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    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
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    [Pronunciation] can't and can in American English

    It's been a head scratcher to me for some time and I'd like to hear what native speakers would say about that.

    In American English, "can't" and "can" are almost pronounced the same except for "'t". But "'t" is so subtle that I don't think that people could make it out easily. Most of the time we can infer from the conversational context whether it's "can't" or "can", but the context is not always reliable because sometimes we speak sarcastically (for example, "of course you can't" means actually "of course you can"). And there are situations where you simply don't have a context.

    Also, sometimes "'t" is "oppressed" by the words following it, for example

    1) You can't stop it.
    2) You can stop it.

    With a "s" following "'t", it seems to me that "'t" becomes inaudible.

    I'd like to know if native speakers can always easily distinguish "can't" from "can".

    Thank you.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    Re: [Pronunciation] can't and can in American English

    I am a speaker of BrE, but have worked with many Americans. I normally have no trouble with the two words, possibly because speakers normally use for 'can' either the weak form /kən/ or a stressed form. Both are easily distinguishable from 'can't'

  2. oregeezer's Avatar
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      • Native Language:
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    Re: [Pronunciation] can't and can in American English

    As a native American speaker I don't have any trouble hearing the difference in MOST speech. The final "t" is subtle, but the mouth ends up in a different position when it is present. Watch yourself in the mirror and see if you can't pick it up.
    Good luck.

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