ESL: The Letter T (A Trick for American English Accent)

Spelling and Pronunciation

Mastering the American accent can be tricky if you base your pronunciation on spelling alone.  In this article, we introduce you to one pronunciation variation. This pronunciation variation involves the letter T.

Example of T-Pronounciation Variation: British English

My husband and I were watching a NOVA special on public television.  He suddenly repeated one of the words that the British narrator had mentioned.  It was quite endearing; “paTTern!” my husband uttered before he smiled.  The narrator was speaking in a British English accent.  The only difference between the British pronunciation and the American pronunciation was the way the letter T was stated in the word.

T-Pronunciation Variation Important for Speaker of English as a Second Language

This British and American T-pronunciation difference highlights a challenging area for speakers of American English as a second or other language.  Knowing the T-variation component of American accent helps speakers of American English as a second or other language reduce their communication barriers.  Using this “trick” can help make the American Accent less “tricky.”

Rule for Flap T

The British say the word with what we call a stressed T or precise T.  The Americans say it with what we call a flap T.  The flap T actually sounds like a D.  The word “Pattern” is said as “PATTERN” by the British (and by many individuals who speak English as a second language).  They pronounce the letter “t” as “t”.  The word “pattern” is said as “PADDERN” by Americans.  Americans pronounce the letter “t” as “d.”  We call this the Flap T.

Individuals speaking American English with a first language background other than English can run into barriers if they don’t know the rules for pronouncing T.  There are multiple pronunciation variations for the letter T.  Knowing the pronunciation rules for this one simple letter can open up opportunities for you to communicate much more effectively and efficiently.  If you would like additional information on how to change your accent and make it sound more American, contact Cher Gunderson at (920) 362-2359 or email her:

Share your Experiences, Comment, or Ask Questions

We hope this blog was valuable to you.  Click on the comments section at the end of this article, scroll to the bottom, and leave a comment and/or question.  We’ll be happy to respond.  It is Master Your Accent’s mission to empower you to communicate your message clearly the first time.  When you can communicate clearly the first time, you’re confident.  That means you can fully express your skills, talents, personality, and spirit!

Here’s to you easing into accent reduction!



PolinaJanuary 27th, 2013 at 4:28 am

Thank you Cher.
Very helpful information.

Cher GundersonJanuary 27th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Polina, you’re very welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful! There are many more variations of T; please watch for the upcoming blogs that will address some of them.


BilelMarch 16th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Thank you Ms cher
It’s really very helpful.
If you don’t mind could you please suggest a pronunciation book that contains all the rules governing american pronunciation?
I would appreciate your help.

Cher GundersonMarch 16th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Hello Bilel.

I’m glad you found the article helpful. You’re very welcome. Here is a great resource: Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner. Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech. Owings Mills: Successfully Speaking, 2006, 2007, 2nd Edition. Print. They also have online materials and additional resources. Go to

May I ask what your native language is?



BilelMarch 19th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Dear Ms Cher,

Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate that.

As to your question, my native language is Arabic.

Thank you again and good bye.


Cher GundersonMarch 19th, 2014 at 5:09 pm


You may also find our videos and additional blogs helpful to modify your Arabic accent to the American accent.

Let me know if you have any other questions or topics you’d like addressed.

To your success,

BilelMarch 20th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Hello Ms Gunderson,
The content of your website is great. I am working on the American accent and I have found your site very helpful. Unfortunately, when I learned English, I was taught only the received pronunciation. RP is not widely used. And I find it really hard to understand American movies and TV programs.
By learning the rules, I hope my understanding will improve.
I want to ask you about something; I am wondering whether there is a specialized dictionary that gives the pronunciation of words as they are used in everyday speech. Dictionaries available on the market give only the phonetic transcription of words pronounced in isolation. I think if this kind of dictionary exists it would be an invaluable help for American English learners. And learners would use it to develop vocabulary and ‘real’ pronunciation at the same time.
Once again thank you for your kindness and help.

SpeakeasilyMarch 21st, 2014 at 2:16 am

Hi Ms. Gunderson, I must say that you have a great idea to maintain the content. To adapt the American accent is not that difficult. The focus must be on some words specially. The proper guidance can make one master in that.

Cher GundersonMarch 21st, 2014 at 4:44 pm


Yes, received pronunciation is different to the ear than American pronunciation. You ask a very good question about pronunciation dictionaries by phoneme. That is essentially the question you’re asking. There are two books (however, these are not dictionaries with definitions-just the words) that are arranged by spelling and phoneme. They are: Book of Words: 17,000 Words Selected by Vowels and Diphthongs by Valeda D. Blockcolsky, and 40,000 Selected Words by Valeda D. Blockcolsky, et al. They are both available on Amazon used or new.

Let me know if you decide to look them up. Thanks for the question!


Cher GundersonMarch 21st, 2014 at 4:56 pm


Thank you for posting your words of encouragement for others who speak English as their non-native language. You are definitely right-the proper guidance can make one a master in the American Accent. Do you mind my asking, What is your native language?


BilelMarch 24th, 2014 at 8:34 am

Hello Ms Gunderson,

Thank you so much for your help and for these invaluable resources. I am sure they are a great help for anyone who wants to modify his/her accent to the American accent.

Thanks and good bye.


SpeakeasilyApril 1st, 2014 at 6:36 am

Hey Gunderson,

My Native language is British. I am trying to learn the Australian as well. Can you suggest me some good online stuffs that I can go through?

Cher GundersonApril 1st, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Hello Kameron. Because our focus is on the American accent, I don’t have any specific recommendations for mastering the Australian accent at this time. In your search, if you come across valuable material that you resonate with, please share it with us.

Thank you very much,


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