These two words are not pronounced the same: the lips must round for the second half of the OH diphthong in the word WON’T.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the pronunciation of two words: WANT and WON’T.
This is a tough word pair, and I’ve gotten lots of requests for it. Thanks for putting in your request, I’m glad to do it.
‘Want’ and ‘won’t’ are two words that you’ll rarely hear fully pronounced in American English. ‘Want’ and ‘won’t’ are more common. In these more common pronunciations, I’m not releasing the T sound. This is a common pronunciation for all of the N’T contractions, a topic that I made a video on several years ago.
So what’s the difference between these two common pronunciations of ‘want’ and ‘won’t’? Only the vowel. The beginning and ending consonants are the same. They both start with W, which is a tight circle in the lips. You’ll see this in up-close speech in just a minute. The tongue lifts in the back and comes down in the front, ww. The ending is either an N and fully a pronounced T, or, much more common, a stop of a nasal sound: nnt, nnt. To make this sound, the flat, front part of the tongue is at the roof of the mouth. The soft palate is down, which means air goes up into the nasal passages. For the T, we want to push this sound a little and cut it off, to make a stop, nt, nt. The T is a stop consonant. So let’s contrast a plain N sound with the N-T sound: nn, nt, nn, nt. Try just to imitate those two sounds, nn, nt, nn, nt. For the NT sound, I’m pushing down in my throat just a little bit. It pushes the sound even more into the nose. Nn, nt, nn, nt. And that’s the sound I want to cut off, nt. Want, nt, nt, nt, won’t, nt, nt.
To fully pronounce the NT, simply put the tongue into position for the N, close the teeth and cut off the airflow, nn-tt, and release the air, tongue, and teeth, nn-tt. This if you want to make a True T at the end.
Now let’s compare the different vowel sounds. ‘Want’ has the AH as in FATHER sound, ahh, want. But Americans will often morph this into something more like the UH as in BUTTER vowel. I know I do. Wa-, uhh, want. Don’t worry, both of these vowels are really different from the sound in ‘won’t’. For both the AH and the UH, the jaw drops, want, want, and the lips stay relaxed.
In ‘won’t’, it’s quite different. Here we have a diphthong, the OH as in NO diphthong. A diphthong is two different sounds. A beginning position moving into an ending position. OH. You’ll see that the lips move, they come in. This will be really obvious as we look at the zoomed footage. Let’s take a look now.
Here is the word ‘want’. Lips come in for the W, and then the relax for the rest of the word. You can see the tongue come up for the N-T.
Now the word ‘won’t’. Again, the lips come into a tight circle for the W consonant. They relax out for the first position of the diphthong OH, but they’re still rounded. Then, they then come back into a tight circle again for the second position of the diphthong. This second rounding is what makes this word different from ‘want’.
Then, the lips relax for the N-T sound.
Let’s compare ‘want’ and ‘won’t’ at the same time. Lips come into a tight circle. For ‘want’, the lips are starting to relax all the way out. For ‘won’t’, the lips are still rounded. And now, as ‘want’ continues to relax, the lips come in again for ‘won’t’.
So the difference to focus on is the second lip rounding of ‘won’t’. Make sure you do this diphthong lip rounding with ‘don’t’ as well, another very common word, don’t. Won’t, don’t.
Want, won’t. I hope this video has made the difference in these two words clear. If there’s a word or phrase you’d like help pronouncing, put it in the comments below.
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That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.