English is, first and foremost, a spoken language. In this video you’ll learn perfect pronunciation for 10 essential English vocabulary words!
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If you want to speak natural, clear English, the 100 most common words in American English is a good place to start. This video is part of a series where we’re studying the real pronunciation of these words. This is likely different from what you learned in English class. You see, in American English, we have all sorts of words that are unstressed or even reduced. That means we change the pronunciation. This set of the 100 most common words in American English contains many, many words that reduce. If you haven’t already seen video 1, and other videos in this series, I do suggest you start there. These videos build one on top of the next, so click here to watch video one. This is video seven, we’re studying words 61-70.
Number 61 is the word ‘people’. This is the first time we’re starting one of these videos with a word that is NOT an example of a word that will be unstressed. This word is a noun, a content word, and generally, it will be stressed. Now, this is a tricky word. And I don’t have too many videos where I go over the specific pronunciation of a single word, but I do happen to have one where I talk about this word, so I’ll put in a clip here that will go through the pronunciation, step-by-step.
It’s a two-syllable word with stress on the first syllable. Da-da. People. It begins with the P consonant sound, lips are together for that, pp-.
Then we open into the EE as in SHE vowel, pe-, pe-. So the tongue tip is down here, but the front part of the tongue is stretching up towards the roof of the mouth, pe-, pe-. Now we have the P, schwa, L sound. This is unstressed, so it’s going to be low in pitch and very fast, -ple, -ple, -ple. People. So the lips will come together again for the P. People. -ple.
Then we go into the schwa/Dark L sound. Don’t worry about making a separate schwa sound, just go straight into the Dark sound of the Dark L. So, to make that sound, your tongue will pull back, so the back part of the tongue here is shifting towards the throat a bit, people, ull, ull. And that’s how we get that dark sound. Now, it should be very short because it’s unstressed, people, people.
The second half of the Dark L involves bringing the tongue tip to the roof of the mouth. People. But you can actually leave that out. A lot of people will just make, people, ull, the Dark sound to signify the Dark L and not necessarily bring the tongue tip up. People, people.
Let’s do a couple of example sentences with people. I’m a people person. People, people. Up-down shape of stress, longer, more clear than the unstressed words: I’m a– I’m a– I’m a people person.
What does ‘people person’ mean? It means that I’m very social. I like interacting with a lot of people, I’m very outgoing, I’m an extrovert. I have room for three more people in my car. People, people. Stressed.
Number 62. Is it as clear as ‘people’? No. It’s the word ‘into’. ‘Into’ is a preposition. And prepositions are function words, which means they’ll generally be unstressed in a sentence. Let me show you what I mean.
I ran into my teacher at the movies.
I ran into my teacher at the movies.
Ran, teach-, mov-. These are the stressed syllables. All the others, including the word ‘into’, unstressed. Less clear, low in pitch, flatter, given less time. Into. If it was clear and fully pronounced, it would have that up-down shape of stress, into, and a True T. The final vowel would be the OO as in BOO vowel. Into. But that’s not how I pronounced it.
I ran into my teacher. Into. Into. Into. A couple things are different. First of all, it’s not stressed so it’s flat in pitch, low in pitch. Second, two sounds have changed. The T sounds more like a D, and the final vowel is the schwa. Into. into. Into. into. So instead of ‘into’, it’s: into, into. This T is not following the rules of T pronunciations. The rules are, after an N, we can drop a T completely, but if not, it’s a True T. But many Americans will say ‘into’ more of a D or Flap T sound connected to the N. If you only learned the stressed pronunciation of this and every word in American English, your English wouldn’t sound too natural, because we use so many reductions so frequently.
Number 63: the word ‘year’. A noun, a content word. This is a word that will generally be stressed in a sentence. No reduction here. Year. Year. Up-down shape of stress. Longer, clearer than the unstressed words in a sentence will be. A lot of people have problems with the pronunciation of this word because of the Y sound. Year. How is it different from ‘ear’? I actually have a video on that. Let me put in a little clip here.
‘Year’ and ‘ear’ are exactly the same except for the Y sound. The main vowel is the IH as in SIT vowel, but I do feel like we squeeze it a little bit, so it sounds a little more like EE. IH, ear. EE, ear. Ear. Let’s take a look.
First, the word ‘ear’. For the IH or EE vowel, the jaw drops just a bit, and the corners of the lips pull out wide, just a little. The tongue tip is down here, touching the back of the bottom front teeth. The front part arches towards the roof of the mouth without touching it.
Next is the schwa-R sound. Look for the tongue pulling back as the lips flare.
The tongue pulls back and up, with the tip pointing down so it’s not touching anything.
Now, let’s take a look at ‘year’. The jaw dropped a little bit more here. Why? To accommodate the movement of the tongue.
While the tip is down in the same position for the next vowel, the middle part of the tongue actually touches the roof of the mouth and pushes forward a bit. yy, yy. At the same time, the throat closes off down here, yy–, yy–, yy–, to add a different dimension to the sound. Ee, yy, ee, yy. Let’s watch the Y several times to see that motion of the tongue pulling down from the roof of the mouth: yy, yy.
Now, the lips flare and the tongue pulls back for the R.
Now let’s compare the beginning position of these two words.
‘Ear’ is on the left and ‘year’ is on the right. Notice that the jaw has dropped more for the forward motion of the tongue on the roof of the mouth for ‘year’. Also, the corners of the lips are more relaxed than for the initial vowel in ‘ear’, where they pull slightly out. You can see this from the front as well. The jaw has dropped more for the tongue movement.
So, we have the tongue movement, which is different for the Y, as well as the Y sound in the throat, yy. This is how we want to start the word ‘year’: yy, yy, year.
Now I’ll say the minimal pair several times. Can you hear the difference?
Year. Let’s do a sentence or two. We’re going to Italy this year. Year. Year. It’s the last word in the thought group, and naturally in American English, our energy and our pitch goes down in a sentence, so the ending word is often less clear, even if it’s stressed, even if it’s a content word like ‘year’. But it still has the length of a stressed syllable. We’re going to Italy this year. Year, year. A little bit of that up-down shape of stress. What year were you born? Year, year. There the word ‘year’ is closer to the beginning of the sentence, so it’s a little clearer. Year.
Number 64: Another great reduction. The word ‘your’. This is related to the word ‘or’, which was number 31. Fully pronounced, ‘your’ and ‘or’ rhyme with ‘more’ or ‘wore’. But they’re almost never fully pronounced. They’re almost always reduced in a sentence, ‘yer’, ‘er’. So the vowel changes to the schwa. Stressed: Your. Fully pronounced, longer, up-down shape of stress. But in a sentence: yer, yer. Unstressed, low in pitch, said quickly. Yer. Sample sentence: What’s your name? Yer, yer, yer. Yer name. Can I borrow your car? Yer, yer, yer. Borrow your car?
In this question: Can I borrow your car? Can I bor– car– Those are the two stressed syllables. ‘Can’ and ‘your’ reduced: can–, your–, and ‘I’ is unstressed. Can I borrow your car? What would it sound like if they were all stressed? If they were all said very clearly, fully pronounced? Can I borrow your car? Can I borrow your car? Can I borrow your car? Can I borrow your car? Completely unnatural. Can I borrow your car? It’s so important to learn about reductions, and learn about the unstressed pronunciation of words, so that you can sound more natural, more relaxed, and be more easily understood. You’re in the right place for this. Okay, let’s keep going.
Number 65: Good. This is our first word in the 100 most common words in English list that’s primarily an adjective. An adjective is a content word. Content words are nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. And content words are what are generally will be stressed in a sentence. Good. Good. Up-down shape. Good. Longer, clearer. The O here represents the UH sound, like in push, or book. Good. Uh.
The D is a stop consonant, and stop consonants have two parts, a stop of air, and a release. Good. Good. Stop and release. But with stop consonants, it’s common to skip the release. Then, the D becomes a lot more subtle. I want to show you what I mean. Good. ddd–
My tongue is lifted into position for the D, and my vocal cords make a sound. Dddd. Good. Good. Good. Do you hear it at the end? It’s clearer on its own. Dd– But of course, we never use it that way. It’s always part of a word or sentence. And that can mean it’s harder here: good, good, ddd–, good.
Pronouncing your D this way will help your English sound natural. If you’re linking the D into a word that begins with a vowel or diphthong, then it will sound like a flap. Let’s look at an example.
I feel good about the project. Good about, good about. Goo– ddd– Good about. There, the next word begins with a vowel sound, so I flap the tongue and connect the two words. Good about.
It’s a good restaurant. Good—dd—restaurant. There, I make a very quick D sound in the vocal cords, before going into the R. Good restaurant.
66, the word ‘some’. This word generally reduces and can be said very quickly in sentences. It depends on how the word is being used. For example, if it’s being usedto show that something was great, or unique, like, “That was some party!”, then it’s fully pronounced.
Also, if it can be switched out for the word ‘certain’, then it’s stressed: Some days I work from home, and some days I go to the office. Fully pronounced: some, some. Up-down shape, length, UH as in butter vowel.
But usually, it’s not stressed, it’s actually reduced. Then it’s more like: some, some, some.
Flat, low in pitch, said very quickly, and the vowel reduces to the schwa. Some. Some. Some.
We pronounce it this way when we use ‘some’ to mean an unknown amount, or unit, or thing.
Some water. May I have some water? Some, some. We need some more volunteers. Some, some. Some more. Some. Said very quickly, low in pitch, flat: some. Stressed: some. Unstressed: sum.
Number 67, the word “could”. Actually, we’ve already gone over this word. We did that when we talked about ‘would’, number 37.
Number 68. Another word that reduces, the word ‘them’. A pronoun, which is a function word. Fully pronounced, the word has the voiced TH, which I know is a tricky sound, the EH as in BED vowel, and the M consonant. Them. I have good news for you if the TH is one of your hardest sounds: This reduction involves dropping the TH.
So, let me give you an example sentence. We gave them the tickets. Gave ‘em. We gave ‘em money. Gave ‘em. Gave ‘em.
You might be thinking, wait, we already studied ‘gave ‘im’, and it was when we were talking about “him!” Yes. Both ‘him’ and ‘them’ sound the same when reduced. So, “we gave him money” will sound just like “we gave them money.”
It doesn’t matter that they sound the same. We use a pronoun when we’ve established who we’re talking about. So these two pronouns sounding the same shouldn’t add any confusion to your conversation.
So, you can pronounce it quickly with the TH: them, them, them, them. But you’ll also hear it with the TH dropped, and this is something you can do in conversational English too.
Number 69: See. This is a verb, a content word, and generally yes, this will always be stressed in a sentence. We’re on number 69 here of the 100 most common words in English, and there have only been a handful of words where it’s never unstressed. Wow. Unstressed words? So common. Reductions? So common.
See is a simple word, just two sounds, the S consonant and the EE as in SHE vowel. See. See. Stressed with an up-down shape: see, see. And it will be one of the longer syllables in a sentence. I didn’t see you there. See. See. Or: The CEO asked to see me. See.
Number 70: the word ‘other’. This word can be used as an adjective, a noun, a pronoun, so, this word can be both a content word and a function word. It can be stressed or unstressed. For example, stressed: I don’t love it, on the other hand, it is cheaper. Other. Other. Or, I read about that just the other day. Other. Other.
It’s usually stressed, but it can be unstressed. For example, Someone or other will help out. Someone or other. Or other, or other, or other, or other.
Other, other, other. Lower in pitch, a little mumbled, less clear. However, I don’t change any of the sounds so it’s just unstressed, not reduced. In the stressed syllable, we have the UH as in BUTTER vowel and voiced TH, oth, oth. Just the very tip of the tongue comes through the teeth for that TH. Oth, th, th, th. Other. Then the schwa R ending in the unstressed syllable. Other.
Wow. We’re getting close to the end. We’ve studied 70 of the 100 most common words in English. Let’s keep going down this list, studying the pronunciation, and I don’t mean the full or official pronunciation, I mean how the word is actually used in a sentence in American English. Look for the next installment in this series, coming soon.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.