N’T contractions—didn’t, don’t, won’t—appear all the time in conversational English. Learn how to say these contractions smoothly and sound American.
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Today we’re going to go over the N’T contractions for the word not. You may have noticed as you’ve listened to native speakers that you can’t rely on hearing a good tt, released T sound, shouldn’t tt, tt. You’ll more often hear shouldn’, without that release of the T. So the T is pronounced as a stop consonant . If you’re not familiar with what that means, you’ll want to watch my video on the three T pronunciations.
Let’s look at an example sentence. He shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t, shouldn’t, nt, nt, nt. Just imitate that sound if you can. Nt, nt, nt. The N consonant is a nasal consonant. We’ll look in a minute at what that means, but for now just think of it as being in the nose, nn, nn. And the T here is a stop. Which means it’s going to stop the sound. It’s going to be an abrupt, short, n. The N sound, nn, NT, nt. So it’s just a very quick sound here in the nose. On its own,it’s unlike really any other sound in English. It almost doesn’t even sound like a speech sound. I also want to note that if it’s adding a syllable to a word, like should/shouldn’t, that it’s always going to be unaccented. So it will be lower in pitch than the rest of the word. Shouldn’t, shouldn’t.
Here we have the N and the T sounds next to each other. You can see the tongue position is almost the same. In both, the tongue reaches up and touches the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. The main difference is that in the N, the soft palate is down. What that means is that the air comes through here, which is why you feel it so much in your nose. In the T the soft palate is raised. So though you won’t hear the T release, the T makes itself known when the soft palate raises, cutting off the sound. Now of course sometimes you will hear native speakers pronounce the T, like this: does, doesn’t. But most of the time in conversation in the middle of a sentence, you will not hear the T released.
Let’s look at some more NT contractions. Could, couldn’t, couldn’t. I couldn’t see. Did, didn’t didn’t. I didn’t find it. Would, wouldn’t, wouldn’t. I wouldn’t if I were you. Does, doesn’t, doesn’t. Doesn’t it hurt? Is, isn’t, isn’t. Isn’t that strange? Was, wasn’t, wasn’t. Wasn’t that good? Have, haven’t, haven’t. I haven’t been.
Some N’T contraction words are just one syllable. For example, won’t and don’t. They still have a shape, won’t, of tapering off at the end. Won’t, don’t. They’re sort of funny sounding words, they both have the ‘oh’ as in ‘no’ diphthong. Will not becomes won’t, won’t. I won’t be there. Do not, don’t, don’t. I don’t think so.
If you’re wondering about can vs. can’t, there will be a separate video on that. So look for it in the future. I hope that you better understand this chopped off N sound in the nose, the N’T contraction. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.