Elision (Removing Sounds)

Have you noticed that some letters, even entire syllables, aren’t pronounced in English? There’s a word for that: elision. Elision is when a sound disappears from a word. Basically, a sound is deleted or “swallowed” by other stronger or similar sounds next to it. This often happens with a /t/ or /d/ sound, and also occurs in common words.  

Elision in Common Words

In the following list of words, we do not pronounce each syllable as it appears. For example, instead of saying fa-mi-ly, most native speakers would pronounce the words as fam-ly. In most cases, a middle vowel disappears. Look at the patterns below:

  • actually
  • aspirin
  • average
  • basically
  • beverage
  • broccoli
  • business
  • camera
  • Catholic
  • chocolate
  • comfortable
  • coverage
  • desperate
  • diamond
  • diaper
  • different
  • evening
  • every
  • extraordinary
  • family
  • favorite
  • general; generally
  • interest; interesting
  • laboratory
  • liberal
  • literature
  • lovely
  • opera
  • practically
  • preference
  • several
  • temperature
  • theory
  • vegetable


Elision of T 

The t is the most commonly “held” consonant in American English.   In fact, this phenomenon is one of the most distinguishing features of the American accent. In contrast, other English accents and non-native speakers usually release the final t sound when the next word begins with a consonant. 


So how is the t held? 

Method 1: Your tongue should touch just behind your teeth, with no release of air. 

Method 2: Stop air flow by closing your vocal cords.  


Ok, so when should you hold the t?

Hold the t when the next letter is a consonant, within a word or in the next word. 

For example: “nightmare”    “can’t complain” 

Held t + Consonant

A. First, always hold the t when the next sound is another consonant.


  1. can’t go       3. might not     5. football    7. eight months
  2. might do     4. last night     6. atlas          8. not that


B. Second, always hold t before an /ən/ syllable


  1. rotten      3. mountain   5. shorten   7. eaten        9. forgotten
  2. button     4. lighten        6. Britain     8. written   10. Certain


Elision of D

The /d/ is often dropped when a word ending in /nd/ is followed by a consonant sound. As a result, when the /d/ is deleted, the /n/ must link smoothly to the beginning consonant sound of the following word. See this article on how the /d/ can also be assimilated, or changed in sound when followed by certain consonants.  



and‿said       hand‿me       stand‿back       weekend‿project


Need help?

Check out these other articles on how to connect your speech more naturally when speaking English:

Would you like a little more coaching on your pronunciation with a professional ESL teacher?  To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional experienced English teacher.  The first week is free for you to try it out!  


Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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