American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

GA /t,d/ are elided in the coda when occurring between consonants. For instance, /t/ and /d/ are deleted in postcard, facts, walked back, windpipe, finds, gunned down, but not of course in actress and laundry, where they occur in the onset of the syllable.





These are some constraints on the preceding as well as the following consonant:

  1. Preceding consonant:

If the preceding consonant is /r/, there is no elision of either /t/ or /d/, as in heartbeat, cardboard. If the preceding consonant is /n/ or /l/, /d/-elision is common, but /t/-elision is not. Compare felt bad, stuntman, and cents, where /t/ is normally retained and realized as [t͜ʔ], with held back, landmark, sends, where /d/ is readily elided.



felt bad


held back


  1. Following consonant:

If the following consonant is /r,j,w,h/, elision is less likely, as in left right away, last year, last week, guesthouse, send Ronnie, old yachtsman, cold water, build houses.

left right away

last year

last week


send Ronnie

old yachtsman

cold water

build houses

The elision of /t/ in disyllabic contractions with /nt/ (not) is a special case: (it) isn’t clear, (he) doesn’t know, isn’t it, doesn’t she. Such an elision may also occur in monosyllabic contractions like (I) don’t like it, (I) don’t have one, but not when the contracted monosyllabic form is accented. So we would expect I ˈcan’t ˈdo it to differ from I ˈcan do it, i.e. [aɪ ˈkæ̃ʔ ˈduːɪʔ] vs [aɪ ˈkæ̃n ˈduːɪʔ], much like they’d spent the night there [ðeɪd ˈspɛ̃ʔ ðə ˈnaɪʔ ðɛr] differs from they’d spend the night there [ðeɪd ˈspɛ̃n̪ ðə ˈnaɪʔ ðɛr].

I can’t do it

I can do it

they’d spent the night there

they’d spend the night there

In nonstandard speech, final -Ct and -Cd clusters are frequently reduced to single -C, so that bold, past, next, left may be pronounced /boʊl, pæs, nɛks, lɛf/, even before a vowel or silence. In the standard language, this type of reduction may occasionally be heard in unaccented syllables, as in England, island, Egypt, perfect, though not in /nt/ clusters, as in different [ˈdɪfrə̃ʔ].

Advice for Dutch learners

Try to practice /t,d/-elision between consonants, except before /rj,w,/ and /h/, as in fast race, last year, wristwatch, guesthouse, goldrush, second year, old wine, blind horse.

One further context where /t/ should not be elided is after /n/ and /l/, as in went back, pointless, salt mine, hints. In words like facts, texts, sends, winds, postcard, handbook, /t,d/-elision is the rule.

Here are some further examples to practice /t,d/-elision: costly, perfectly, soft palate, act two, windshield, standpoint, restless, lists.