If I asked you to pronounce the letter /t/, you would probably say it as in the word "town". Most likely you would “aspirate” it (release air). What most of us don't realize is that there are five different ways we pronounce /t/ in American English!
To say any variation of /t/, the tip of your tongue should touch the gum ridge, the bump just behind your top teeth.
1. When /t/ begins a word it is usually aspirated.
Examples: town, today, terrific
2. If the /t/ sound is preceded by an /s/, then /t/ is unaspirated. There is no puff of air. It will sound more like a soft /d/.
Examples: study, still, disgusting
3. If the /t/ comes at the end of a syllable, it will usually not be released and be unaspirated.
Examples: get, bite, want
4. If the syllable before /t/ is stressed, the tongue taps the gum ridge lightly and sounds like a soft /d/.
Examples: better, water, getting
5. If the syllable before /t/ is stressed and the /t/ is preceded by /n/, then the /t/ sound disappears.
Examples: internet, interview, wanted
6. When /t/ follows /u/ mid-word it often sounds like /tsh/.
Examples: actual, fortune, century
Practice with this text
It was terrific being in town today with Taylor! We got a bite to eat and got caught up. After that, we wanted to sit in the park and chat about old times, but unfortunately we were interrupted by tens of tiny insects flying by on their way to visit the trees down the street. We sat and talked about it for a while since it was so strange.
Here’s to being heard!
We provide 1-1 courses in advanced English fluency and American accent for non-native English speakers. Your course is customized to your individual objectives and challenges.