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    Default can and can't in American English

    Hi teachers~
    I can't figure out the difference between "can and can't" in American pronunciation. They are very similar and bug me a lot. Is that guessing in the conversation context the only way to distinguish between them? Would you give me some hints? Thx

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by redgiant View Post
    Hi teachers~
    I can't figure out the difference between "can and can't" in American pronunciation. They are very similar and bug me a lot. Is that guessing in the conversation context the only way to distinguish between them? Would you give me some hints? Thx
    Hi redgiant,

    There is a free video here:Competence English language videos that shows you how to pronounce can and can't like native speakers. It's the second video in the free video part of the page and it's called "Can" and "Can't": The secret difference in pronunciation.

    I hope that helps.

    Matthew Balson

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Competence, I couldn't open the site.

    Redgiant, the "secret" is as follows. With can't the <t> is formed but not released. The result is that <n> stops abruptly. In other words, although can't looks longer, it sounds shorter than can.

    can (you can hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds longer.
    can't (you can't hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds shorter.

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Competence, I couldn't open the site.

    Redgiant, the "secret" is as follows. With can't the <t> is formed but not released. The result is that <n> stops abruptly. In other words, although can't looks longer, it sounds shorter than can.

    can (you can hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds longer.
    can't (you can't hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds shorter.
    Well...I think(as a non-native speaker)...

    "can" sounds like....[c+ schwa +n] if it's not stressed. It's like "Rebecca."
    (I'm sorry I can't type in the phonetic alphabets...)

    "can't" sounds, I think, a little longer than "can". It's like "ant".

    I hope you can understand what I mean.

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Competence, I couldn't open the site.

    Redgiant, the "secret" is as follows. With can't the <t> is formed but not released. The result is that <n> stops abruptly. In other words, although can't looks longer, it sounds shorter than can.

    can (you can hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds longer.
    can't (you can't hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds shorter.
    Sorry to break in.

    I have another relevant question.
    When followed by a vowel, should the /t/ of can't be released?
    For example, when we speak can't I, which is right, /kæntai/ or /kænai/ ?

    Thanks in advance.

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Sorry to break in.

    I have another relevant question.
    When followed by a vowel, should the /t/ of can't be released?
    For example, when we speak can't I, which is right, /kæntai/ or /kænai/ ?

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes... they are really hard to catch.
    In British English, it's easier, though....

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Competence, I couldn't open the site.

    Redgiant, the "secret" is as follows. With can't the <t> is formed but not released. The result is that <n> stops abruptly. In other words, although can't looks longer, it sounds shorter than can.

    can (you can hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds longer.
    can't (you can't hum/sing <n>; therefore it sounds shorter.
    Hi, Soup.
    Do you mean that can't sounds // ?
    I try to practice like that, but I feel there seem to be sth odd.

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Well...I think(as a non-native speaker)...

    "can" sounds like....[c+ schwa +n] if it's not stressed. It's like "Rebecca."
    (I'm sorry I can't type in the phonetic alphabets...)

    "can't" sounds, I think, a little longer than "can". It's like "ant".

    I hope you can understand what I mean.
    Hi, Tzfujimino.
    The following explanation (from a tapescript) is very popular in mainland China, and I think it includes sth similar to your view. But I'm not sure whether it's written by a native-speaker, so I hope some native-speakers could give some comments.
    “Cannot” is usually contracted to “can't”. So many learners of English assume that in order to distinguish between “can” and “can't”, one must listen for the final “t” sound /t/. And when speaking, one must pronounce final ‘t’ sound /t/ clearly. However, this is not in fact how native speakers distinguish “can” and “can't”. People do not say ‘I `can drive a car, but I can’t drive a motorcycle.’ People say ‘I can `drive a car', but I `can't drive a motorcycle.’ The difference between “can” and “can't” is in stress. “Can” is not stressed, the verb after it is. “Can't” is stressed. The verb after it is not.

    Also since ‘can’ is not stressed, the vowel is reduced to /a/, so “can” is actually pronounced “can”. Listen to another example. “I `can't go on Saturday, but I can `go on Sunday.” Did you hear the 't' sound? Did you notice the difference words being stressed? Listening again. “I `can't go on Saturday, but I can `go on Sunday.” If you want to understand whether someone is saying he can or can't do something, you have to be listening for a stressed “can't” or a verb stressed after “can”. What does this mean? “I can `speak Japanese, but I `can't speak Taiwanese.” That's right, I can speak Japanese, but I cannot speak Taiwanese. When you are speaking it is very important that you follow this rule too. When learners of English say I `can help you, native speakers often unsure what is meant because of improper stress. So remember, you can stress “can't”, but you `can't stress “can”.
    Regards

    Enydia

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Hi, Tzfujimino.
    The following explanation (from a tapescript) is very popular in mainland China, and I think it includes sth similar to your view. But I'm not sure whether it's written by a native-speaker, so I hope some native-speakers could give some comments.
    “Cannot” is usually contracted to “can't”. So many learners of English assume that in order to distinguish between “can” and “can't”, one must listen for the final “t” sound /t/. And when speaking, one must pronounce final ‘t’ sound /t/ clearly. However, this is not in fact how native speakers distinguish “can” and “can't”. People do not say ‘I `can drive a car, but I can’t drive a motorcycle.’ People say ‘I can `drive a car', but I `can't drive a motorcycle.’ The difference between “can” and “can't” is in stress. “Can” is not stressed, the verb after it is. “Can't” is stressed. The verb after it is not.

    Also since ‘can’ is not stressed, the vowel is reduced to /a/, so “can” is actually pronounced “can”. Listen to another example. “I `can't go on Saturday, but I can `go on Sunday.” Did you hear the 't' sound? Did you notice the difference words being stressed? Listening again. “I `can't go on Saturday, but I can `go on Sunday.” If you want to understand whether someone is saying he can or can't do something, you have to be listening for a stressed “can't” or a verb stressed after “can”. What does this mean? “I can `speak Japanese, but I `can't speak Taiwanese.” That's right, I can speak Japanese, but I cannot speak Taiwanese. When you are speaking it is very important that you follow this rule too. When learners of English say I `can help you, native speakers often unsure what is meant because of improper stress. So remember, you can stress “can't”, but you `can't stress “can”.
    Regards

    Enydia
    Thank you for the information, Enydia.
    I think I agree to what's written here.
    Let's wait for others to respond.

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Yes... they are really hard to catch.
    In British English, it's easier, though....
    Do you mean the /t/ should be released?

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    Default Re: can and can't in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Do you mean the /t/ should be released?
    Well, in British English, "can't" is pronounced, as in "park(without r-coloring)". It's phonetically different from the one pronounced in American English. "can" and "can't" are pronounced completely differently in BrE(I mean..in AmE, they sound similar), so they are easier to catch, I think. "t" is much stronger in BrE, I believe. So...in "Can't I", the last "t" sound much stronger, whereas in AmE, "can't I" and "can I" sound almost the same...
    Last edited by tzfujimino; 26-Jun-2008 at 16:13.

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