Ends of Words

Another common problem is saying the ends of words clearly. I have seen a lot of students who skip the last letters of words, and it seems that many of them are not aware that they are doing that.

In English, most words end with a consonant sound, AND the majority of words that do have a vowel sound last are frequently used words such as “to” “do” “the” “you” “he” or have an ending such as “-ly” or “-y”. (Remember: for most words that are spelled with an “e” at the end, the “e” is silent in pronunciation.)

This is different from many other languages. There are many languages that do not have consonants at the ends of words (or they only use a limited set of consonant sounds). If your mouth is not accustomed to making a clear or strong consonant sound at the ends of words, it can be difficult to learn to do this in English.

Why it is important to pronounce the last letters of words clearly:
1. Skipping sounds can make you very difficult to understand in general.
2. In some cases, it can give you a “baby talk” kind of sound.
3. In many short words, it can cause some funny or confusing mix-ups.

Here is an example of a mix-up:
If you say the word “flute” but you skip the “t” sound (or say it too weakly), then it can sound like the word “flu”. So instead of saying “He is taking flute lessons” it could sound like you said “He is taking flu lessons”!!

A few examples of possible mix-ups:
“wait” could sound like –> “way”
shoot –> shoe
house –> how
might –> my
make –> may
bike / bite –> buy (or by)
type / tight –> tie
plane / plate –> play
mean / meat –> me
hide –> high
life / like / light / line –> lie
lake –> lay
seek / seat –> see (or sea)

How to Practice
In general, the best is advice is to try to exaggerate the last consonant of words (say it a little bit too strong). I have often noticed that when students feel that they are saying a final consonant very strongly, it actually sounds just right (or is even still a little bit too weak)!

It might feel awkward for you, but that awkward feeling is often a sign that you are doing good. If your mouth always feels “normal” to you when you say something in English, then you are probably using the muscle patterns that are normal for your native language.

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About Pronunciation Coach
I am a language teacher, with over 20 years of experience teaching ESL & Spanish.

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