Home / English Lessons / Pronunciation + Listening Practice: wh-questions | Ep. 3

Pronunciation + Listening Practice: wh-questions | Ep. 3

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Learning the music of English, as well as the way native English speakers transform their speech, is essential to improving your ability to understand English.

Let’s analyze a wh-question to improve your pronunciation and listening skills.

“When did you get it?” (2x)


To speak with the music of English, we stress content words that carry meaning in a sentence. Since wh-words, such as “when”, “what”, “why”, etc. are content words, we will say “when” here nice and clearly.

  • “when”

“did you”

When the [d] in “did” hits the [y] in “you”, the [d] + [y] –> “dg” [dʒ].

In English, we de-stress function words that serve as the grammar and structure of a sentence. Because the pronoun “you” is a function word, we can de-stress it and say it as “ya” [yə].

So, “did you” becomes:

  • [Dɪ  dʒyə]

We also connect speech in English, so do not stop and take a breath between “when” and “did”. Simply connect all of the words in the sentence.

  • “When did you”

“get it”

Main verbs carry meaning in a sentence, so in English, we say them nice and clearly. Therefore, we will stress “get”.

Although “it” is a function word, we do not de-stress the last word in a sentence. So, “it” will be said clearly as well.

Because we connect our speech in English, the [t] from “get” connects to “it”.

  • “get  it”

Notice that I said the “t” in “get” more like a [d] than a true [t]. This is because Americans do not add a lot of air to their “t”s in the middle and end of words, which causes them to sound more like “d”‘s.

Note that a British English speaker would aspirate that “t” in “get” and pronounce it as a true “t”, to say something like:

  • “get  it”

This same rule applies to the “t” at the end of “it“. As an American English speaker, I do not release the air at the end of “it”. I simply hold my tongue against my palate, just behind my teeth. So, I start to say the [t] in “it”, but I don’t really finish the sound.

  • “get it”

Got it?

Let’s practice.

Notice how my intonation goes down at the end of this wh-question.

Listen and Repeat

  • “When did you get it?”
  • “When did you get it?”
  • “When did you get it?”

Remember, you do not need to speak this way in order to be understood. However, it is important to learn how native English speakers transform the language so that you can understand them with confidence.

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