Ends of Words — A Special Trick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking a consonant to a vowel

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

Linking a consonant to a consonant

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

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

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

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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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