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Dear teachers

A. In conversation, can and can't sound very similar when spoken softly, as if the "t" sound were nonexistent. How do I pronounce can't clearly without confusing people? Should I stop for a sec on the "t" sound?

B. I find it very hard to pronounce the " l " sound when reading this paragraph " He fell off the bike and rolled down the slope." Would it be OK if I skip the "L" sound? Because rolled and rowed sound similar when spoken softly.

Thanks for answering
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Hi Davidrock65, your question is a good one.

I didn't really understand that can-can't difference before I read a book to improve my pronunciation. The t in can't is pronounced more or less like the t in hot. It's a final t, it's not pronounced as clearly as in top. You practically don't hear it. So, you might be wondering, how do I distinguish can from can't? The answer is: considering stress and intonation. Look:

  • I can touch it! (touch is stressed, can is not. A unstressed can is pronounced with a schwa, cuh-n)
  • I can't touch it! (here you stress also can't, and it is pronounced with an a like in cancel.)


  • Now, the problem is, what if I also want to stress can? The answer is "I don't know!" Emotion: stick out tongue It's not clear to me too, I think we should wait for some native speakers. Here's some examples:

    • I can ( A sterssed can is pronounced with an a like in cancel)
    • I can't ( It's pronounced the same as the above, but with a t, which is not pronounced very clearly though... Emotion: tongue tied)
    • I can't touch it... No, wait, I can touchit! (I can't pronounce these two differently, and I think I wouldn't get the difference if I heard them... this is confusing to me too Emotion: tongue tied)


    • Emotion: smile

      PS: American English point of view, see my signature.
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In British English the 'a' sound is very different between can and can't too. The can't one is much longer, almost as though the word were spelled 'carnt'.
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Many native speakers have trouble hearing the difference between 'can' and 'can't' in American speech and need to ask for repetition. One trick is to be sure to lenghten the vowel in 'can't' making it 'caaaaaaaaaaaaaan't' with a nasal American /ae/. They vowel in 'can' is very brief. In rapid speech, it sounds like /kn/. Second, 'can't' is heavily stressed. 'I CAN'T go with you.' When using 'can' the verb is stressed. 'I can GO with you.'

Finally, when listening watch the speaker carefully. Head movements often indicate whether the statement is positive or negative. Use your head (physically) when speaking. Nod slightly up and down to indicate 'can' - a small shake with 'can't.'

As for 'rolled' - agh - /r/ /l/ and /d/ in the same word = difficult. Try saying 'old' several times. If you can master 'old', you are on your way to mastering 'rolled'.
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If you're aiming for a British accent, the vowel sound in the words can [ k{n ] and [ k_hAnt ] are very different. In North American English, the vowel is the same for both, but /t/ is usually realised as a glottal stop at the end of "can't".