Pronunciation: Joining Words

Number 38 of 74 in B2 - UPPER-INTERMEDIATE

New English word? Translate any word using double click.

Pronunciación: Como juntar las palabras en Inglés

repeat after me

Pronunciation: Joining Words

‘Word joining’ is the key to understanding spoken English. It is the reason why the same sentence spoken by a native English speaker sounds completely different to when it is read by a non-English speaker. It is also the main reason why it is so difficult to understand conversation, but if we look at how conversational English is used, we see that there are only two or three main aspects that we need to take into account to make progress.

Look at this sentence:

  1. “There was a fireman at the accident.”

Before you read it out loud, take into account that:

  • ‘There’ is pronounced short. There is no ‘r’ sound.
  • ‘was’ is Schwa, pronounced ‘wzs’
  • ‘a’ is also Schwa, like the ‘er’ in ‘butter’, and it connects with ‘fireman’, as if it were the same word.
  • The ‘a’ in ‘fireman’ is also Schwa.
  • ‘at’ is Schwa, and the ‘t’ is usually not pronounced, so it is pronounces exactly the same as the ‘a’ of ‘a fireman’.
  • The ‘e’ in ‘accident’ is Schwa. Pronounce the ‘t’ if you like.

Now read the sentence out loud, and compare. You do not have to speak quickly, but try to join the words so that it sounds fluid:

(These are not rules! Everybody has their way of speaking and their regional accent. This is simply a guide to how conversational English is often used, and what you may have to expect when you talk to a native speaker.)

2. Where were you this morning?

  • ‘were’ = ‘ua’
  • ‘this morning’ = ‘zi-smorning’

3. I was buying some eggs for Easter

  • ‘I was’ = ‘ai-wsz’
  • ‘some eggs’ = s’-meks’
  • ‘for Easter’ = ‘Frii-sta’

4. Do you think an apple’s enough?

  • ‘Do you’ = ‘dllu’
  • ‘think an apple’ = ‘thin-k’na-p’l’

Now read out loud, listen, and repeat. The letters which are crossed out are Schwa, and where it is underlined you have to join the words:

5. There are   three of us.

6. You could have come last Autumn.

7. Does he know we’re coming?

8. I can give him a call

9. Are you from Ireland?

10. Where were you born?

11. Look at these sounds:

/chuu/ /t-wii/

Try to find these sounds in this sentence. When you are ready, listen:

“Weren’t you going to eat these vegetables?”

12. /ti- tap/ /t-raun/

The photographer picked it up and looked around.

13. /nii/ /sza/ /neva/

“Doesn’t he realise that things are worse than ever?”

14. /szía-a/ /szávin/

“We didn’t see her at the party. She was having a ball, I’m told.”

(Have a ball = Have a great time)

15. /cha-gona/ /knuvf/

“What are you going to do now?”

“I was thinking of eating out.”

16. /ti-tau/ /nuvf/

David told them to sort it out. They shouldn’t have touched it.”

17. /ti-di/ /tei-ki/

“I haven’t posted it, so you can take it back if you want.”

18. /fína-b’/ /dlluwon/

“I’m off in a bit. Do you want to come with me?”

(I’m off = I’m going)

19. /mutuvf-ad/

“He must have had too many chocolates.”

20. /dim/ /tela/

“If you don’t find him, we’ll have to tell her.”


Notice what happens to….

  • Auxiliary verbs:


(Schwa, compressed vowels.)

  • The hard sounds (especially ‘t’) at the end of a word:


(If the following word starts with a vowel sound, it connects with that word. If not, it is offten not pronounced.)

  • Other words such as:

(thinking) OF – (tell) HER – (find) HIM…

(Compressed sound, and connected to the preceding word.)


Last exercise. Read the transcriptions out loud. What is the sentence?

21. Ua-dz’shi-nou-abau-di’?

22. Dllu’-wonmi t’gedda frau-parti?

23. Iu-shud’n-uvf toul-dim th’-tai-wzsa th’discou.

24. Ail-iii-t’negk, b’tai’-woun-tavi yee

25. Doun-chuu-nou ua-szona – th’zia-ta?



In other languages (Spanish, for example) it is important to vocalise, and more or less equal priority is given to all words in the sentence. Joining words (‘pallá’, ‘ven pa’quí’) is seen as colloquial and incorrect. Spoken English is fluid and vocalising can sound heavy or clumsy, even if people can understand.

The key lies in how (1) the Schwa and (2) the hard sounds at the end of the word – especially the ‘t’ – are used to join words together. In many cases the foreign student hears words that do not appear in the sentence:

/He walk – TIN/   =   He walked in.

‘Tin’ means ‘lata’. This is a very basic example, but it can give you an idea of how confusing things can be. From now on, pay attention to the sounds when you are listening, but also when you are reading a text in English, think of how the words will sound together, as in this paragraph.

Last exercise: Read this paragraph and think of how the words will join together. Where are the Schwa sounds? Which hard sounds at the end of a word will not be pronounced, and which will connect with the following word? What’s the difference between the words ‘that that’ (no, it isn’t a mistake). Read very carefully before listening:

“When I went in last night, there were too many people looking at me…..

….A policeman was in the corner, but I didn’t see that that was going to be the main problem. I would have turned around and walked out, if it wasn’t for some information I’d been given the night before.”