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Connected Speech & Linking | English Pronunciation Lesson

Many of my students say they want to sound just like a native English speaker. I understand the desire, but my answer to them is always the same. The goal is not to be perfect, but to progress; to be understood when speaking and to be able to understand English when spoken naturally.

One of the most important aspects of pronunciation and listening is to understand that Americans don’t just speak fast–as many students believe–but that they connect their words and change the sounds of words.

Example

  • “What are you going to do?” –> “Whaddya gonna do?”

Connected speech allows us to speak:

  • Efficiently (say the most in the shortest amount of time)
  • With flow and music (rhythm)

In this lesson, we will focus on how Americans link words together.

**Remember, understanding the rules of connected speech will not only help you to speak better, but will also help you understand native English speakers.

Consonant + Vowel

When a word ends in a consonant sound and is followed by a word that starts with a vowel sound, the speaker should push that consonant sound forward and connect it to the vowel in the next word.

Examples

  • “Stop it” –> “Sto pit” [STA pit]
  • “I need it” –> “I nee dit”  [aiy NIY dit]
  • “Play a song” –> “Play ya song” [pley yə Sɑŋ]
  • “Read a book” — “Rea da book” [RIY də bʊk]

 

Consonant + Consonant

When a word ends in a consonant sound and the following word begins in the same or similar consonant sound, you will only pronounce that sound once by lengthening or holding the sound. You do not say the consonant sound twice.

Examples

  • “best time” –> “bestime” [BESTYM]
  • “big grape” –> “bigrayp” [BIGRAYP]
  • “good day” –> “gooday” [GƱDEY]
  • “sit down” –> “sitdown” [SITDOWN]

 

Listen and Repeat

  • “You need to stop it right now.” (C+V)
  • “I need it more than you do.” (C+V)
  • Play a song for us on  your guitar!” (C+V)
  • Read a book for me, mommy.” (C+V)
  • “I had the best time ever!” (C+C)
  • “That was a big grape I just ate!” (C+C)
  • “Thanks for coming. Have a good day.” (C+C)
  • “Please sit down until I call you.” (C+C)

Using these rules of connected speech, along with adding rhythm and musicality to Your Speech will help you to be understood by native English speakers.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Elemental English podcast on iTunes.

And if this lesson was helpful to you, feel free to share it with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter

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42 comments

  1. I am an ESL instructor* and the private school I teach at has limited resources. I have come to your website multiple times for lesson planning inspiration and I just wanted to thank you for having such great content – especially on American pronunciation!

    *(as well as a trained nose and fragrance blogger!)

    • You are very welcome, Mrs. Scents! Do you have any requests for lessons? I’ll be happy to post a custom lesson for your students 🙂
      Larissa
      p.s. you have a great web site! My signature scent is Allure by Chanel 🙂

      • Hi Larissa,

        Well, since you ask … 😉 A lesson on American slang/every day language (maybe a connected speech/every day language lesson?) would be great! Since I’m in the US and my students are living here I get a lot of questions on slang.
        The other day one of my students said that she over heard a man ordering at Starbucks. He said “lemme have a …”. She didn’t understand what he said and meant (why didn’t he say “can I have a…? What did he mean?!”) That was a fun one to explain! Another student with kids asked about “see you later, alligator”. You never know what they are going to come out with! 😉

        Glad you like the blog and it’s fabulous to hear you have a signature scent! I don’t know Allure offhand, but from reading a review it sounds like a fantastic fragrance! I think you may have inspired an upcoming post!

  2. Thanks for this great lesson. I have a question. It’s hard for me to pronounce the next sentence.
    ‘ This is his son.’
    Please teach me this pronunciation when you could take time. Thanks again.

  3. Great website and very nice explanation, but why you people only focus on American English? It’s not the only one in the world. All native speakers connect words, not only Americans!

    • Thank you for the nice compliments!
      It’s true, American English is not the only English in the world 🙂 But I’m American, so it’s natural for me to teach American English! I do, however, plan on writing a set of lessons on the differences between American and British English in pronunciation, vocabulary, use and spelling.

      • could you give me some examples about C+C

        • Great question!

          The consonant + consonant (C+C) connected speech rule is an important one to use, because without it, speakers would release the sounds of consonants and take breaths between words. As you know, English speakers don’t pause and take breaths, but they connect their words.

          For example, I wouldn’t say “I had a bad day” with pauses between each word. But I would connect the words:

          ‘I hada baday’

          For the C+C, “bad day” you start to say the “d” at the end of “bad”, but don’t release that “d” (i.e. don’t finish the sound) and blow out air. Just go straight into the “d” of day. Almost like, “ba day”.

          This deserves an audio file, so I will write a post on this!

  4. I love this website.You are Excellent!!!!!
    Thanks you

  5. Thank you very much. This website is giving me what I searched about in many websites and many many English courses over the years.

  6. But when I read a text a test silently (sub-vocalization), it ‘s kind of slow because I have to make decisions whether to connect or drop the ending C in C-V or C-C (i.e I have to look at the next word to see whether it begins with C or V, and then pause and make decision how to connect, so it ‘s kind of not smooth reading). How can you solve this problem ?
    (for ex, in bad day , you drop the d of bad. But in bad ending , you connect the d to ending). Thanks

    • Great question! I get this question often — basically, how can English language learners use pronunciation rules naturally and intuitively, without stopping to think about them?

      It really is a matter of practice and being very active listeners and self-monitors.

      I give my students the pronunciation rules and examples to practice with. You should practice to train your mind, your ears and your articulators (lips, tongue, etc.) Train your ears to hear the correct patterns of connected speech, so that when you’re speaking, you can self-correct. If you don’t say every incident of connected speech perfectly, absolutely don’t worry about that. The point is, you are training your ears and mouth and brain to recognize connected speech and use it. Using it naturally will come over time with practice and self-correction.

      I know that may not be the answer you want to hear, but keep practicing so that the rules can become intuitive over time.

  7. Oh how lovely your website is! I’ve been learning English for many years but still have problem with /ed/ Pronunciation or Connected Speech & Linking, which have just been solved thanks to your very detailed guide, not mentioning the awesome comments & replies. Thanks you very much and I’m going to share your website on my facebook.

  8. Helpful information! My question is when linking sounds is not appropriate or acceptable? Thanks in advance!

  9. we need a lessons on organs of speech.

  10. Gracias por compartir con todos nosotros toda esta amena información. Con estos granitos de arena hacemos màs grande la montaña Internet. Enhorabuena por este blog.

    Saludos

  11. Hi. Thanks for this wonderful lesson. I’ve been having a question for a long time and would REALLY appreciate it if you could help me with it.
    What are the sounds (or environments) after which the voiced Th sound is not produced interdentally?
    I already know that the z sound as in, for example, “Is that your car?” is one of them. What are the others?

    • Thanks for the nice compliments!

      “th” is always pronounced interdentally. In your example, the “s” is pronounced as a [z] and the connected to the following “th” [ð] through connected speech. The tip of the tongue is ever so slightly between the teeth for the “th”, even if just for a fraction of a second.

      Does that help or did I misunderstand the question?

      • Let me elaborate more. What I mean is that in rapid (connected) speech the voiced
        Th sound, which should be articulated INTERdentally, is NOT produced this way. For example, when it follows the fricatives s and z, its place of articulation changes from interdental to something else (it goes through processes of assimilation, elision.)
        Now this is my question: What other sounds (other than s and z) can cause this change in place of articulation of the voiced Th sound?

  12. Hi, thank you for this very useful lesson; it helped me clear some doubts i had but could you please explain to me how to properly link D + T like in “HAD TO or ROAD TO.” thank you.

    • When you have similar sounds, such as the [d] and [t] (notice that the mouth moves in the same exact way for these two sounds), then you only say the sound once when you connect the speech. So, start to say the [d] in “had”, but don’t finish it! Finish the sound as the [t] in “to”. Don’t take a breath between sounds. [HÆDtuw]
      Does that help?
      The key is to start the first sound, but don’t finish it! (If that makes sense!)

  13. you wrote: ‘sit down /sitdown/.’ But wouldn’t it be more relaxing if it were: /sidown/?
    Or is it because the latter is British English?

  14. U say C+C ,C+V , but how about this ones? Ex: leave it ( lea vit) , like it (lai kit) ????? It ‘s not the same with the rules!!

    • It is the same exact rule that applies! Remember to think about the SOUND of the word and not the [crazy] spelling.

      “leave” = [liyv] <-- that ends with the consonant sound [v] "like" = [laiyk] <-- that ends with the consonant sound [k] Many times the spelling of English words don't match the sound at all 🙂

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