Happy New Year!


The close proximity of the two /j/ sounds can be quite difficult. Start by practising “new year”, then build up to the full phrase.

I don’t think the meaning needs explaining. Best wishes to everybody.


Merry Christmas!

merry christmas

Notice that the “t” in Christmas is silent, and because the stress is on the first syllable, the “a” weakens to /ə/.

“Merry” means happy, or fun. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you have a nice day today.

Last minute shopping.


We make the link between “last” and “minute” easier by making the t silent. The t at the end of “minute” is pronounced right down in your throat where you make a /h/ sound. We’ve practised this before. This makes it easier to get to the /ʃ/ sound.

This is a noun phrase, used, for example, in a phrase like, “I have to do some last minute shopping.” That means shopping when there’s not much time left. Don’t panic though. Christmas, if you celebrate it, isn’t till Sunday. Plenty of time..

It’s the sixteenth.

It's the sixteenth

People often find dates difficult, especially with all the /θ/ sounds in ordinal numbers. For this, and /ð/ in”the”, it’s important that your tongue touches your top teeth. Teachers often tell students to stick their tongue out, but this is wrong, as you touch your teeth with the wrong part of your tongue, and it makes it more difficult to speak. It should be the front of your tongue, so that just the very tip might be visible if you look in the mirror, but definitely not sticking out. When students make these sounds wrongly, though, it is almost always because the tongue is too far back, giving /t/ or /d/. The difference between the sounds is that /ð/ is voiced, but /θ/ is unvoiced. Remember to say the phrase slowly when you’re practising. All my pronunciation workshop students want to speak too fast!

I loved it!

I loved it

The “o” in “loved” can be pronounced /ʌ/ or /ʊ/, but not /ɒ/. If you’re not sure about those symbols, go to the Useful Links page for some sites where you can revise your sounds. It’s important that the -ed past simple ending doesn’t add a syllable. The “e” is silent. Practise!

This phrase is hopefully the answer to the last post.

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Did you enjoy yourself?

did you enjoy yourself

For me, the interesting thing here is the stress and intonation. There are two stressed words in the sentence, and to show real interest in the answer, it ends on a high termination. People confuse this with a rising tone, but it’s not the same. To see the difference, try repeating the question, as if you were surprised by it. Now you get a rising tone.

A grammar point: The verb “enjoy” must have an object. We often use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves), so it’s useful to learn them.

We ask this question when we know somebody’s done something special; been to a party, or on holiday, for example. I hope you enjoyed your summer (or winter, if you’re in the southern hemisphere).

I got out the wrong side of bed.

I got out the wrong side of bed

The “t” at the end of “out” should be pronounced with the front of the tongue just touching the top teeth, ready for the /ð/ sound of “the”. Notice that “of” is pronounced with the mouth relaxed into the weak vowel /ə/. This is because it is not stressed. /v/ is pronounced with top teeth touching bottom lip, while /b/ is pronounced with both lips. If you’re a Spanish speaker, this may need practice.

We say this to mean, “I’m in a bad mood”. We can change the word order, and say “I got out of bed the wrong side”. We can change the pronoun, and say it to, or about, another person also.

Let’s sleep on it.

let's sleep on it

Notice that the “t” in “let’s” is pronounced as a stop down in your throat, where your voice is, not with the tongue, this makes it easier and softer. Remember not to pause between the two /s/ sounds; run them together. Make sure the /i:/ in “sleep” is nice and long.

We say this when we can’t decide something. It means, “Let’s decide tomorrow.”