10 English words you might be pronouncing WRONG!
Ready for some English pronunciation practice? I’m going to show you how to pronounce some tricky words. These words are often mispronounced by English learners, perhaps because the combination of sounds is difficult, or because there are silent letters and syllables.
I’ve chosen these words because they are common words, but they are also words that are often said incorrectly by non-native speakers. These words are:
- almond* and salmon (*Australian pronunciation)
- et cetera (etc.)
- word, world & work
Let’s fix your pronunciation mistakes together so that you can speak English more clearly and confidently!
Hello! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson, I’m going to share with you 10 English words that you’re probably mispronouncing! If you are learning to speak English, then pronunciation is probably one of the biggest frustrations that you have right now.
And these words that I’ve chosen are difficult because of the combination of letters or sounds in English. Together they can be quite difficult or your eyes can, in fact, play tricks on you because the letters that you see, they don’t sound like you think they should and some of these words are even difficult for native English speakers to pronounce! But don’t worry about it, don’t sweat, we are going to fix these pronunciation problems right here, right now in this lesson!
Let’s get started!
OK the first word is ‘vegetable’, ‘vegetable’. Now this word is a challenge because it looks like there should be four syllables in this word. ‘Vegetable’. But there’s not, there are three syllables, ‘vegetable’. Can you see the syllable – that we completely forget the ‘e’? ‘Vegetable’. We don’t pronounce that second syllable. ‘Vegetable’, ‘vegetable’. Fantastic!
I’m going to the market to get some vegetables for dinner.
Now this word, just like ‘vegetable’, has an extra vowel in there that we don’t need to pronounce. ‘Comfortable’, not ‘comfortable’ or ‘comfortable’ but ‘comfort-able’. ‘Comfortable’. You skip that vowel sound. ‘Comfortable’.
You look very comfortable this afternoon.
Now in this word the ‘L’ is silent. It’s not ‘almond’ or ‘almond’, it’s ‘almond’, ‘almond’, ‘almond’, ‘almond’. I’m going to make an almond cake for dessert. Now there are lots of other English words that have a silent letter ‘L’ in them – words like ‘salmon’, not ‘salmon’, ‘half’, not ‘half’, ‘would’, ‘talk’, ‘walk’. All of these words have a silent ‘L’ in them, which makes them a little bit tricky to pronounce correctly.
I’ve got a separate video that is all about silent letters in English words and I talk about the letter ‘L’ and lots of other silent letters in that video. You can check it out up here at the end of this video!
OK, what about this one?
How many times have you been asked to read a paragraph out aloud in front of the class and you’ve been reading and then you come across this and you think, ‘How on earth am I going to say that!?’
Lots of native English speakers actually mess this up as well and they’ll pronounce X-cetera or X-cetera and it should be pronounced ‘et cetera’, ‘et cetera’,’et cetera’ or ‘et cetera’, if you’re like me.
OK this one is especially difficult! ‘Clothes’, ‘clothes’, ‘clothes’. Now the reason why it’s especially difficult is because of the two final consonant sounds, the ‘-th’ and the plural sound. Now this noun is of course, always plural. Clothes refers to shirts, shorts, trousers, jumpers, jackets – anything that you wear is your clothes, are your clothes!
But ‘clothes’, ‘clothes’, not ‘cloths, not ‘close’ and not ‘clothes’ either! The difficult thing about the pronunciation of this word is the two consonant sounds. Both of those sounds are voiced consonant sounds so the sound is made here in your vocal cords. Now the thing to remember that’s really important is with that ‘-th’ sound, you need to bring your teeth through – your tongue through your teeth! Now the ‘-th’ sound is very, very soft. It is definitely still there, it needs to sound different from the verb ‘close’. OK, which doesn’t have the ‘-th’ sound. This word has the ‘-th’ sound, ‘clothes’, ‘clothes’. It’s very short but it’s definitely there!
I need to pack my clothes tonight because we leave early in the morning. I need to pack my clothes tonight.
‘Jewellery’, ‘jewellery’, ‘jewellery’. Again, we’ve got an extra vowel here that we don’t need to pronounce. We don’t say ‘jewellery’, ‘jewellery’. It’s just ‘jewellery’ and actually in American English, the spelling is slightly different to the British and the Australian version. And the American version should help you to pronounce this word more correctly. ‘Jewelry’, ‘jewelry’.
So that’s gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, earrings, rings, necklaces – all of these things that we wear to make ourselves look more beautiful!
I don’t wear a lot of of jewellery myself. The only jewellery I wear is this ring and sometimes more earrings.
‘Architecture’, ‘architecture’. This one is so often mispronounced! I hear ‘architecture’, ‘architecture’ – which is incorrect! The ‘-ch’ sound in this word is a sound like in ‘cat’. ‘Architecture’, ‘architect’. ‘Architect’. It’s not the same ‘-ch’ sound that you hear in words like ‘chocolate’ and ‘cheese’, it’s a sound and there are quite a few English words that actually have this same pronunciation of the ‘-ch’ combination – words like ‘stoamch’ and ‘ache’. The ‘-ch’ in all of these words is pronounced like a sound.
My brother is an architect.
He went home early because he had a stomach ache.
‘Enthusiastic’, not ‘enthu
siastic’ or ‘enthusiastic’, but ‘enthusiastic’. You have to work harder to get this one correct! So many of my students say “This one is too hard! I’m just not going to use this word!” and I say “NO, we are going to get it right, right now, together here in this lesson!”. ‘Enthusiastic’.
So what you need to do is break down this word. Start with the first syllable. Where is your tongue? What’s it doing on that final consonant sound? It’s at the top of your mouth and the ‘n’ sound is made back in the soft palate – it’s a nasal sound and to move to the ‘-th’ sound, you need to of course, bring your tongue down and out through your teeth. The tongue must come out through the middle of your teeth If you don’t, you will mispronounce this word and you’ll say ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘enthusiastic’ instead. You need to say See how I’m breaking that down for you? ‘Enthusiastic’, ‘enthusiastic’.
Now you’re going to be enthusiastic about using that word!
9. Word / world / work
Now you’re probably mispronouncing these words because you are looking at the ‘-or’ and you’re trying to pronounce the vowel sound ‘or’, like in ‘door’. But this is incorrect, the vowel sound is actually as in ‘her’. ‘Work’, ‘world’, ‘word’.
This is your eyes playing tricks on you! Your eyes are seeing these words, seeing the letters O and R and they’re telling you to pronounce ‘or’ but, in fact, you should be pronouncing ‘or’ for all of these words! ‘Word’, ‘world’, ‘work’. If you pronounce ‘or’, especially for this last one, ‘work’, it actually sounds a lot like the English word, ‘walk’.
‘Photograph’. Now perhaps you can pronounce this word correctly, ‘photograph’, but what about all of the other words in this word family? ‘Photography’, ‘photographer’, ‘photographic’. When my students mispronounce these words, it’s usually because they are stressing the wrong syllable.
English words that have more than one syllable always have one strong stressed syllable. Sometimes there are secondary syllables but there is always one main stressed syllable that is clearer and stronger than the others and the unstressed syllable – the syllable that’s not stressed – is often reduced down to a schwa vowel sound. Now the schwa sound is the lazier sound in English. That’s the schwa sound, it’s the laziest vowel sound in English. And these stress patterns are exactly what is different about the pronunciation of these words, so in the first example, ‘photograph’, the first syllable is the stressed syllable. The second syllable is unstressed and it is reduced down to the schwa sound. ‘Photograph’, ‘photograph’, it’s very short, it’s very lazy, it’s not very strong at all.
Now if you look at the second example, ‘photograph’, you can hear the pronunciation is different and that’s because the second syllable is the stressed syllable in this word. ‘Photography’. ‘Photography’. Compare it to the first syllable where the schwa sound is – it reduces down to the schwa sound and you just hear ‘photography’. ‘Photographer’.
The third example, ‘photographic’, the stress is on the third syllable, so you can hear how much influence stress has on this word family.
To correctly pronounce all of these words correctly, you need to pay attention to the stressed syllable and that’s true for a whole range of different word families. ‘Economic’, ‘nature’, ‘politics’, all of these words and their word families are influenced by stress in different ways.
Well that’s my official list of the words that you are probably mispronouncing and I didn’t just make that list up, I built that list over years and years of coaching English students to improve their English pronunciation. They’re the words that students consistently get wrong! Many different students, many different times, they are the ones that are the most difficult for you to pronounce.
I hope that you enjoyed this lesson, if you did make sure you subscribe by clicking the red button here. I mentioned a video about silent letters earlier in this lesson, you can watch it here and you can also watch my imitation lessons right here and those lessons are fantastic for improving your English pronunciation and expression by speaking with a native English speaker. Thanks for watching and I will see you in the next lesson. Bye for now!
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