Here is a fun limerick. First, listen to how it sounds:
There once was a lady from Hyde
Who ate some green apples and died
The apples fermented
Inside the lamented
And made cider inside her insides
The fun part of this limerick is the last line, but it would not sound so interesting without sentence stress, reductions, and linking.
Listen again, while looking at the strong words:
There ONCE was a LAdy from HYDE
Who ATE some green APPLES and DIED
The APples ferMENted
InSIDE the laMENted
And made CIDer inSIDE her inSIDES
Here is why the last line sounds funny:
1. The three stressed syllables all have the same consonant and vowel sounds.
2. The word “her” is reduced — the “H” is missing, so it sounds like “-er”.
3. The word “inside” is linked to the word “her” (which is reduced) and sounds like “insider”, and this matches the sound of the word “cider”.
Now listen to how different it sounds if I say the last line with all of the words spoken carefully and clearly (without linking and reductions): And made cider inside her insides.
So, sentence stress can be fun! In fact, without it, many jokes and puns in English would not be funny at all.
Linking means making words sound connected, and it’s a normal part of English pronunciation. Linking is the reason why many frequently-used short phrases, end up sounding like one big word, such as: What time is it? / How is it going? / Come on in!
Even though linking is a normal part of the way native speakers of English talk, you will not usually have problems communicating if you do not do it. However, learning to link your words can be helpful.
Also, linking makes you sound smoother and more natural. Listen to the difference when I say the same sentence two different ways, first without linking, and then with normal linking: Everybody is getting tired of it.
When to link
1. Linking can happen between any words that are in the same phrase.
Vowel followed by vowel: see it “seeyit” / how are “howar”
Vowel followed by consonant: two bucks “twobucks” / go first “gofirst”
Consonant followed by vowel: save it “savit” / look out “lookout”
Consonant followed by consonant: dark sky “darksky” / help take “helptake”
Any letter with the same letter: with them “withem” / how will “howill”
2. Break long sentences into logical groups, and link inside of the groups.
Maybe we should wait / until after the storm / to go to the store.
Finally, even if you do not make linking a part of the way you speak in English, knowing about it can help you be better at understanding what you hear.
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.