Why does the T have different sounds in American English?

The American T has many sounds

The American T

The American T

My accent reduction coaching clients often ask me,

“Susan, I’ve noticed that you say your T sounds differently than I do. Why does the T have different sounds in American English?”

Here is the answer…

The 4 sounds of the American T

In spoken American English, the letter T makes at least 4 different sounds. These are:

  1. The tapped T
  2. The dropped T
  3. The held T
  4. The aspirated T

In this post I’ll tell you about the tapped t sound.

The tapped T sound

The tapped T sounds more like a quick /d/ than a /t/.

To make the tapped t sound, let your tongue lightly tap against the gum ridge behind your teeth.

Do not release a puff of air when you make this sound.

You’ll hear Americans use a tapped T sound in these situations:

  • When a T comes before  er,  or  & ar  as in the words: later, doctor & water.
  • When a T comes before ing & ed as in the words: shouting & shouted.
  • When a T comes before Y as in the words: city & thirty.
  • When linking words in phrases such as: eat out & cut out.

Listen here


Why should you use the tapped t sound?

Here are four reasons you should use the tapped t sound when you speak American English.

  1. Using the tapped t sound will enable you to lengthen your stressed vowel sounds more effectively!
  2. That will make your words sound more clear.
  3. Using the tapped t sound will make your speech sound smoother.
  4. Using the tapped t sound will make it easier for you to link & blend words together.

I can show you how

The American T sounds are easy to learn.

The people who I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs are always pleased with how quickly they’re able to integrate the American T sounds into their speech.

If you’re an international professional, who’d like to learn how to pronounce the American T sounds, check out my training programs at the link below.

My training programs will teach you how speak American English in a way that your colleagues will respect and understand!

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.