I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn't sleep

This is a very interesting phrase. The double vowel (diphthong) of “I” reduces to a short sound, as it’s weak. The real problem area, though, is the cluster of consonants /dntsl/. The solution is to remove the /t/ sound completely. It’s also important to keep the front of the tongue in contact with the top of the mouth all the time as you change from one consonant to another, otherwise, you’ll get a vowel where you don’t want one. This will take some practice. Listen and repeat using the recording. Do it slowly, especially at first.

This phrase is not an idiom. It simply means I was unable to get to sleep last night. I hope you sleep well!

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Leave it out!

leave it out

The most common difficulty here is the sound /i:/. The colon shows that it’s a long sound, unlike the short /ɪ/ of “live”, and needs a wider mouth, like a little smile. Notice the stress on the preposition again.

This is a slang phrase, meaning “stop it!”

Look out!

look out

A nice simple phrase, but there are some useful points. The “oo” in “look” needs to be very short, like “put”, not long, like “food”. The “t” in out can be pronounced fully, or down where your voice is, as shown here. The most important thing is that there’s plenty of stress on “out”, and big intonation, because this is a warning.

We also say “Watch out!”, with the same meaning, warning someone that they may come to harm if not careful, for example, “Look out, there’s a broken step.”

I’ve just found out.

I've just found out

The way to link “just” to “found” is simply to skip (leave out) the “t”. The diphthongs (double vowels) can be difficult. You can practise them separately. Notice the stress is on the preposition, which may be surprising, but is very common, particularly with a phrasal verb. The final “t” is often pronounced not with the tongue, but right down in the throat, where you make a /h/ sound. This sound, which looks a bit like a question mark, is called a glottal stop.

“Find out” means “discover”, so this phrase means “I’ve just discovered/heard” some news or information.

I love you!

i-love-you

You can stress “love” and “you” if you like. Some people say /ʊ/ instead of /ʌ/ for love, making the vowel sound more like “book”. It really depends where you come from.

Do I have to explain what this means? I don’t think so, it’s Valentine’s Day.

I’ve worked it out.

i've worked it out

Remember that the -ed past simple verb ending usually has a silent “e”, so it doesn’t add a syllable. Because of the /k/ sound, the “d” becomes unvoiced – /t/. Curiously, the “t” of “it” can be voiced, making it sound like a “d”. This is optional. The final “t” can be pronounced with the tongue, or down where you make a /h/, but isn’t released.

To work something out is to solve a puzzle, mystery or problem.

It worked out OK in the end.

it worked out OK in the end

 

Notice that the “ed” ending of “worked” doesn’t add a syllable. The “e” is silent, and the “d” is unvoiced, so sounds like a “t”. Also notice the pronunciation of “the” when it’s followed by a vowel. It’s quite different from the dictionary pronunciation.

This phrase means “It ended well”, and you would say it about something you had been worried about, like a difficult exam. My students have exams this week, but I’m sure it will work out OK in the end.

I can’t make him out.

i can't make him out

Notice that “I”, when unstressed, can reduce to the short vowel /ʌ/. Because of the “m” of “make”, the “n’t” of “can’t” is pronounced with the lips, not the tongue. There is a stop between the words, but don’t open your lips. Listen and practise. The “h” of “him” is tricky, so we just miss it out.

“Make someone or something out” is a phrasal verb meaning to see or understand clearly. It’s often used in the negative. This phrase means “I can’t understand him well”, or “I don’t know what to think of him.”