Learn how to pronounce the -est ending of words like ‘biggest’, ‘funniest’, and ‘smartest’. Remember, this ending is always unstressed.
YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over words with the -est ending.
As you may have learned in a grammar class, the -est ending is superlative, the most of something. For example, “That was the funniest movie I’ve ever seen!”, or “She’s the tallest one on the team.”
Recently someone asked me, How is this ending pronounced? Thanks for your question.
If you look at it on its own, it looks like it might be ‘est’, just like the word BEST without the B, or WEST without the W, -est.
But that’s not how it’s pronounced. This is always an unstressed syllable, so it won’t be pronounced EST, with a longer vowel and a shape in the voice, EST. But, it will be pronounced –est, ih, ih, -est. The IH vowel and the ST consonant cluster, lower in pitch, lower in volume, lower in energy, fast. EST, -est. Let’s compare. EST, not correct. –est [4x], correct. Practice that with me, -est [4x].
To make the unstressed IH sound, the tongue tip is forward, lightly touching the back of the bottom front teeth. The top front part of the tongue lifts a little towards the roof of the mouth, ih. The jaw drops only a little bit. Ih, ih. The lips are relaxed. Ih, -est, -est. To make the S, the teeth have to come closer together. The tongue stays forward and the tip can either point down or up (I keep it pointed down), isssss. To make the T, bring the tip up to the roof of the mouth, stop the air, and release it, tt, pushing the air through the teeth. St, st, -est, -est. Let’s look at some words with this ending.
Biggest. Biggest. –est, -est, -est. Notice how it sounds like “ist” and not “est”. That’s what we want, –est, -est, biggest.
Tallest, -est, -est. Tallest.
Funniest, -est, -est. Funniest.
Now that you’re comfortable with the ending, we’re going to throw in something else, the Flap T. When a T sound comes between two vowel sounds, or after an R and before a vowel sound, it becomes a Flap T.
Let’s take the words ‘smart’ and ‘brightest’. The final two sounds in ‘smart’ are R and T. When we add the –est ending, the T comes between the R and a vowel, so it’s a Flap T. We don’t make it a True T, tt, tt, smartest, smartest, -test, -test. But, a Flap T: smartest, -test, -test, -test. The Flap T sounds like a D between vowels in American English, the tongue just bounces once against the roof of the mouth. Depending on your native language, this might sound like an R to you. I’m going to hold out the R before the flap. Watch how the tongue bounces against the roof of the mouth. Smarrrrrrrrr-test [2x]. Smartest.
The word ‘bright’ ends in the AI diphthong and the T. So, when we add the –est ending, the T is between two vowels or in this case, a vowel and a diphthong. That’s a Flap T. I’m going to hold out the AI diphthong. Watch the tongue bounce once against the roof of the mouth. Briiiiiiiigh-test [2x]. Brightest. Can you see the tongue flap? Brightest.
Let’s practice some more words. I want you to practice them first, out loud, before I say them. Remember to make the ending lower in pitch, lower in volume, down here, -est, -est, -est.
This first one has a Flap T.
Greatest, greatest. -est, -est, -est. Greatest.
Highest, -est, -est, -est. Highest.
Nearest. -est, -est, -est. Nearest.
Earliest. -est, -est, -est. Earliest.
Lowest. -est, -est, -est. Lowest.
Finest. -est, -est, -est. Finest.
Youngest. -est, -est, -est. Youngest. This one is a little different. By itself, the word is ‘young’, with no hard G sound, just the NG sound. Young, younnnggg. But when we add the –est or –er ending, we do make a hard G: younger, ggg, -ger, younger, or, youngest, ggg, -gest. Youngest. This is also true of strong – strongest, ggg, -gest, and long, longest, -gest, gg, -gest.
Great job everybody. If you only remember one thing from this video, I hope it’s that this ending is always unstressed. We want it to be quieter, lower in pitch. Less important! -est, -est, -est.
I’m very excited to tell you that I recently finished my first book. If you liked this video, there’s a lot more to learn about American English pronunciation, and my book will help you step by step. You can get it by clicking here, or in the description below.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.