intonation 95 Statements 95 Questions 95


Rising Intonation 96

Non-Final Intonation 97 Unfinished Thoughts 97

Introductory Words 98

Series of Words 98

Expressing Choices 98 Wavering Intonation 99

Chapter 8: Sound Like a True Native Speaker 101

Linking Words for Smoother Speech Flow 101

Rules for Linking 102

Linking Consonant to Vowel 102

Linking Consonant to Same Consonant 103

Final Stop Between Consonants 104

Linking Vowel to Vowel 104

Linking Vowels Within a Word 105

Reducing Pronouns 107

Contractions 108

Commonly Contracted Words 109

Conditional Tense and Contractions 113

Casual Versus Formal Speech 115 Rules and Patterns of Casual Speech 116 Commonly Confused Words 118

Chapter 9: Memorizing the Exceptions 119

Same Spelling, Different Pronunciation 119

Two Correct Pronunciations 120

Especially Difficult Words 121

Words with Dropped Syllables 123

Words with Silent Letters 124

Homophones 125

Native Language Guide 127

Chinese 127

Farsi 135

Filipino Languages 138

French 141

German 146

Indian Languages 150

Indonesian 154

Japanese 158

Korean 162

Portuguese 166

Russian 170

Spanish 174 Vietnamese 179

Index 184


CD 1


1                         Introduction

This book will help non-native speakers of English learn to speak with an American accent.

Which American Accent Will This Book Teach Me?

You will learn to produce the standard American accent. Some people also call it “broadcaster English.” It’s the kind of standard, neutral speech that you hear on CNN and in educated circles. It’s a non-regional American accent, meaning that people do not associate the dialect with any particular part of the United States. It is the accent most commonly associated with educated people in the American East, Midwest, and West.

How Should I Practice?

Listen to the recorded material over and over. You will hear words and sentences pronounced followed by a pause for you to repeat after the speaker. You may want to record yourself repeating so that you can compare your accent to the accents of the speakers on this audio. Then practice the new sounds in real-life situations.

There are numerous study tips throughout the book, both from the writer and from her many successful students who have greatly improved their American accent. For an individual professional analysis of your accent which will help you to study accent reduction more efficiently and tell you which sections of this book you should focus on most, please contact us at 1-800-871-1317 or visit our website at: masteringtheamericanaccent.com.  


Chapter One


In this chapter you will learn how to accurately pronounce all of the main American English vowel sounds. The English alphabet has five vowels, a, e, i, o and u, but it has about 15 main vowel sounds. For some learners this is one of the most difficult aspects of American English to master. Speakers of languages with fewer vowel sounds are likely to speak English using only the same number of sounds that exist in their native language. Sometimes they do not even hear the distinction between certain sounds in English. Consequently, non-native speakers might pronounce “hill” and “heal” the same way. Similarly, the words sell and sale, or cup, cop, and cap may also sound the same when spoken by a non-native speaker. 

Because there is not always a direct relationship between how a word is spelled and how it is pronounced, you should become familiar with the phonetic symbols that represent the sounds that you are learning. This way, you will be able to use your dictionary when you come across a word that contains a vowel sound that you don’t know how to pronounce. Make sure you also become familiar with the phonetic symbols of your dictionary as they may be a bit different from the symbols that this book uses.


Main Vowel Sounds of     CD 1 American English  Track3

1. /i/

read, heat, meet, seat, seen, feet

Please eat the meat and the cheese before you leave.


2. /ɪ/

in, bit, this, give, sister, will, city

My sister Linda will live in the big city.


3. //

late, gate, bait, fail, main, braid,  wait

Jane’s face looks great for her age of eighty-eight.


4. /ɛ/

let, get, end, any, fell, bread, men, said

I went to Texas for my friend’s wedding.


5. /æ/

last, apple, add, can, answer, class    

The handsome man lost his baggage after his travels.


6. /ɑ/

stop, lock, farm, want, army, possible, got

John is positive that his car was parked in that lot.


7. /ɘ/

come, up, jump, but, does, love, money, about

Your younger brother doesn’t trust us, does he?



8. /ɔ/

all, fall, author, also, applaud, thought, fought

Paula was doing laundry all day long.


9. //

go, slow, so, those, post, moment, drove

Oh, no! Don’t open the window, it’s cold.


10. /ʊ/

look, took, put, foot, full, wolf, cookie

He would read the good book if he could.


11. /u/

cool, soup, moon, boot, tooth, move, true

Sue knew about the food in the room.


12. /ɘr/

her, work, sure, first, early, were, earn, occur

What were the first words that girl learned?


13. //

time, nine, dry, high, style, five, China

I advise you to ride a bicycle in China.


14. //

south, house, cow, found, down, town

He went out of the house for about an hour.


15. /ɔɪ/

oil, choice, moist, enjoy, avoid, voice

Let’s avoid the annoying noise.

CD 1

Track                 Production of Vowels


We categorize vowels as front, middle, or back depending on which part of the tongue is used to produce the sound. For example, /i/ is a front vowel because the front part of the tongue goes up in the front of the mouth, and /u/ is a back vowel because the back of the tongue goes up in the back of the mouth. We also categorize vowels as high or low. In high vowels, the tongue is pushed up high near the roof of the mouth as in /i/, and in low vowels, the tongue is flat down at the bottom of the mouth, as in /ae/.

Diphthongs consist of two different vowel sounds that are closely joined together and treated as one vowel. They are represented by two phonetic symbols. To create this sound, move your tongue smoothly from one vowel position to another. The following vowels are diphthongs: // as in take, // as in boat, // as in time, // as in house, and /ɔɪ/ as in boy.

You will now learn how to correctly pronounce each type of vowel. Refer to the diagrams below to help you better understand the correct tongue and lip positions for these various vowel sounds.

                                    front                                             middle                                             back


5 A thief believes everybody steals. E.W. Howe

Lips: Slightly smiling, tense, not rounded.

Tongue: Tense, high and far forward near the roof of the mouth.

Common Spelling Patterns for /i/

1.   ee       meet, feel, see, free

2.   ea       team, reach, mean, sea

3.   ie and ei          belief, piece, neither, receive

4.   final e me, we, she, he

5.   e + consonant + e        these, Chinese, Peter

6.   final y city, duty, country, ability

Word Pairs for Practice

1.   deep sea         6. green leaves

2.   beans and cheese         7. extremely easy

3.   severe heat     8. sweet dreams

4.   breathe deep   9. peaches and cream

5.   three meals     10. speak Chinese

Practice Sentences

1.   The employees agreed to meet at eight fifteen. 

2.   Don’t keep the TV near the heater.

3.   It’s extremely easy to cheat when the teacher isn’t here.

4.   Please speak to Peter about the employee meeting.

5.   Steve will reread the email before he leaves.


CD 1



CD 1



CD 1



7.   endings with ique        unique, boutique, critique

In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.

Albert Einstein

Lips: Slightly parted, relaxed.

Tongue: Relaxed, high, but not as high as for /i/. Sides of the tongue touch upper back teeth. 

Common Spelling Patterns for /I/

1.  i (most common)        sit, give, this, dinner

2.  ui       build, quit, quick, guilty

3.  y between two consonants       system, gym, symbol, hymn


been                                             in American English been is pronounced the same

as bin, but in British English been sounds like bean.

women                                          sounds like wimin (the o is an /I/ sound)

CD 1

Track9            Word Pairs for Practice

1. big city

6. fish and chips

2. innocent victim

7. trip to Italy

3. drink milk

8. spring picnic

4. children’s film

9. this thing

5. simple living

10. winter wind

CD 1

Track10          Practice Sentences

1.  Kim will visit her big sister Linda in Virginia.

2.  In the beginning it was difficult for Jim to quit drinking.

3.  The Smiths invited him to an informal dinner.

4.  This city has an interesting history.

5.  When did Bill Clinton visit the Middle East?

CD 1


11                       Quick Review

Word Contrasts for /i/ Versus /I/

Make sure you don't pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                                 /i/                /I/                                 /i/               /I/





































Word Pairs for Practice

                                Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds.               12

1. still sleepy

6. big deal

2. very interesting

7. these things

3. feeling ill

8. Middle East

4. it’s easy

9. little meal

5. is he?

10. green pill

CD 1

               // AS IN TAKE                                                          Track13

Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.

Benjamin Franklin

Lips: Not rounded, relaxed.

Tongue: Tense, moves from the mid-high to high position.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ei/

1.   a + consonant + e        late, came, take, save

2.   ai        rain, wait, pain, aim

3.   ay       say, away, play, Monday

4.   ey       they, survey, obey

5.   eigh    weigh, eight, neighbor, freight

6.   a

less common:

April, alien, angel

CD 1

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                               Track14

1. the same day

6. explain the situation

2. stay away

7. play baseball

3. escape from jail

8. eighty-eight

4. take a break

9. bake a cake

5. stay the same

10. save the whales

CD 1

              Practice Sentences                                                                                     Track15

1.   She complained about her weight but ate the cake anyway.

2.   Jake hates waiting for trains and planes.

3.   It rains and hails in April and May.

4.   I will stay in the game even though it’s late.

5.   My neighbor from Spain moved away today.

CD 1                  /ɛ/ AS IN GET



Every exit is an entry somewhere.

Tom Stoppard

Lips: Farther apart than for // and relaxed. Tongue: Relaxed, mid-high position. 

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɛ/

1. e        get, end, next, general 2. ea       heavy, head, read, measure

exceptions: said, says again, against, any, many

Word Pairs for Practice

1. presidential election

6. heavy metal

2. bend your legs

7. get better

3. plenty of energy

8. elegant dress

4. remember the pledge

9. next Wednesday

5. better friend

10. well read

CD 1 Track

18                      Practice Sentences

1.  Without some extra effort you will never excel.

2.  Jenny and her friend had eggs for breakfast.

3.  I expect this session to end at ten.

4.  On the seventh of February the weather was wet.

5.  I see my best friend Fred every seven days.

             Quick Review                                                                          TrackCD 1

              Word Contrasts for /ɛ/ Versus //                                                                   19

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                              /ɛ/ and //                                        /ɛ/ and //

1. 2.

pen                pain


tell              tail

sell                  sail


Ed               aid

wet                 wait


test             taste

west             waste


men              main



CD 1 Track

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                                   20

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds.

1. less rain

5. wet day

2. taste test

6. main men

3. neck pain

7. great dress

4. fell away

8. headache

CD 1 æ/ AS IN FAT      Track


He who laughs last laughs best.

American proverb

Lips: Open, not rounded.

Tongue: Lowest of all the front vowels. Flat on the floor of the mouth.

Common Spelling Patterns for /æ/

a                                                          hat, apple, man, answer

CD 1

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                               Track22

1. bad example

6. practical plan

2. national anthem

7. annual gathering

3. back at the ranch

8. last chance

4. accurate answer

9. handsome actor

5. bad habit

10. angry man

CD 1

              Practice Sentences                                                                                     Track23

1.   This is your last chance to give me an accurate answer.

2.   Sam sat at the back of the math class.

3.   Danny had a salad and a sandwich in the cafeteria.

4.   Nancy has a bad attitude in her Spanish class.

5.   Kathy would rather study acting at the national academy.

TrackCD 1  Quick Review 24

Word Contrasts for /ɛ/ Versus /æ/

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                                /ɛ/                   /æ/                             /ɛ/                   /æ/

























CD 1 Track

25                      Word Pairs for Practice

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds:

/ɛ/ or /æ/.

1. sad endings

4. ten gallons

2. less land

5. last exit

3. angry men

6. bad friend

CD 1

26                       /ɑ/ AS IN FATHER


Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

Erma Bombeck

Lips: Apart, as if you are yawning. Not rounded. Tongue: Relaxed, flat at the floor of the mouth.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɑ/

o            hot, stop, modern, job a father, watch, dark, want

CD 1                Word Pairs for Practice


27                                            1. common problem               6. logical response

2. body shop

7. hot topic

3. occupy the office

8. modern hospital

4. office politics

9. nonstop

5. from top to bottom

10. sloppy job

CD 1

Track28          Practice Sentences

1.  Ronald is confident that he got the job.

2.  Scott goes to a lot of rock concerts.   

3.  The doctor operated in the modern hospital.

4.  Bob will probably lock the office.

5.  He’s got a lot of dollars in his pocket.

             Quick Review                                                                              CD 1


              Word Contrasts for /æ/ Versus /ɑ/                                                                  29

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                            /æ/                  /ɑ/                            /æ/                   /ɑ/





















1.  2.  3. 


CD 1


              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                                   30

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds:

/æ/ or /ɑ/.

William Shakespeare

Lips: Completely relaxed, slightly parted. Tongue: Relaxed, middle position.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɘ/

u but, fun, summer, drunk o          love, done, come, son ou           cousin, country, enough

*The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbol for the stressed vowel is /ʌ/ and for the unstressed vowel it is /ɘ/. They are basically the same sound. Throughout this book the /ɘ/ will be used for both. For further study of this reduced, neutral sound, refer to Chapter Five, which deals with syllable stress and reduced vowels.  

CD 1                Word Pairs for Practice


33                                     1. young son

2.  jump up

3.  fun in the sun

4.  another subject

5.  wonderful mother

6.       under the rug

7.       number one

8.       undercover

9.       enough money

10.    Sunday Brunch

CD 1

Track34          Practice Sentences

1.  Your younger brother doesn’t trust us.

2.  What country does he come from?

3.  I had another fun summer in London.

4.  I don’t have much stuff in the trunk of my truck.

5.  I love the sunny summer months. 

CD 1

Track35          Quick Review

Word Contrasts for /ɑ/ Versus /ɘ/

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                                /ɑ/                   /ɘ/                            /ɑ/                    /ɘ/


















2. 6. 3. 7.

4. 8.

CD 1 Track

36                      Word Pairs for Practice

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds:

/ɑ/ or /ɘ/.

1.  come on         5. fun job

2.  got lucky        6. stop running

3.  not enough     7. jump on

4.  cost much      8. gunshot

CD 1

Track                /ɔ/ AS IN SAW


Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.

Winston Churchill

Lips: Apart, very slightly rounded, oval shape.

Tongue: Slightly tense, down near the floor of mouth.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɔ/

aw          saw, law, awful, awesome au    author, August, applaud, audition al      small, walk, tall, always ought           bought, thought, fought aught   daughter, caught o        gone, off, long

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                            TrackCD 1


1. pause in the hall

6. walk the dog

2. awful thought

7. small talk

3. water the lawn

8. already exhausted

4. talk until dawn

9. tall wall

5. autumn in Austria

10. caught the ball

CD 1

              Practice Sentences                                                                                     Track39

1.   The audience applauded even though the talk was awful.

2.   His small daughter thought that Santa Claus would come in August.

3.   I saw your mother-in-law in the mall.

4.   He bought an automobile at the auction last fall.

5.   This sauce is awesome, Paula!

CD 1 Quick Review    Track40

Word Contrasts for /ɘ/ Versus /ɔ/

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                            /ɘ/                   /ɔ/                            /ɘ/                     /ɔ/

















1.  5. 2.  6. 3.  7.

4.  8.

CD 1 Track

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                                   41

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds:

/ɘ/ or /ɔ/.

1. another dog

4. bought lunch

2. long month

5. coffee cup

3. much talk

6. small club

CD 1                 // AS IN BOAT

Track 42

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

William Blake

Lips: Very rounded and tense.

Tongue: A bit tense, moves from mid to high position.

Common Spelling Patterns for //

o            no, don’t, home, only oa road, coat, boat ow       own, slow, window  ough  though, although

CD 1

Track               Word Pairs for Practice


1. phone home

6. don’t smoke

2. own a home

7. low profile

3. almost over

8. slow motion

4. open road

9. old poem

5. drove slowly

10. golden bowl

CD 1

Track44          Practice Sentences

1.  We both hope it’s going to snow.

2.  Oh, no! Don’t open the window! It’s cold.

3.  Do you want to go bowling or roller skating? 

4.  I chose a bowl of soup, potatoes, roast beef, and a soda.

5.  I don’t know if Joan smokes.

CD 1


45                      Quick Review

Word Contrasts for /ɑ, ɔ/ Versus //

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same. Please note that /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ sound almost the same, and therefore are both listed in the first column.

                                              /ɑ, ɔ/              /oʊ/                            /ɑ, ɔ/                /oʊ/































Word Pairs for Practice

                                Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds:                 46

/ɑ, ɔ/ or /oʊ/

1.   old law           4. odd boat

2.   not home        5. walk slowly

3.   those dogs      6. only daughter

CD 1 ʊ/ AS IN GOOD   47


Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.

Hermann Hesse

Lips: Very slightly rounded.

Tongue: Relaxed, back is raised, higher than for /oʊ/.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ʊ/

oo           good, look, childhood, understood u      push, full, pull, sugar ould        would, could, should exception:           woman sounds like “wumun”

CD 1

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                               Track48

1. good book

6. sugar cookie

2. took a look

7. push and pull

3. good looking

8. wool pullover

4. fully cooked

9. wooden hook

5. shook his foot

10. good childhood

CD 1

              Practice Sentences                                                                                     Track49

1.   Would you help me look for my book?

2.   The sugar cookies taste good.

3.   The butcher is a good cook.

4.   He would read the book if he could.

5.   Butch visited his old neighborhood in Brooklyn.

CD 1 / AS IN TOO    Track

               u                                                                                                   50

If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.

Jennifer Jones

Lips: Tense, rounded, as if blowing a balloon.

Tongue: Slightly tense, high.

Common Spelling Patterns for /u/

oo        too, food, school, tool ue           true, blue, avenue o          do, who, lose, prove ew new, blew, drew

u                                                super, rule, duty, student

TrackCD 1     Word Pairs for Practice


                              1. too few                               6. blue shoes

2. fruit juice

7. new moon

3. soup spoon

8. suitable suitcase

4. new suit

9. two rooms

5. true value

10. super cool

CD 1                Practice Sentences


52                                           1. The new roof was installed in June.

2.  I drink fruit juice and eat a lot of soup.

3.  Your blue shoes are really cool.

4.  I need proof that you’re telling the truth.

5.  The statue on the avenue is truly beautiful.

CD 1

Track               Quick Review


Vowel Contrasts for /ʊ/ Versus /u/

Make sure you don’t pronounce these pairs of words the same.

                                                /ʊ/                 /u/                                /ʊ/                  /u/

full              fool


pull                 pool

look            Luke


stood               stewed



CD 1 Track

54                      Word Pairs for Practice

Make sure the two words in each pair are pronounced with different vowel sounds: /ʊ/ or /u/.

1. good food

4. blue book

2. full room

5. two cookies

3. cook stew

6. too full


55 Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

Ernestine Ulmer

Lips: Slightly rounded.

Tongue: Tense, mid-level position. Tip is curled up a bit and pulled back.

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɘr/

Word Pairs for Practice

1.   first person

2.   purple shirt

3.   learn German

4.   other world

5.   serve dinner

6.       third term

7.       firm words

8.       early bird

9.       nervous girl

10.    thirty-third

CD 1



er           her, mercy, mother, winner ear heard, learn, earth ir     first, girl, firm or  doctor, word, worry ur occur, curtain, jury ure insecure, culture ar       grammar, collar

              Practice Sentences                                                                                  TrackCD 1

2.   They served turkey for dinner.

3.   Her purple shirt is dirty.

4.   She gave birth to a third girl.

5.   It’s not worth worrying about another birthday.



CD 1



                             1. I will work during the third term.                                                                                         57

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.  Nelson Mendela

Lips: Open, not rounded, closing a bit when moving to the /ɪ/ position.

Tongue: Relaxed, moves from flat to high position.

Common Spelling Patterns for //

y            fly, sky, apply, style i     nice, kind, fine, sign igh            light, fight, sight, night ie  lie, tie, tried

CD 1

Track               Word Pairs for Practice


1. lime pies

6. bright light

2. white wine

7. fly high

3. fly a kite

8. sign on the line

4. nice try

9. fine dining

5. nine lives

10. ninety-nine

CD 1

Track60          Practice Sentences

1.  Why is the price so high for that design?

2.  The wildfire started on Friday night.

3.  He was tired after hiking for five hours.

4.  It’s a nine-hour drive to Iowa.

5.  We had lime pie and dry white wine.

CD 1


61                        // AS IN HOUSE

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. 

Mark Twain

Lips: Start not rounded, but as you move toward /ʊ/, lips begin to close and become tense.  Tongue: Moves from relaxed, low to high position for the /ʊ/.

Common Spelling Patterns for //

ou          found, loud, around, thousand ow          now, down, crowd, vowel

Word Pairs for Practice

1.   about an hour

2.   crowded house

3.   downtown

4.   loud announcement

5.   countdown

6.       around the mountain

7.       brown couch

8.       found out

9.       down and out

10.    pronounce the vowel


              Practice Sentences                                                                                  TrackCD 1

2.   There are flowers all around the house.

3.   Is that your spouse in the brown blouse?

4.   The clouds behind the mountain will bring showers.

5.   The brown cow is near the fountain.


/ɔɪ/ AS IN BOY

Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you get older, it will avoid you. Winston Churchill

Lips: Move from slightly rounded, oval position to relaxed, slightly parted position.

Tongue: Relaxed, move from mid-high to high position.

CD 1



                               1. I doubt that the clown will say something profound.                                                            63

Common Spelling Patterns for /ɔɪ/

oi            avoid, oil, moist, join oy            enjoy, toy, employ, royal

              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                            TrackCD 1

2.   spoiled boy     7. destroy the poison

3.   appointment in Detroit 8. loyal employee

4.   broiled oysters 9. moist soil

5.   boiling point   10. avoid the moisture


Practice Sentences

1.   He destroyed the poison by flushing it down the toilet.

2.   Roy had an appointment in Detroit.

3.   Joyce is annoyed and a little paranoid.

4.   I was disappointed with Joy’s choice.

5.   Why is Floyd avoiding Roy?

CD 1



                           1. enjoy the toy                       6. annoying noise                                                                      65


This chapter will give you more detailed knowledge of the most problematic vowel sounds for non-native speakers. You will learn to clearly distinguish between certain sounds that may have seemed very similar to you in the past, and you will learn the common spelling exceptions for some vowel sounds within frequently used words.  Memorizing these exceptions will significantly improve your accent. 

CD 1

Track68              Review of /I/ and /i/ Sounds

"Real riches are the riches possessed inside."

B. C. Forbes

The /I/ sound is easy to identify because it is almost always spelled with the letter i as in big. The /i/ sound is most commonly spelled with two vowels such as ee or ea, as in meet, or team. Remember to relax your tongue and lips for the /I/ sound and to make them tense for the /i/ sound.

Practice Dialogues

1. a. Is it difficult?

b. No, it’s unbelievably easy.

2. a. I feel ill.

b. Drink some green tea.

3. a. Please meet me for dinner.

b. I will be there at six.

4. a. Is it expensive?

b. No, it isn’t. It’s really cheap.

5. a. I need a refill of these pills.

b. Speak with your physician.

6. a. Is he still really sick?

b. No, he’s just feeling a little weak.

7. a. This is completely different.

b. But it is interesting, isn’t it?

Practice Paragraph


Guilty or Innocent? 

Remember that for the /æ/ sound the jaw is more open, and the tongue is down at the floor of your mouth. For the /ɛ/ sound, the jaw is just slightly down.


Sentence Pairs for Practice





1. Don’t think about the pest.

Don’t think about the past.


2. He gave me a letter

He gave me a ladder.


3. Send it carefully.

Sand it carefully.


4. The men helped me.

The man helped me.


5. I need a new pen.

I need a new pan.


6. Do you need to beg?

Do you need a bag?


Word Pairs in Sentences

1.   This bed is bad.

2.   Dan is in the den.

3.   She said that she was sad.

4.   I guess I need gas.

5.   They laughed after he left.

6.   I bet that’s a bat.

CD 1



Let’s be realistic. It’s not that difficult to see that he’s guilty. He steals, drinks, and cheats. He has cheated his victims, and he needs to be in prison. He did these terrible things, yet he insists that he’s innocent. Who is he kidding? In the beginning, many people did believe that he was innocent. But now we have the evidence that we need. Even though he won’t admit his guilt, I foresee him being in prison for at least fifteen years.  Don’t you agree with me?

              Practice Sentences                                                                                  TrackCD 1

1.   Every member of my family is left handed. 74

2.   My best friend Frank is a successful dentist.

3.   Kenny’s bad headache lasted several days. 

4.   Glen drank ten glasses of fresh lemonade.

5.   Everyone was happy that he was elected president.

6.   Don’t forget to thank Dan for his generous present.

CD 1

Track 75

Voicemail Message for Practice

You have reached Ellen Edwards. I am sorry I can’t answer right now. I am away from my desk. Please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Practice Paragraph

A Trip to France

Next January I’m planning to visit my friends in France. Last time I went there I was only ten or eleven. I would love to go back again. I am taking a class called “French for Travelers.” We are memorizing vocabulary and learning the present and past tenses. I want my French to get better and I am practicing every chance I get. I rented a French film and I felt so bad because I didn’t understand a word they said. I guess I will have to make extra effort. I want to learn the language and have a better accent so that people can understand me when I am asking for directions and ordering in restaurants.

CD 1


76                          Review of /ɘ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, and /ou/ Sounds

These sounds are frequently confused. Non-native speakers sometimes do not clearly distinguish the difference between cup, cop, cap, and cope.


/ɑ/ /ɔ/


Remember, the sound

/ɘ/ as in fun or cup is a neutral vowel, meaning that everything in your mouth is relaxed and the lips are just very slightly open.

In contrast to the /ɘ/, the

/ɑ/ as in father and /ɔ/ as in saw, require the mouth to be open. The sounds /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ are very similar, except that for the /ɔ/, the lips are a bit more oval in shape and the tongue is slightly tense. However, in many parts of the United States, the /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ are pronounced the same way. For example, many Americans pronounce hot and tall with the same vowel sound.

For the /ou/ sound, as in boat, the lips are rounded and tense.

              Practice Dialogue                                                                                     TrackCD 1


Coffee Tomorrow

                                      /ou/                 /ɔ/

John: Hi Nicole. Can you talk?

                             /ou/       /ɑ/                    /ou/ /ɑ/          /ɑ/     /ɘ/       /ɔ/          /ɔ/                   /ɑ/

Nicole: Oh, hi John. Can you hold on? I’m on another call. I’m talking to my boss.

                            /ou/ /ɑ/                                        /ɘ/

John: No problem. I’ll wait ‘til you’re done.

                             /ou/                     /ɔ/            /ɑ/                /ou//ɔ/         /ɘ/   /ou/    /ɑ/

Nicole: Okay, now I can talk. I am sorry it took so long. What’s going on?

                              /ɘ/          /ɘ/       /ɘ/                      /ou/                            /ɘ/           /ɔ/          /ɑ/

John: Nothing much. I just wanted to know if we can meet for lunch or coffee tomorrow.

                                                                 /ɘ/                               /ɑ/   /ɑ/              /ɘ/                           /ɑ/

Nicole: That sounds like fun. I’ve been working nonstop and I’d love to get out of the office.

CD 1

                The Problematic O                                                     Track


Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes.

Henry Kaiser

Words spelled with the letter o can cause many frustrations for students of the American accent. You have already learned that the pronunciation of a vowel does not necessarily correspond to the spelling of the vowel. This is especially true of the letter o.  The letters o in the words job, love, and only are all pronounced differently. 

This quote from Helen Keller contains fourteen words spelled with the letter o and features all three different vowel pronunciations: "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." The confusion surrounding the letter o for non-native speakers is certainly understandable!

The Neutral Sound /ɘ/

First, let’s look at the most problematic sound with an o spelling. It’s the neutral sound /ɘ/, as in love, other, and Monday, which non-native speakers frequently mispronounce as laav, ather, and Mahn day.  The wrong pronunciation occurs because the /ɘ/ doesn’t exist in some languages and also because learners are used to this sound usually being spelled with the letter u as in up, fun, and Sunday. You will improve your American accent if you simply memorize some very common words with the neutral /ɘ/ sound that are spelled with an o, or ou, or even oo. Start by studying the pronunciation exceptions in the chart below.

Memorizing the Exceptions

Words spelled with o but pronounced as /ɘ/.




































Words spelled with ou and pronounced as /ɘ/.













Words spelled with oo and pronounced as /ɘ/.





CD 1



Practice Sentences                                                                                        CD 1


1.   My cousin is in another country.          80

2.   I love some of those colors.

3.   He makes a ton of money every month.

4.   My other brother comes once a month.

5.   Nothing was done on Monday.

6.   None of the above are good enough.

CD 1 Track

Word Pairs in Sentences                                                                                 81

The word pairs in each of the sentences below are spelled the same except for one consonant being different. Both words are spelled with an o, but this vowel is pronounced differently in each word. The second word of each pair contains the /ɘ/ sound.   

other vowel

              sound                 /ɘ/

1.   bother brother Don’t bother your brother.

2.   Rome come    When will you come to Rome?

3.   bone   done    The dog is done with the bone.

4.   Tom   from     Where is Tom from?

5.   pouch touch   Don’t touch the pouch.

6.   cough tough   It’s tough to have a cough.

7.   goes    does     He goes there and does it.

8.   collar color    What is the color of the collar?

9.   over   oven    Come over to see my new oven.

CD 1

Sentence Pairs for Practice                                                                         Track82

                                  /ɑ/                                                          /ɘ/

1.   You have a good lock. You have good luck.

2.   Where is that cop?      Where is that cup?

3.   I shot it.          I shut it.

4.   He’s a big boss.          It’s a big bus.

5.   This is Don.    This is done.

CD 1


The American /ɔ/ Sound                                                 83

In American English the /ɔ/ sound as in caught and all is very similar to the /ɑ/ sound as in want or hot.  In fact, these two sounds, /ɔ/ and /ɑ/, are so similar in many parts of the United States, that some language experts even claim that they are the same sound. So, while going through these lessons, if you are not able to clearly distinguish between these two vowels, don’t worry about it; neither can many native speakers of American English.

Warning: Common Mistake

If you studied English outside of the United States, you might have learned British pronunciation.  The vowel sound that is most noticeably different between British and American English is the /ɔ/. In British English, this sound is much more rounded, almost like the //. The words “coat” and “caught” sound similar in British English but as you have learned, they are very different in American English. Let’s practice pronouncing the differences between these two sounds /ɔ/ and //.

CD 1

Track Sentence Pairs for Practice




1. He’s a bald man.

He’s a bold man.

2. Where is the ball?

Where is the bowl?

3. That’s a big hall.

That’s a big hole.

4. Don’t pause now.

Don’t pose now.

5. I have a big lawn.

I have a big loan.

CD 1

Track Word Pairs in Sentences


1.  I bought a new boat.

2.  There is a ball in the bowl.

3.  Did you call about the coal?

4.  You ought to eat oats.

5.  I was awed that he owed so much.

TrackCD 1  Practice Sentences 86

1.  We all thought that Joe went to Rome.

2.  I bought some clothes at the mall.

3.  The audience applauded when the show was over.

4.  Paul is going home in August.

5.  We’re going for a walk even though it’s cold.

6.  The author wrote his autobiography.

CD 1


                         A  B  C Study Tip                                                                                        87

Have you ever heard Americans speak your native language? Practice imitating their accent. This will help you get in touch with the American mouth movements and sounds. For example, when Americans speak Spanish, you will notice that they often prolong the Spanish o into an /ou/ sound. “Hola amigo” often sounds like:oula amigou.” Similarly, “my friends Ricardo and Roberto” sounds like: “my friends Ricardou and Robertou.” A similar vowel change often occurs when Americans speak French. The vowel /ɛ/ ends up sounding like /eɪ/. “Je vais au marché” can sound like: “Je veiii au marcheiii.” So, when you speak English, prolong these vowels the same way, and you will be on the right track!  

CD 2


Review of /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ɘ/, and //                              1

Here is a quote by Mother Theresa which contains all of the vowels we just finished reviewing:  

          /oʊ/ /ɑ/           /ɑ/             /ɛ/               /æ/    /æ/          /ɘ/                                    /ɘ/

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust

/oʊ/ /ɘ/

CD 2 me with so much.”             Track


Let’s review the vowel sounds that we have been working on so far.  Practice saying the short words below that contain the following vowel sounds: /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ɘ/, and //.














































CD 2


Review of /ʊ/ and /u/ Sounds                                          3

Remember, /ʊ/ is a relaxed sound, with the lips almost neutral, just very slightly rounded.

By contrast /u/ is a tense sound. The lips are rounded and tense.

Practice Dialogues

1.     a. Will you start to cook soon?

b.   No, I am still too full to think of food.

2.     a. Who took my cookie?

b.   Don’t look at me.

3.     a. You should have had some soup.  It’s so good.

b.   No thanks, I’m really full. 

4.     a. He’s foolish to walk in the woods by himself.

b.   Yes. There are a lot of wolves in those woods.

a.   I think that wolves howl when the moon is full.

b.   Is that really true?

5.     a. Do you like my new boots?

b.   Yes, they’re cool. 

a.   And take a look at my blue suit. It’s made of wool.

b.   To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t wear the blue suit if I were you

a.   Don’t you think it looks good on me?

b.   I think you should return it.

a. And I think you shouldn’t be so rude!

CD 2


4       Comparing /u/ and /yu/

Certain words that contain the letter u are sometimes pronounced differently in other

English accents. For example, some British speakers often add an extra /y/ sound before the /u/.  Students who studied British English in their native countries are often surprised to learn that Americans say “Tooz-day” (for Tuesday) instead of the British t+youz-day. Similarly, you may have learned to say “t+you+n” (for tune) rather than “toon” as Americans do.

CD 2 Track

5     Words for Practice

Here are some common words spelled with the letter u and pronounced as oo rather than as you





















TrackCD 2 Practice Sentences


1.  It’s your duty to produce it by Tuesday.

2.  Those students like iTunes and YouTube.

3.  May I introduce you to my tutor?

4.  The producer is in the studio working on a new tune. 

5.  I assume that it’s due on Tuesday.

6.  That’s a stupid attitude, Stewart.

Review of the /ɘr/ Sound                                              CD 2


7 Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

Ernestine Ulmer

The words work, turn, bird, and early are all spelled with a different vowel, yet the vowel sound is the same. This frequently happens when a vowel is followed by the letter r. The sound remains /ɘr/. Non-native speakers are frequently tempted to pronounce the vowels as they are spelled, and they make the common mistakes of saying “wore+k” instead of “were +k” (for work) and “two+rn” instead of turn. Sometimes they will even pronounce bird as “beer +d.”

CD 2

Track 8

Words for Practice

Practice saying the following words with the /ɘr/ sound. Make sure the vowel sound doesn’t change even though the spelling does.





































Sentences for Practice                                                                              TrackCD 2


1.     What were the first words that she learned?

2.     I will learn the German verbs by Thursday.

3.     It’s too early to serve dessert.

4.     The third version is worse than the first.

5.     It’s not worth worrying about another birthday.

6.     I heard some curse words at work.

7.     They weren’t certain that the Earth circles the sun.

CD 2 Track

Vowels Followed by the /r/ Sound                                 10

The quality of a vowel sound often changes when an r follows it. There is a slight /ɘ/ sound that is added after certain vowels, making it sound almost as if the word contains an extra syllable. For example, fire sounds like “fai /ɘ/+r.”

CD 2 Track

11   Words for Practice

Remember to add an extra /ɘ/ sound before the /r/ sound as you practice reading these words aloud.































CD 2

Track Practice Sentences


1.  Take the stairs in case of fire.

2.  The employer is hiring and firing.

3.  I hear that it expired on the fourth.

4.  I can’t afford to shop in that store. 5. I am near the cashier by the stairs.

6. How far is Ireland from here?

Chapter Three


This chapter will teach you how to form all of the consonant sounds of American English. You can either study this chapter first to get an in-depth understanding of how consonants are formed, or you can just skip to the next chapter (“Problematic Consonants”) and begin practicing the most difficult sounds for non-native speakers. Make sure that you also refer to the “Native Language Guide” at the end of the book, which will tell you which specific consonant sounds you need to focus on in this chapter and in the following one.

Forming American Consonants

When you are learning another accent, it is very helpful to know how the instruments of the mouth work together to produce sound. One reason that you have an accent when you are speaking English is that you are likely not moving your tongue and lips in the same way as a native speaker.

A consonant is a sound that is made when the airflow is blocked by either your lips or your tongue. The different places where this block may occur are called “points of articulation.” The point of articulation is, therefore, a point of contact of one part of your mouth with another part. For example, when you produce the sound /p/ (which is spelled with the letter p) your lips come together and close shut. So, the points of contact here are your two lips. The sound /b/ (which is spelled with a letter b) is also produced by your lips touching, as is the sound /m/.

Sometimes the points of contact, or points of articulation, occur when the tip of your tongue touches directly behind the upper teeth, a part of your mouth called the gum ridge. The sounds that are produced at this point are /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/. Another point of contact occurs when the back part of your tongue touches the back part of your mouth, near the throat, as in /g/ and /k/. You don’t necessarily need to learn the formal names of the different parts of your mouth, but you should develop an awareness of where the points of contact are. Studying the illustration below will help you do this. 

TrackCD 2         Voiceless and Voiced Consonants


One way that we categorize consonants is by determining whether they are “voiceless” or “voiced.” It’s important to know the difference between these types because the length of a vowel that precedes a consonant is determined by whether the consonant that follows it is voiceless or voiced. You will learn more about this later in the chapter. Also, knowing whether a sound is voiceless or voiced will help to correctly pronounce letters such as -ed and -s at the ends of words. You will learn about this in detail in the next chapter.

First, let’s learn how to distinguish between a voiced and a voiceless consonant. Place your fingers in the front, middle part of your neck. Now say /z/ as in the word zoo. Now, let’s make it longer: zzzzzzzzzz. You should feel a vibration in your vocal cords. This is how you know that the /z/ sound is voiced. Now let’s try this with the /s/ sound as in the word sat. Say /s/.  Now let’s prolong it: sssssssss. This time there was no vibration in your vocal cords, so this consonant is considered unvoiced. That’s all there is to it. The tongue and lip positions of the /z/ and /s/ are identical. The only difference between them is vibration or no vibration. Look at the other consonant pairs that are produced exactly the same way, except for the vibration in the vocal cords.

Voiceless and Voiced Consonant Pairs



(vocal cords do not vibrate)



(vocal cords vibrate)

How to Produce the Sound


pet rope


bet robe

Lips start fully together, then part quickly to produce a small release of air.


ten seat


den seed

Tip of the tongue is slightly tense as it firmly touches and then releases the gum ridge.


class back


glass bag

Back of tongue presses up against soft palate (back of mouth) and releases.


fault leaf


vault leave

Lower lips lightly touch upper teeth; vibration occurs on the lips from the flow of air created.


thank breath


this breathe

Tip of the tongue touches back of front teeth or edges of front teeth. Air flows out between tongue and teeth.


sink price


zinc prize

Sides of tongue touch middle and back upper teeth. Tip of tongue is lowered a bit. Air flows out of middle part of the tongue.


pressure wish


pleasure massage

Tip of tongue is down, sides of tongue are against upper teeth on sides of mouth. Air flows out through middle of tongue.


choke rich


joke ridge

Tip of tongue is down, sides of tongue are against upper teeth on the side of mouth. Tip of tongue quickly touches gum ridge and then releases.

More Voiced Consonants

Now let’s go through the rest of the consonant sounds of English. These consonants are all voiced, but they have no voiceless pair.  Make sure that you feel the vibration in your vocal cords as you say them.

/m/ m


from lemon

Lips together. Air flows out of the nose.


non fun any

Tip of tongue touches gum ridge, and the sides of the tongue touch upper teeth; air any flows out of the nose.


going spring king

Back of the tongue touches the soft palate; air flows out of the nose.


love will yellow

Tip of tongue touches upper gum ridge. Tongue is tense. Air comes out on the sides of the tongue, at the corners of the mouth.


red four card

There are two ways to produce this sound:

1: Tip of tongue curls a bit and then is pulled back slightly.

2: Tip of tongue is down; center of the tongue touches hard palate.


win lower quiet

Rounded lips as for the vowel /u/ in moon. Air flows out through the lips. Tongue is in position for the vowel sound that follows the /w/.


yes mayor young

Tip of tongue touches lower front teeth. Front of tongue is raised near the hard palate.

The Consonant /h/

This final consonant sound is voiceless and does not have a “voiced pair” that it corresponds to.



happy behave who

Vocal cords are tense and restricted, back of tongue is pushed against the throat to create friction as the air flows out from the back of the mouth.


Vowel Length and Voiced and Voiceless Consonants

CD 2



Vowels are longer when followed by a voiced consonant. They are shorter when followed by a voiceless consonant. Even short vowels like /i/, /ɛ/, /ɘ/, and /ʊ/ are prolonged when followed by a voiced consonant. 























































CD 2

Track              Practice Sentences




1. My wallet is in the back.

My wallet is in the bag

2. I saw five bucks on the floor.

I saw five bugs on the floor.

3. He has blue ice.

He has blue eyes.

4. I heard about the lice.

I heard about the lies.

CD 2

Track               Word Pairs in Sentences


1.  He told me lies about the lice.

2.  His eyes are ice cold.

3.  There was a buzz in the bus.

4.  The dog is on the dock.

Stops and Continuants

There is another important way that consonants are categorized, besides whether they are voiced or voiceless. Consonants can either be “stops” or “continuants,” depending on whether the airflow is stopped or if it is continued. For example, when we say the /s/ sound we can prolong it by saying “yessssssss.” The /s/ sound is considered a continuant because the air flow can continue as long as we have air in our lungs. But if we say a word like “job,” we cannot continue the final consonant, /b/. We stop the airflow by closing our lips. Therefore, /b/ is a stop. If we quickly open our lips, we can then “release” the stop and say job.

Holding Final Stops

Americans generally do not release many of the final stops. For example, when they say the sound /p/ in the word stop, the lips stay closed. No air comes out. This creates almost a silent version of the sound /p/, or a half p. We know the p is there, but we don’t hear all of it. If the lips were released, there would be a slight puff of air.  

Let’s try another stop: the sound /g/. When you say the word big, don’t release the /g/. Make sure that your tongue remains up in the back of your mouth when you are done saying the word.  

Words for Practice

Pay special attention to the final consonants as you pronounce the words in each column.

CD 2



CD 2



CD 2





final p

final b

final d

final t






























Final Stops Followed by Consonants

The final stop is always held when the next word within the same sentence begins with a consonant. However, when a word with the final stop is at the end of a sentence, the rule is much more flexible. The final sound can either be held or released.

Word Pairs for Practice

Make sure you hold the final consonant of the first word of the pair.

1.   help him         5. stop that

2.   keep talking    6. job market

3.   did that           7. big park

4.   could go         8. cup cake

CD 2



CD 2



23                    Chapter Four


This chapter will help you fix the most common consonant errors that non-native speakers of English make. In some cases, the pronunciation of these sounds is exclusive to American English; in other cases, correct pronunciation can be difficult for a non-native speaker if that particular sound does not exist in his or her native language.

The Various tSounds of American English

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.

Hugh Downs

We’ll start with one of the most distinctly American consonants, the letter t. The t can be pronounced in several different ways, depending on its position in a word and depending on the other sounds that surround it. Sometimes t sounds more like a d (as in water and atom), and sometimes it is not pronounced at all (as in often and interview). Other times it’s barely pronounced as in but and cat. Also, it can change to a different sound when it is followed by an r sound, as in try or truth.

The Held t

As a simple awareness exercise, let’s first practice saying the /t/ sound so that you get a feeling of where in the mouth it occurs.  Repeat saying the t: “ttttt.”  You will notice that the tip of your tongue is touching and releasing your gum ridge, which is the upper part of your mouth, right behind your front teeth. Try it again: “ttttt.” This is what we call a fully pronounced t. The tongue touches and releases.

Now say the following two words which end with a t: cat, right.

Say them again; this time do not release the t. Just let your tongue stay on top, touching the gum ridge, with no air coming out when you say the t. This is called the “held t.” The other way to make this kind of silent t is just to press the vocal cords together to stop the airflow, and then release.

The letter t is generally held at the end of words and before consonants within words. This “held t” is very common in American English. Using it will help you to sound more like a native speaker since non-native speakers almost always tend to release the t when speaking English. Note: You will sometimes hear Americans release the final t. If they do, it’s usually at the end of a phrase or a sentence, or for special emphasis of a word. For example: “That’s great!” “It’s so hot!”  There is no absolute rule about always holding the t, but keep in mind that if you release the t at the end of every word, it will sound like a foreign accent.  

              Words for Practice                                                                                    TrackCD 2


1. cut

4. out

7. list

2. Robert

5. present

8. absent

3. state

6. budget

9. met

CD 2


              Word Contrasts for Practice                                                                           25

For the second word of each pair, the final “held t” interrupts and shortens the preceding consonant. 

                              no t                    t                                              no t                     t

1.   can     can’t     4. men meant

2.   fall     fault     5. fell   felt

3.   star     start      6. car    cart

Did you say can or can’t?

The silent t is one of the reasons why you may have a hard time hearing the difference between the words “can” and “can’t.” Listen for the held “t” for “can’t.” Also the vowel in the word “can’t” is usually longer because negative auxiliaries are stressed more than affirmative auxiliaries within sentences. You can learn more about word stress in Chapter Six.

CD 2


              Held t + Consonant                                                                       26

A. Always hold the final t when the next word begins with a consonant.

1.   it was 3. can’t go        5. didn’t like    7. eight weeks

2.   might do         4. at work         6. won’t need   8. budget cut

B. Always hold the t when the next letter within the same word is a consonant.

1.   football          3. lately            5. atmosphere   7. Atlanta

2.   outside           4. nightmare     6. atlas 8. butler

Practice Sentences

27                                          1. I might not do that.

2.  It’s not that great.

3.  He built that website last night.

4.  It felt quite hot in Vermont.

5.  What?! That can’t be right!

6.  Matt went out for a bite to eat.

7.  That apartment felt quite hot.

When t is followed by an /n/ sound within a word, make sure you hold the t.  For example, when pronouncing button, hold the t as in but, and then add an /n/ without releasing the tongue from the gum ridge: “but + n.” 

CD 2 Track 29 Words for Practice

1. certain

3. mountain

5. cotton

7. eaten

9. forgotten

2. gotten

4. lighten

6. Britain

8. written

10. frighten

CD 2

Track              Practice Sentences


1.  I will shorten the curtain.

2.  He has eaten the rotten food.

3.  I’m certain that it was written in Britain.

4.  I’ve already forgotten the sentence.

5.  That cotton blouse has buttons.

6.  Martin Luther King and Bill Clinton are famous Americans.

CD 2

Track 31

Silent t After n

The t after an n is often silent in American pronunciation. Instead of saying internet Americans will frequently say “innernet.” This is fairly standard speech and is not considered overly casual or sloppy speech.

Words for Practice

1.   interview        5. dentist          9. international 13. Santa Monica          32

2.   twenty            6. intellectual   10. center         14. Atlanta

3.   disappointing  7. quantity        11. cantaloupe  15. Orange County

4.   accountable    8. advantages   12. plenty         16. Sacramento

Practice Dialogue for Silent t

a.   There are many advantages to working for that international company.

b.  I’ll be disappointed if they don’t call me for an interview. 

a.   I hear they’re looking for someone with interpersonal skills and plenty of energy.  

b.  It’s only twenty minutes from Santa Monica.

When t is Between Two Vowels

When a t is between two vowels, it is generally pronounced like a fast /d/ sound. It also sounds the same as the “rolling r” sound of many languages, when the tip of the tongue touches the upper gum ridge.  This sound is also sometimes called a “tapped t” because you quickly tap the tip of the tongue on the gum ridge when pronouncing it.

A t becomes a “fast /d/” in the following cases:

A.  Between two vowels:  We don’t say:   We say:

                                                                                 better                      bedder

B.  Before an “l”: We don’t say:   We say: little    liddle

C.  After an “r” and a vowel:        We don’t say:   We say:

party    pardy forty       fordy

Note: A t does not change to a “fast /d/” sound if it’s within a stressed syllable. We don’t say:

“adack,”  we say “attack.”

Words for Practice

1.   city     3. better            5. total  7. meeting

2.   duty    4. ability           6. matter           8. quality













              When t is Between Two Words                                              

This “fast /d/” sound also occurs between two separate words when the first word ends with a vowel + t and the next word begins with a vowel. Again, this is not sloppy or casual speech; it is a standard American accent.

Word Groups for Practice

37                                         1. it  is

2. get  up

3.   try it  on

4.   eat  out

5.   at  eleven

6.   wait  a minute

7.   what  if

8.   put  it off

CD 2

Track 38

Practice Sentences

1.      I’ll eat it a little later.

2.      I bought an auto battery for forty dollars.

3.      Peter wrote  a better letter.

4.      I’d better go  to the meeting ateleven.

5.      He met her at a computer store in Seattle.

6.      It’s a pity that he’s getting fatter and fatter.

7.      Tell the waiter to bring ita little later.

8.      He bought a lot of bottles of water.

9.      Betty’s knitting a little sweater for her daughter.

10.  It’ll be better if you heat it before you eat it.

CD 2

Track                 The “Fast d” Sound


In addition to the standard /d/ sound as in words like dog, day, and bed, there is another kind of /d/ sound that occurs between two vowels and also before an l.  It sounds exactly like the t between two vowels and is often called “fast /d/.” Again, it’s a sound made with the tip of the tongue quickly tapping the gum ridge. 

CD 2

Track               Word Pairs for Practice


The following word pairs sound the same even though the first word is spelled with a “t” and the second word is spelled with a “d.” Since the d and t are both positioned between two vowels, they sound identical.

1. medal

He won a gold medal in the Olympics.


My car is made out of metal.

2. Adam

His first name is Adam.


An atom is the smallest unit of an element.

3. hit it

My hand hurts because I hit it hard. 

hid it

You can’t find it because I hid it.

4. leader

The president is the leader of the country.


How much is a liter of gasoline?

5. feudal

There was a feudal system in the Middle Ages.


My effort was totally futile.

1.   already           3. Canada

2.   addict 4. editor

Word Pairs for Practice

              1. add  on                  2. made  it

5.   ladder

6.   product

3. hid  it

7.   middle

8.   shadow

4. fed  up


CD 2



Practice Sentences for “Fast d

1.   I already added it.

2.   Adam will edit the middle part.

3.   Those products are made in Canada.

4.   She had on a Prada dress.

5.   I’m fed up with the crowded elevator.

Note: Remember, if the d is within a stressed syllable, even if it is surrounded by vowels, the “fast d“ rule does not apply.

normal d fast d adopt      addict adore      audit

The /tʃr/ Sound: tr

When a t is followed by an r sound, the t changes and becomes an almost /tʃ/ or “ch” sound. To create this sound correctly, say /tʃ/ as in chain, but just make the tip of the tongue a bit more tense when it touches the gum ridge, and focus on creating a stop of air.

Practice Words

1.   travel  3. tradition       5. translate       7. traffic           9. turn

2.   turkey 4. introduce      6. interest         8. extremely     10. terrific

The /dʒr/ Sound: dr

When d is followed by an r, the /d/ sound changes and becomes an almost /dʒ/ sound.

CD 2



CD 2



CD 2



CD 2



Words for Practice

CD 2



Practice Words




             1. drink             3. drop

5. dream

7. drama

9. syndrome

              2. children        4. address

6. cathedral

8. hundred

10. laundry

Practice Dialogues for tr and dr

48                                          1. a. Why do you travel by train?

b. Because the traffic is so dreadful.

2.   a. What did Sandra tell the attorney?

b.   She told him the truth about the drugs.

3.   a. Have you traveled to Turkey?

b.   Yes, that country has some interesting traditions.

4.   a. I told him a hundred times not to drink and drive.

b.   I’m sure he’ll try to stay out of trouble.

a. To tell you the truth, I am drained from all this drama.

CD 2

Track49                 The // Sound: duand d+ y

When a d is followed by the vowel u, they usually blend to create the sound // which is much like the sound j makes in a word like joke.

Words for Practice

1. gradual

4. education

2. schedule

5. procedure

3. graduation

6. individual

CD 2                Words for Practice

Track50               Similarly, d followed by y usually produces the // sound.

1.   Did you?        3. Could you?

2.   Would you?   4. Should you?

CD 2

Track51                  The /ʧ/ Sound: tuand t+ y

In many words, when a t is followed by a u, the resulting blended sound is /ʧ/ which sounds like the ch in church.

1. actually

3. ritual

5. virtual

7. statue

9. punctual

2. situation

4. adventure

6. fortunate

8. nature

10. picture

Similarly, a final t followed by a y usually calls for the /ʧ/ sound.

1.   Don’t you?     3. Can’t you?

2.   Won’t you?    4. Aren’t you?

1.                        Did you go to his graduation?

2.                        Would you take our picture?

3.                        Why can’t you be punctual?

4.                        Don’t you like nature?

5.                        Actually, this is a fortunate situation.

6.                        You’re adventurous, aren’t you? 7. Why won’t you do it gradually?

8. Can’t you change your schedule?

Words Ending in -ed


CD 2



Practice Sentences

The final ed forms the past tense of regular verbs (such as needed and worked) and of some adjectives (such as interested and tired). The ed can cause problems for some non-native speakers because it can be pronounced in three different ways:  as /Id/, /d/, or /t/. Here are the three rules you need to know when pronouncing -ed.

Rule 1

If the last letter of the word is spelled with a d or a t, the ed is pronounced as /Id/ and as a separate syllable.

needed admitted attended decided avoided separated visited waited

Rule 2

If the last letter of the word ends in a voiced consonant or a vowel sound, the e is silent and d is pronounced as /d/. (Reminder: Voiced consonants are /b/, /d/, /g/,

/v/, /m/, /n/, / r/, /l/, /z/, /ʤ/, /y/, and /ð/.)

opened changed earned pulled called closed loved showed

Rule 3

If the last letter of the word ends in a voiceless consonant, the e is silent and the d is pronounced as /t/. (Reminder: Voiceless consonants are /p/, /t/, / k/, /f/, /s/,

/ʃ/, /tʃ/, and /θ/.)

passed helped laughed stopped washed watched worked liked

Practicing the -ed Sounds

In the spaces provided, write the correct past tense sound of -ed in the following verbs.

(Is it /Id/, /d/, or /t/?)

1. admitted 


8. hugged


2. controlled


9. liked


3. developed


10. marched


4. dressed


11. preferred


5. ended


12. pretended


6. exploded


13. pulled


7. finished


14. robbed


CD 2

Track                Linking ed Ending and a Vowel 


Linking is connecting the final sound of one word to the first sound of the following word. You will need to learn to link words together to create smooth, natural speech. This is discussed in much greater detail in Chapter Eight, “Sound Like a True Native Speaker.” It is especially important for you to learn to link words with ed endings. The final /t/ and /d/ sounds are much easier to pronounce if they are connected to the vowel that follows it.  


sounds like:

1. stayed in

stay din

2. turned on

turn don

3. developed a

develop ta

4. needed a

Words for Practice

nee de da

CD 2

Track                                   1. worried about              4. interested in


2.  looked at        5. worked on

3.  talked about   6. liked it

CD 2

Track                More Linking Practice: -ed + it


Practice linking the final consonant to the word it. /Id/ verbs

1. I needed it.

3. I attended it.

2. I painted it.

/t/ verbs 1. I cooked it.

2. I liked it.

/d/ verbs

1.   I used it.

2.   I cleaned it.

4. I admitted it.

3.   I watched it.

4.   I stopped it.

3.   I changed it.

4.   I loved it.

Practice Dialogues for -ed Verbs

1.     a. What did you think of the movie?   57 b. I liked it a lot.

2.     a. What did you do with the money?

b.  I deposited it in the bank.

3.     a. How did you cook the chicken?

b.  I friedit in oil.

4.     a. Is the heater on?

b.  No, I turned it off.

5.     a. When did you paint the room?

b.  I paintedit last week.

              Practice Dialogues                                                                                        CD 2


                          The Job Interview                                                                                                               58

Listen to the -ed endings of the past tense verbs and try to determine which of the three possible sounds you hear: /d/, /t/, or /Id/.  In the first part of the job interview, each of the -ed verbs is followed by a word that starts with a vowel. Make sure you are linking these two words.

Interviewer: Tell me about some of your experiences as a university student. Job Seeker:   I studied accounting and finance.

I graduated at the top of my class.  

I maintained a 4.0 GPA.

I played on my college basketball team and participated in many extra-curricular activities.

I volunteered at the homeless shelter.

I partied every weekend.

I dated a lot of pretty girls.

I loved every minute of it.

Interviewer: Describe some of your personal qualities that would make you qualified for this position.

/Id/ /Id/                     /d/

                          Job Seeker:       I am detail-oriented, highly motivated and organized.  I am also

/t/ /d/                                                  /t/

focused and determined, and I work well in a fast-paced environment.


I have an advanced knowledge of computers.  I am also

/Id/                         /d/ educated and well traveled.

TrackCD 259

TrackCD 260

TrackCD 261

The th Sound

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the most difficult consonant sounds for non-native speakers is the th or / / sound and the /ð/ sound. Remember that for this sound the tip of your tongue should touch the edges of your front teeth, and the tip of the tongue vibrates a bit while air flows out through your tongue and upper teeth. It’s also acceptable to just touch the back of the front teeth as long as the air is flowing through.

There are two th sounds in English: the voiced th as in that, and the voiceless th as in think.

Practice Words for /q/ (voiceless th)

anything earth nothing Thursday author ninth thank wealthy both health thing with

Word Pairs for /q/ (voiceless th)

with nothing         both methods ninth birthday      third month

44         Mastering the American Accent

Practice Words for /ð/ (Voiced thTrackCD 263 although father this they









Word Pairs for /ð/                                                                                     TrackCD 264

              that clothing                 neither brother

                                                                                           TrackCD 265

Again, to correct this problem change the position of your tongue by moving it forward to touch the teeth. Also, make sure that there is a flow of air between your tongue and your teeth.

Warning: Common Mistake

Make sure that your tongue vibrates under your upper teeth. Do not bite your tongue or press it on your upper teeth too strongly—this will block the flow of air that is required to produce the th sound correctly.

Word Contrasts for Practice

Note the difference between the words with t and those with the voiceless th or /θ/.

                                /t/                   /q/                             /t/                   /q/

1.   bat            bath       4. tank  thank

2.   boat         both      5. team theme

3.   mat           math     6. true  threw

                                                                                       Chapter Four: PROBLEMATIC CONSONANTS     45

Sound Contrasts for Practice

Note the difference between the words with d and those with the voiced th or /ð/.





1. breeding


4. Dan


2. dare


5. day


3. doze


6. wordy


Practice Sentences for Voiced and Voiceless th

1.  Her thirty-third birthday is on the third Thursday of this month.

2.  Those three things are worth thousands of dollars.

3.  I think that Kenneth is Ethan’s father.

4.  That new theology doesn’t threaten the faithful Catholics.

5.  You can buy anything and everything in that clothing store.

6.  There are those that always tell the truth.

7.  I think that the south has more warmth than the north.

8.  I’d rather have this one than that one.

9.  Although they’re rather thin, they’re very healthy.

Practice Sentences for th Versus d

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.


When the th and d are very close together, the tip of your tongue must move quickly from touching the teeth to touching the gum ridge so that both sounds can be distinctly heard.

1.  Don’t do that Dan.

2.  What does that thing do?

3.  Did they breathe in the dust?

4.  Dan thought it was dad’s birthday.

5.  How dare they do that!

6.  They did it the other day. Didn’t they?

Comparing th with s and z

Some people wrongly pronounce the voiceless th as an s. They say sank and thank the same way. They also tend to wrongly pronounce the voiced th as a z. They say breeze and breathe the same way. Again, the mistake lies in the position of the tongue. For the s and z, there is also air passing through the tip of the tongue, but the tongue is not touching the teeth. It is touching a little bit behind, on the gum ridge. Pay attention to these tongue positions shown in the illustrations below as you do the following exercises.

46         Mastering the American Accent


Word Contrasts for s Versus th



                                /s/                   /θ/



                         1. mass              math

3. tense


2. sank       thank Word Contrasts for z Versus th

4. sing


                                /z/                  /ð/ 



                        1. close              clothe

3. bays


                        2. breeze            breathe

4. Zen 


Word Pairs for Practice

It’s especially difficult to pronounce the th sound correctly if the z and s are nearby. Make sure that all of the consonant sounds are clearly heard. Don’t blend them together and don’t substitute one for the other.

1. Does that

4. fifth step

2. What’s that

5. With something

3. She’s thin

6. Sixth song

Practice Sentences for th Versus s and z

1.   He’s enthusiastic that it’s his sixth birthday.

2.   Is that the zoo that has the zebras?

3.   He’s thankful for his wealth.

4.   He’s thinking about his strengths.

5.   If it’s Thursday, it’s the same thing.    

TrackCD 2 The American /r


Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Gandhi

Many languages have what is called a “rolling r,” where the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge, similar to the /d/ sound, but with a quick and repeated motion. In contrast, the American /r/ is produced in the back of the mouth and the tip of the tongue never touches anywhere inside the mouth. There are different ways to produce the American r. Try the two described below and decide which one is easier for you.     

Words that End with r

Unlike the British r, the American r is always pronounced. It’s never silent. Pay particular attention to r when it appears at the end of a word: for, more, far, and teacher

CD 2

Track Words for Practice


1. more

3. her

5. culture

7. sure

2. here

4. four

6. where

8. car

Word Groups for Practice

All of the following words have an r at the end. Make sure you pronounce each one clearly.

1. four door car

5. lobster for dinner

2. her younger sister

6. your older brother

3.   they’re never here

4.   sooner or later

7. four more over there

CD 2


R Before a Consonant                                                                   68

The r before a consonant is always pronounced in American English, but generally not pronounced in British English. Americans say: “morning,” “first,” “modern.” In British English, these words are pronounced as: “moning,” “fist,” and “moden.”

Word Pairs for Practice                                                                             TrackCD 2


1. important information

7. learn German

2. first person

8. undergoing surgery

3. hard to understand

9. thirty percent

4. Northern California

10. modern furniture

5. early in the morning

11. March bargain

6. survive divorce

12. perfect performance

Practice Sentences

1.      I spent part of Thursday learning the new computer software.

2.      I heard it was a four hour performance.

3.      He won a journalism award for his report on Pearl Harbor.

4.      Please inform the board about the formal procedure.

5.      The terrible storm started yesterday morning.

6.      Normally he works in New York.

7.      George went to a formal party with his girlfriend.

8.      Mark is determined to learn German.

9.      I heard that the alternative procedure was better.

10.  For your information, they’re not divorced.

Story for Practice

Surprise Birthday Party

On Saturday afternoon at four, we’re having a surprise birthday party for our daughter Rachel. She’ll turn thirteen. Her cousins Charles and Barbara will arrive early to help prepare. We’ll take pictures, play cards and some board games. We’ve ordered a birthday cake and her favorite dessert, strawberry ice cream.  We’ve invited about thirty of her friends and told them to come over before four. We hope all her friends get here by four before Rachel returns from the park. When they’re all here, we’ll call Mark to bring her over. When they open the front door the lights will be turned off. Her thirty friends will be waiting nervously in the other room. We hope it works out and that Rachel will be really surprised.

For the American /l/ sound, the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge behind the upper teeth, just the same as when creating the /t/ and /d/ sounds. See the image below for correct tongue placement. The air stream flows through the sides of the tongue. When the /l/ occurs at the end of a word, make sure you don’t release it quickly as you would do with a /t/ or /d/. This will make your /l/ sound foreign. The American /l/ is softer and longer than the /l/ sound of many other languages.

1.    although           4. cold  7. film  10. myself

2.    call       5. difficult        8. little  11. people

3.    children 6. felt 9. milk 12. will CD 2

Track Word Pairs for Practice


1. tall girl  3. old school     5. cold milk      7. little children

2. felt guilty 4. tall wall 6. gold medal 8. twelve soldiers CD 2

Track l Before a Consonant


For Asian speakers, the /l/ is particularly difficult to pronounce when it is followed by a consonant.  If you don’t move your tongue correctly, the words code and cold will sound the same.

Word Contrasts for Practice                                                                          CD 2


Practice the following word pairs, making sure you clearly pronounce the /l/ of the 75 second word. 

no /l/

/l/ + consonant

no /l/

/l/ + consonant

1. code


3. toad


2. debt


4. wide


Practice Sentences

1.   Jill also doesn’t feel well enough to go to school.

2.   I’ll call Paul and tell him that you’ll be late.

3.   Twelve people will build a tall wall around the castle.

4.   It is doubtful that she’ll be able to handle it.

5.   He’ll bring the cold drink to the ill soldier.

6.   The wealthy man sold the building by himself.

7.   Don’t feel guilty about the spilled milk.

8.   The girl told me about the old film.

CD 2 Track

Long Vowels + /l/                                                                           76

When a long vowel is followed by an l, place an extra /ɘ/sound (schwa) in between. For the word feel, say “fee-ɘl.” It’s almost as if you are adding an extra syllable.

Words for Practice


/i/ + ɘl

/eɪ/ + ɘl

/aɪ/ + ɘl

/ɔɪ/ + ɘl

/u/ + ɘl





































CD 2 Word Pairs          Track77

1. fail school

3. miles and miles

5. steal the tool

2. cool style

4. real deal

6. file the mail

TrackCD 2 Understanding /l/ Versus /r/


Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Pay attention to the position of your tongue as you practice these two final sounds. Prolong the sounds as you concentrate on what your tongue is doing.

CD 2 Track

80    Sound Contrasts for Practice

                               final /l/           final /r/                      final /l/            final /r/

1.   feel        fear      5. bowl bore

2.   deal       dear     6. tile    tire

3.   stole      store     7. while wire

4.   mole      more    8. file   fire

CD 3 Track

1      Consonants + r and l

When the /r/ or /l/ sound comes after a consonant, make sure that it is strong enough to be clearly heard. Fully pronounce the first consonant before you begin the /r/ or the /l/. Otherwise, the words fright and flight will end up sounding like “fight.” You can even add a short /ɘ/ sound between the two consonants. 

CD 3 Track

2      Word Contrasts for Practice

no /r/ or /l/          /r/         /l/ 1. fame        frame   flame

2.   bead  breed    bleed

3.   gas     grass     glass

4.   fee     free      flee

5.   fight   fright    flight

6.   pay    pray     play

Practice Sentences

1.      It’s always pleasurable to travel first class.

2.      He was clearly surprised about the promotion.

3.      The president flies in his private airplane.

4.      The training program will take place early in the spring.

5.      I plan to regularly practice playing the flute.

6.      Everyone went to Brenda’s surprise party.

7.      I traveled to Britain last spring.

8.      I frequently fly to Florida to visit my friend.

9.      Clara looked truly lovely in her blue blouse.

10.  Brian is fluent in French.

Review of /r/ and /l/

Practice Dialogues

1.     a. Laura has curly brown hair.

b.  However, her brother Carl has straight blond hair.

2.     a. What is that lawyer’s overall priority?

b.  Probably to win every trial.

3.     a. I am gradually learning to pronounce all the vocabulary correctly.

b.  Really? It’s truly wonderful to hear that!

4.     a. I heard he speaks several languages fluently.

b.  Yes, he speaks French, English, and Italian fluently.

5.     a. Have you heard the fairy tale about Cinderella?

b.  Yes, she was a poor girl who rarely felt pretty.

6.     a. Central Park is a great place for rollerblading.

b.  And it’s only several minutes from her large apartment.

7.     a. He’s an incredibly talented flute player.

b.  He also regularly plays the clarinet.

Poems for Practice


I lift my heart as spring lifts up

A yellow daisy to the rain;

My heart will be a lovely cup Altho’ it holds but pain.

For I shall learn from flower and leaf That color every drop they hold, To change the lifeless wine of grief To living gold.

Sara Teasdale


Life has loveliness to sell,

All beautiful and splendid things,

Blue waves whitened on a cliff, Soaring fire that sways and sings,

And children’s faces looking up, Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,

Music like a curve of gold,

Scent of pine trees in the rain, Eyes that love you, arms that hold, And for your spirits still delight, Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness, Buy it and never count the cost;

For one white singing hour of peace

Count many a year of strife well lost, And for a breath of ecstasy

Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale

CD 3


3                                                                                        Advice from a Successful Student

“My friend and I are both Chinese and both are studying accent reduction. We get together and speak only in English and we try to correct each others’ mistakes. We are able to point out a lot of mistakes to each other even though we are not American. We have learned what our main weaknesses are, and it’s now just a matter of reminding each other and practicing in order to break those old habits.”

Fang Lee and Mei Wu, China

TrackCD 3     The /v/ Sound


To produce the /v/ sound correctly, make sure the lower lip touches the upper teeth. (See illustration below.) People who speak quickly have a tendency to drop this sound at the end of words. Others may confuse it with an /f/ sound, and some others change it to a /b/ or a /w/ sound.

Words for Practice

1.   very

2.   verb

3.   vote

4.   eleven

5.   involve

6.   achieve

7.   have

8.   twelve

9.   five


             Practice Sentences                                                                                    TrackCD 3

2.      Steve and Vivian will come over at eleven.

3.      I believe he will move to Vermont in November.

4.      Whoever is involved will be investigated.

5.      Twelve of us drove to the river near Vegas.

6.      Avoid drinking vodka every day.

7.      They served flavorful veal and a variety of vegetables.

8.      I’ve been given a favorable evaluation.

9.      I would’ve invited you over but I had a fever.

10.  They’ve never believed my viewpoint.


Understanding /b/ Versus /v/

I've been rich and I’ve been poor—and believe me, rich is better. Sophie Tucker

Non-native speakers of some languages have a hard time distinguishing between the /b/ and /v/. Remember, for /v/, the upper teeth touch the lower lip. For /b/, both lips touch and fully close so that no air escapes. Examine the illustrations below to see the difference.

CD 3



                              1. Five of David’s relatives live in Vienna.                                                                           6

/v/                                            /b/

              Word Contrasts for Practice                                                                      TrackCD 3


                                            /v/                   /b/                             /v/                   /b/

1.   vest        best      4. vet    bet

2.   very       berry    5. curve            curb

3.   vow        bow     6. vote boat

CD 3                Word Pairs in Sentences


9                                           1. That’s a very good berry.

2.  That’s the best vest.

3.  Can you vote on a boat?

4.  Park next to the curb on the curve.

5.  I bet he’s a vet.

CD 3

Track              Practice Sentences


1.  Beverly is very busy developing her new business.

2.  Vince loves basketball and baseball.

3.  Ben drove to Las Vegas in his black Volvo.

4.  I believe they’ve been to Virginia before.

5.  Did Vivian have a birthday in November?

6.  They’ve never been able to prove it, have they? 

7.  Cucumber and broccoli are Ben’s favorite vegetables.

8.  Gabriel was overwhelmed when he won the Nobel Prize for the novel.

CD 3

Track11            The /w/ Sound

The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live. Joan Borysenko

The /w/ sound requires the lips to be fully rounded and pushed forward a bit as in the illustration below. Many non-native speakers confuse the /v/ and the /w/ sounds. To avoid this mistake, make sure your bottom lip is not touching your upper teeth when you are saying the /w/. Let’s first practice the /w/ to make sure you are pronouncing it correctly. Then we will practice /v/ and /w/ together.

CD 3

Track12           Words for Practice

1. always

3. flower

5. well

7. wife

2. wish

4. work

6.  window

8. swim

The /kw/ Sound

Words that are spelled with qu are pronounced as /kw/.

1.   quick  3. require         5. quality

2.   question         4. quiet 6. frequent


              Word Pairs for Practice                                                                              TrackCD 3

                           1. white wine                                            6. wonderful weekend                                            14

2. always working

7. anywhere you wish

3. quick wedding

8. twenty flowers

4. powerful wind

9. windshield wiper

5. weak witness

10. frequent question

Practice Dialogue Winter Weather

a.   I wonder when the weather will get warmer.

b.  Why are you always whining about the weather?

a.   It’s always so wet and windy. I would love to go for a quick swim or a walk in the woods.

b.  Well, wait a few weeks and it won’t be so wet and windy.

a.  I wish you were right, but in a few weeks it will still be winter.

b.  OK then, we’ll have to move west. Maybe to Hollywood, where the weather is warmer.

a.   Wow, what a wonderful idea. But wait! Where will we work?

b.  We won’t have to worry about work once we get there. Hollywood will welcome us.

We’ll become wealthy movie stars.

a. Wake up and stop your wishful thinking.

Song Lyrics for Practice

“After You Get What You Want You Don’t Want It”

After you get what you want, you don't want it

If I gave you the moon, you'd grow tired of it soon

You’re like a baby

You want what you want when you want it

But after you are presented

With what you want, you're discontented

You’re always wishing and wanting for something

When you get what you want You don’t want what you get

And tho’ I sit upon your knee You'll grow tired of me

’Cause after you get what you want

You don’t want what you wanted at all

Excerpt from a song by Irving Berlin

Understanding /v/ Versus /w/

You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.

You may have to work for it, however." 

Riard Bach

Note the different lip positions in the illustrations below as you work through the following exercises. Do not confuse /w/ with /v/!

/v/ /w/

CD 3

Track               Word Contrasts for Practice


                                                /v/                  /w/                             /v/                   /w/

1.   vine    wine     4. vest west

2.   vow    wow     5. verse worse

3.   vet      wet       6. veal wheel

CD 3

Track               Word Pairs for Practice


1. every week

6. wonderful voice

2. very well

7. white van

3. wise investment

8. valuable watch

4. weigh the vegetables

9. wear the vest

5. west Virginia

10. weird video

CD 3

Track              Practice Sentences


1.  Victor’s wife Vicky was very wise.

2.  It was very warm all week.

3.  Don’t wear your valuable watch this weekend.

4.  When will Vick weigh the vegetables?

5.  Were you involved in Vivian’s wedding plans?

6.  Will we view the video on Wednesday?

The /s/ and /z/ Sounds


/z/ /s/           /z/      /z/       /s/        /s/ /z/       /z/      /z/  /s/

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song Maya Angelou

The letter s is sometimes pronounced as a /z/ sound and sometimes as a /s/ sound. When s follows a consonant, there are rules for pronunciation, but when it follows a vowel there are no rules—so it’s best to just memorize the exceptions. Studying the four basic rules below will also be helpful to you.

Warning: Common Mistake

The letter z is never pronounced as an /s/ sound. If your native language is Spanish, compare the way Americans pronounce common Spanish last names (such as “Gomez” or “Alvarez”) with the way you pronounce them in Spanish.  

Rule 1

When an s follows a voiceless consonant, it is pronounced as /s/.

books stops makes likes eats cats helps surfs

Rule 2

When an s is followed by a voiced consonant or a vowel, it is pronounced as /z/.

eggs beds lives cars comes boys loans feels

Rule 3

Double s is pronounced as /s/.

boss                       less                     success

massive                  lesson                essay

exceptions: possession, scissors, dessert (ss sounds like /z/)

Rule 4

An extra syllable is added to words that end with certain consonant sounds followed by s. These include: sound:     consonant:      examples:

/ʤ/       g          manages, changes /ʃ/     sh         washes, dishes

/ʧ/                                  ch                                churches, matches

/s/                                   s, ss, c                          bosses, faces

/ks/                                 x                                 boxes, faxes

CD 3



CD 3

Track21            Verbs and Nouns and the Letter s

The following words spelled with an s have a /z/ sound when they are verbs but have a /s/ sound when they are nouns. noun:   verb:   noun:   verb:

                                                /s/                    /z/                            /s/                      /z/

1.   use        to use   4. house           to house

2.   abuse     to abuse           5. excuse          to excuse

3.   close      to close 6. advice          to advise

CD 3

Track               Dialogues for Practice



a.      Do you still use this?


b.     No, I have no use for it any more.


a.      Where will they house their guests? 


b.     They have a guest house.


a.   Does he abuse drugs?


b.  Yes, he’s getting help for his drug abuse.


a.   Please excuse me.


b.   I don’t accept your excuse.


a.      Would you close the door?


b.     You do it. You’re close to it.


a.      Can you advise me on this?


b.     Sure, I can give you some advice.

CD 3

             Practice Sentences                                                                                     Track23

Remember to pronounce all of the final /s/ sounds of plural nouns. Also pronounce the final /s/ of verbs in the third person singular form (he, she, it). Say the following sentences quickly, making sure that you are not forgetting the s endings.

1.   A dishwasher washes dishes.

2.   A bus driver drives buses.

3.   A mechanic fixes cars.

4.   A teacher teaches students.

5.   A watchmaker makes watches.

CD 3                Story for Practice


24                                        Mark’s Day

/s/                       /iz/ /iz/                         /s/

Every morning he gets up early, brushes his teeth, washes his face, and eats breakfast.

/iz/ /z/                           /s/             /iz/ /iz/

He kisses his wife and kids goodbye. He takes two buses to work. He usually manages

/z/ /z/                         /s/            /iz/               /z/

to get to work before his coworkers. He reads his email, checks messages and returns

/z/              /s/ /z/               /s/                   /s/            /z/               phone calls. He speaks with his colleagues and clients and conducts meetings

/iz/ /s/            /s/                                     /s/

He focuses on his daily tasks and likes to take only 30 minutes for lunch.

CD 3

Track                   The /ŋ/ Sound: Pronouncing ng


There's as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something.

Trammell Crow

In American English, the final g in the word ending -ing should not be dropped, but it should not be over pronounced either.

Don’t say: “I’m goin shoppin.” And don’t say “I’m going shopping” by releasing the g too strongly. To create the /ŋ/ sound raise the back of the tongue and let it touch the soft palate, which is the soft area at the rear of your mouth. Don’t release your tongue when you pronounce /g/, or just release it slightly. The mistake of saying “goin’ shoppin’ ” is that the tip of the tongue is touching the area right behind the upper front teeth to create a /n/ sound. And if you say “going shopping,” the mistake is that the /g/ is released too much. 

CD 3

Track               Words for Practice


1. doing

4. listening

2. teaching

5. being

3. coming

6. going

CD 3

Track               Word Pairs for Practice


1. doing nothing

4. wedding ring

2. something wrong

5. bring everything

3. looking young

6. feeling strong

Practice Sentences

1.  Don’t bring the wrong rings to the wedding.

2.  I love running, skiing, and swimming.

3.  He’s looking young and feeling strong.

4.  They sell anything and everything in that clothing store.

              Confusing n and ng Endings                                                  TrackCD 3

Remember, for /n/ as in thin, the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge, just behind the 28 teeth. For the /ŋ/ sound as in thing the tip of the tongue is down, not touching anywhere. The back of the tongue is up, touching the soft palate which is located in the back of your mouth. Examine the illustrations below to see the difference.

                                             /n/                                                     /ŋ/

CD 3

              Word Contrasts for Practice                                                                       Track29

                                            /n/                    /ŋ/                             /n/                    /ŋ/

1.   thin        thing    4. win   wing

2.   ran         rang     5. ban   bang

3.   fan         fang     6. run   rung

Consonant Clusters

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you.

Never excuse yourself.

Henry Ward Beecher

Two or more consonant sounds together are called “consonant clusters.” Many languages do not have any words with consonant clusters. Therefore, when native speakers of these languages speak English, they tend to skip one or more of the consonants. Make sure you pronounce every consonant sound! Pay special attention to words spelled with the letter x since it represents a blend of two consonant sounds: /ks/ or /gz/. Also, many verbs that take -ed in the past tense consist of consonant clusters; for example: watched, stopped, picked.

Common Words with Consonant Clusters

say:        don’t say: instantly      instan...ly hopefully      ho...fully apartment  apar...ment

                           worked (sounds like “workt”)                                    wor…

textbook (sounds like “tekstbook”)          tes...book extra (sounds like “ekstra”)  estra vodka      vo...ka

strength  stren...th recognize       reco...nize

Different Sounds for x

If the vowel following an x is stressed, the x is pronounced as /gz/, as in examine and exist. If an x is followed by a consonant, or if it’s at the end of a word, it is pronounced as /ks/, as in expert and tax. Also, note that a double c often produces an x or /ks/ sound, as in the word accent. If these two sounds don’t occur together in your native language, be very careful to pronounce both of these consonant sounds.

Words for Practice for x and cc

1.   extreme          4. extra 7. extract          10. exact

2.   accept             5. success         8. context         11. expect

3.   next    6. accident        9. extinguish    12. example

Word Contrasts for Practice

Make sure you pronounce the words in the following pairs differently. Notice that the first word contains just an s sound; the second word contains a k and an s sound and is spelled with the letter x.

                                                /s/                   /ks/                                 /s/                   /ks/

1.   nest        next     4. aspect           expect

2.   test         text      5. contest         context

3.   session   section 6. mass Max

Practice Dialogue

a.   How did you do on the entrance exam?

b.   I wasn’t so successful. I expected to pass, but it was extra difficult.

a.   Did you study all the sections of the textbook?

b.   Yes, but I have to study harder on the next test and hopefully I will be successful.

a.   When do you expect to take the next test?

b.   I will attempt it in September. I’ll be ecstatic if I get accepted at the best school.

Words Ending with ts

Make sure you pronounce both the /t/ and the /s/ sounds in the following words. The /t/ will need to be pronounced softly in order to ensure a smooth transition to the /s/.

Words for Practice

1. it’s

3. states

5. what’s

2. that’s

4. lasts

6. doubts

Word Contrasts for Practice

Make sure you pronounce the words in the following pairs differently. The first word contains just an /s/ or /z/ sound, and the second word contains a /t/ and an /s/ sound.

/s/ or /z/


/s/ or /z/


1. is


5. was


2. stays


6. pains 


3. less


7. knees


4. fax


8. lies


Practice Sentences

1.   There are three flights to the United States.

2.   She adds and subtracts the costs.

3.   Please give the dates to the courts.

4.   The applicants signed the contracts.

5.   He accepts the facts about the Democrats.

Pronouncing the ds Cluster

Make sure you pronounce both the /d/ and /z/ sounds in the following words. The /s/ is pronounced like a /z/ sound because it’s followed by /d/, which is a voiced consonant. The /d/ will need to be pronounced softly in order to ensure a smooth transition to the /z/.

Words for Practice

1. needs

3. sends

5. kids

2. decades

4. friends

6. sounds

Word Contrasts

Make sure that you that you pronounce the following word pairs differently. The first word contains just a /z/ sound and the second word contains a /d/ and a /z/ sound.

                                            /z/                   /dz/                                 /z/                   /dz/

1.   fines       finds    4. rise   rides

2.   cars        cards    5. lens lends

3.   fees        feeds    6. bills  builds

Practice Sentences

1.   David’s and Ed’s kids are friends.

2.   She feeds the cats and cleans the yards.

3.   The brides got diamonds from their husbands.

4.   He accepts rides from friends.

5.   He needs the facts about the debts.


A syllable is a small unit of speech that consists of a vowel, or a vowel and one or more consonants. Stressed and unstressed syllables form the basis of the rhythmic pattern of English words.

Many languages place the same amount of stress on each syllable.  For example, in many languages the word banana is pronounced as:

__  __   __ ba   na   na    (All three syllables are stressed equally.)

In English, we pronounce the word as:


__           __

ba   na na    (The second syllable is stressed.)

The vowel within the stressed syllable is longer, louder and higher in pitch. The vowel within the unstressed syllable is reduced and becomes a neutral, short vowel called the “schwa” and is pronounced as /ə/. It can be spelled with a, e, i, o, or u. All of the five vowels can sound the same if they are part of a reduced syllable. As you can see, it is more important to know which syllable is stressed than how the word is spelled. If people don’t understand a particular word you are saying, chances are you stressing the wrong syllable.

Note: Phonetically, banana looks like this: /bə ʹnænə/. The small accent symbol in front of the /n/ indicates that the syllable that follows is stressed. Your dictionary may have different stress markers.

CD 3

Track                   Stressed and Reduced Vowels


Listen to the following word pairs and notice the changes in the vowel sounds, depending on whether the syllable is stressed or reduced. The first word of each pair has only one syllable, so the vowel must be fully pronounced. The second word has two syllables, with the second syllable reduced. Even though the ending of the second word is spelled exactly the same as the first word, the vowel is pronounced differently because it’s part of the reduced syllable.  


full vowel

reduced vowel


one syllable

unstressed second syllable


/æ/ man




/oʊ/ pose









/ɛɪ/ late














/æ/ fast




/æ/ land



Now listen to vowel changes of words that have a reduced first syllable.


full vowel

reduced vowel



unstressed first syllable







/æ/ ad

/ advice


/æ/ lag









/ɔ/ ball









/ɔ/ off




/æ/ mat




/ɔ/ or




/æ/ mad



TrackCD 3           Dangers of Stressing the Wrong Syllable


Stressing the wrong syllable sometimes creates misunderstandings because people think you are pronouncing a completely different word.   The following words are great examples of why syllable stress is such an important component of the American accent.  

1.         noble honorable, distinguished, aristocratic Nobel a prestigious award of achievement

“He won the Nobel Prize for his noble effort.”

2.         invalid    a sick or disabled person invalid not valid, void

“The invalid has an invalid permit.”

3.         personal individual, private personnel a group of people employed in an organization or a place of work

“Some of the personnel have some personal problems.”

4.         eligible   worthy of choice, suitable, legally qualified illegible       impossible or hard to read

“You won’t be eligible for that position if your handwriting is illegible.”

5.         pronouns parts of speech that substitute for nouns are pronouns such as he and she

pronounce to say words, to utter “Can you pronounce those pronouns correctly?”

6.         comedy   a humorous drama or play

                           committee                 a group of people elected or appointed to perform a function

“The committee watched a comedy.”

7.         advantages         benefits or gain advantageous   beneficial, useful

“It would be advantageous to learn about the advantages of that method.”

8.         decade    ten years

                          decayed                  become rotten or ruined

“Their relationship has decayed in the past decade.”

9.         access     ability or right to enter excess    extra, additional

“Do you have access to the excess data?”

10.      content (noun)    the subject matter of a book, speech, etc. content (adjective)   satisfied and happy “Are you content with the content of that letter?”

11.      career     profession

                      carrier                      a person or company that carries or transports something

“He had a career working for an aircraft carrier.”

12.      discus     a heavy disc of metal thrown in an athletic competition discuss   to talk over in detail, to examine in speech or writing     

“The discus throwers discussed the competition.”

                  General Rules for Stress Placement                         Track

CD 3


This section will give you some general guidelines and patterns of American English syllable stress. Keep in mind that there are many exceptions to these rules and that English syllable stress can be quite irregular. Get into the habit of using your dictionary or asking native speakers to pronounce new or confusing words for you.

Two-Syllable Words





Stress the first syllable

Stress the second syllable.

























Noun and Verb Pairs

The following pairs of nouns and verbs are spelled the same but pronounced differently because of changing syllable stress. Make sure you reduce the vowel in the unstressed syllable. First you will hear the noun, and then the verb. 





1. addict


11. object


2. conduct


12. present


3. conflict


13. produce


4. contest


14. progress


5. convert


15. rebel


6. convict


16. record


7. defect


17. research


8. desert


18. subject


9. increase


19. suspect


10. insult




Note: Some of the above words have completely different meanings in the verb and noun forms.

CD 3

Track34          Practice Sentences

Underline the stressed syllables in the verbs and nouns in bold letters.  To check your answers, listen to the audio.  

1.      The singer wants to record a new record.

2.      The drug addict is addicted to heroin.

3.      He insulted me with a rude insult.

4.      I would like to present all of the present members.

5.      This permit permits you to park your car here.

6.      They protested in the protest.

7.      Do you object to this object?

8.      The convict was convicted again.

9.      I suspect that they caught the suspect.

10.  They are going to contest the results of the contest.

Practice Dialogue

Once again, underline the stressed syllables in the bold words before listening to the audio.

a.   Have you heard? The police caught the suspect!

b.  Do you mean the one who is suspected of robbing the bank?

a.   Yes, I heard that he had a criminal record.

b.  Oh really? What crime was he convicted of?

a.   He’s a drug addict who has been robbing banks to support his addiction.

b.  How many years do you think he will spend in prison?

a.   A maximum of ten years. But he might be released early on good conduct.

b.  If he conducts himself badly and insults the prison guards, I wonder if his sentence will be increased.

c.   I don’t know. I haven’t heard of a prison term increase for insults and bad


Words Ending in -tion and -ate

Verbs that end with -ate have a stress on the first syllable. Nouns ending with -tion however,       TrackCD 3 have a stress on the syllable before the suffix. Examine the examples in the chart below.         35


Verbs that end in -ate

Nouns ending in -tion


Stress is on the first syllable

Stress is on the syllable that precedes the suffix -tion