How to Pronounce the Word THEM

Study the THEM reduction.  There are many reductions in conversational American English. It’s important to know what they are to improve listening comprehension, but also to use the reductions in speech yourself.  They are a key part to sounding natural.

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Video Text:

>> Where did you get those flowers?
>> I got them at the farmer’s market.

Did you notice how I pronounced the word ‘them’? I dropped the TH entirely. ‘Em, ’em. This is great news for people who have a hard time with the TH. In this American English pronunciation video, I’m going to go over the pronunciation of the word ‘them’ in conversation.

There are lots of words in American English that will sound different when they’re part of a sentence than they do on their own. ‘Them’ is one of these words. The word ‘them’ on its own is pronounced with the voiced TH, th, th, tongue tip just through the teeth, the-, the ‘eh’ as in ‘bed’ vowel. So the jaw will have to drop quite a bit for that: the- the-. And finally, the M consonant. Them, mm, mm, mm. Lips come together to make that sound. Them. But, as part of a sentence, the vowel will reduce to the schwa. Them, them. All of a sudden, the word is very short, them, and very flat—them, them—compared to before: them, them. But, it can reduce even further. We can drop the TH and have just ’em, ’em, ’em. The schwa and the N sound. As always, when you reduce a word, you have to link it to the words around, so let’s look at some example sentences.

I’ll take them with me. Take ’em, take ’em. So, the K sound is linking right up to that schwa. Take ’em, take ’em. I’ll take them with me. I’ll get them later. Get ’em, get ’em. Do you notice that the T here is not a true T? It’s a flap T. Why? Because when we connect the schwa-M sound, the T now comes between two vowels. Get ’em, get ’em. I’ll get ’em later. I gave them to you last night. Gave ’em, gave ’em, gave ’em. Again, no break between the V and the schwa. Gave ’em. I gave them to you last night. You can have them. Have ’em, have ’em, have ’em. You can have them. We can buy them later. Buy ’em, buy ’em, buy ’em. We can buy them later.

Reducing a word and linking it to the words around is a great opportunity to smooth out your speech and sound more American. So don’t be afraid to pronounce ‘them’ this way. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

Don’t stop there. Have fun with my real-life English videos. Or get more comfortable with the IPA in this play list. Learn about the online courses I offer, or check out my latest video.