How to Pronounce the American “T” as a “D” (with Video)

In this episode of RealLifeTV, Justin teaches correct pronunciation of the American “T” Sound, one of the most confusing sounds to pronounce and comprehend for most English learners. This lesson will drastically improve your comprehension of American and Canadian English.

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Transcript Below

Hello, I’m Justin.  Welcome to another episode of RealLife TV.  Today I’m going to talk about pronunciation, and more specifically the American “d” Sound (actually this is called the “American “T” sound). We are going to talk about words like better, words like water. Why do we pronounce the “t” in better as a “d,” as an American “d.”

This is also called a soft “d,” fast “d,” flap “t,” or the “t” between vowels because it normally happens between two vowels. But it happens in many other situations too.

T sound (Thumb)American “D” Pronunciation Examples

So, to start out, let’s go back to those examples. And England and maybe some other countries, they might say “waTer,” but in the United States we say “waDer.”

  • Better: They say Better, “BeTTer” there sometimes.
  • City: “CiTy” in those countries. “CiDy” (American pronunciation).
  • Computer: “CompuDer” we say in the United States as well.
  • Bottle: “BoDD-ul”

And there are some other words as well that have a…. the “le” sound, for example:

Words Ending with “le” (Seattle, Beatles)

  • Seattle: I’m from a place called Seattle (“See-a-Dul”). I grew up learning how to say “See-a-Dul,” my parents taught me that, this is the way everybody speaks in the Northwest United States. In the whole country actually. But, when I travel I have to say “See-a-Tul” (with a “T”) for people to understand me a lot of the times because they’re not used to the American way of pronouncing things. And the same thing in Canada too. But, other words like that…
  • Beatles: I don’t say the “BeaT-uls,” I say the “Bea-Duls”

Using Numbers to Learn

A really good tool I use to teach this to my students are the numbers. So, for example:

  • 13 (“Thir-Teen”) —– 30 “Thir-Dee”

If you compare this to the way some people might pronounce this in England, it sounds very similar. It’s confusing for me sometimes when I hear this, especially when people are learning English. So, for example:

  • 13 (“Thir-Teen”) —— 30 (“Thir-Tee”), they sound very similar (British Pronunciation), and if you’re not paying attention you can get them confused, so I teach 13 (“ThirTeen”)—— 30 (“ThirDee”) because it separates them and makes them much more distinct.
  • 14 (“Four-Teen”) —— 40 (“Four-Dee”)
  • 15 (“Fif-Teen”) —– 50 (“Fif-Dee”)
  • 16 (“Six-Teen”) —– 60 (“Six-Dee”)
  • 17 (“Seven-Teen) —– 70 (“Seven-Dee”)
  • 18 (“Eigh-Teen) —– 80 (“Eigh-Dee”)
  • 19 (“Nine-Teen”) —–90 (“Nine-Dee”)

If you notice on all of these, tens- “thir-Dee,” “four-Dee,” “fif-Dee,” “six-Dee,” “seven-Dee,” “eigh-Dee,” “nine-Dee” that the “T” turns into a “D.” So, that’s a really clear example of this.

Combining Words (Word Endings)

Also, this happens when you have several words. For example:

  • Cat and Mouse: when you put them together in American, we would say “CaD-and-Mouse”)
  • A lot of: Another example of this would be “A lot of.” I say “A-lah-Duv” or “A-lah-Duh”
  • Out of: “OuDuh” or “OuDuv”

Whole Sentences (Word Beginnings)

To put this in a sentence, we can say like, “wha-dare” – what-are-you-going-to-do-tomorrow”

“WhaD-are you going-Duh-do-Domorrow?”

In normal speech, so there are three points the “T” becomes a “D”

  1. What are: “WhaD-are”
  2. You going to do: “You going-Duh-do”

This happens a lot when the word is preceded by an “ing.” “I’m goin-do” (repeat). So “WhaD-are you going-Duh-do-Domorrow?” And the really surprising word that receives this change tomorrow “Domorrow”

  1. Tomorrow: becomes “domorrow” (“duh-morrow”), because it’s- you have the “o” on the end of “do” and the “o” after “t,” tomorrow (going-Duh-do-Domorrow), so it’s between two vowels, so 


(What are you going to do tomorrow)

So that’s a really interesting example.

In Names

And, one final example of this is the name Pete. For example “Pete,” when you just say the name “Pete” individually, in the United States or other countries, it’s just Pete (pronounced “Peet”), but then when you say it – the whole word- it’s Peter (pronounced “PedDer”), “PeDer,” whereas in England this might be “PeTer.”

Connected Speech: How Natives Really Speak

So this is connected speech, this is when we actually shorten the words, we shrink them, we link them, and we morph them. So this is the way we really speak.

This is not informal, this is the standard American accent. It’s the way we speak in a job interview, as well as with friends, so pay attention to this.

Recommended Use

I really recommend that first you learn how to understand it, to hear it, to recognize it, because this will open you up to movies, music, TV shows, and it will help you really participate in English speaking pop culture.

From there, you can experiment with it, do exercises, see if you can pronounce the word “better” (“Be-der”) or “Seattle” (“See-a-dul”), and practice that a little bit and you can play around and start using it. From there, you don’t need to do this, but it might help your English, it might help your flow of your English.

So, that’s today’s lesson. I hope you enjoyed. There’s also an article that I wrote about this in the information box below. Feel free to click on that and go to our website and check that out.

Also, if you’d like to receive more lessons like this, click on subscribe right here and we’ll send you more videos like this. Thank you very much. Take care.

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  • Juliette Michelle says:

    This is very helpful. I have a new student who I am going to start tutoring who is Brazilian. He works for a manufacturing company near me. He will be my first Brazilian student, and this will be my first time tutoring someone in a corporate environment! I’m nervous, but I know I got this, and I will learn a lot! These tips are already helping, including info in a few other articles you have… It was interesting because I did notice right away he adds an -ee sound to the end of all kinds of words… I know we can address that as well as the T and D sounds…at minimum. Thanks. 🙂

  • hue toob says:

    How about you just pronouce it the real way instead of of continuing to make yourself sound thick.