Pronunciation: Word Linking

ImageSpoken English can be difficult to understand because native speakers not only speak quickly, but we also slur our speech. Quick, natural English links words together, making words in a sentence sound different than words spoken individually. Think of it like writing in cursive vs. writing in print. In print, letters are disconnected and always have the same shape. In cursive, letters run together and change their shape based on what’s around them. English sounds change their shape based on what’s around them, too.

Understanding word linking will help you understand spoken English, and be understood when you speak.

There are three main types of word linking:


Linking between consonants and vowels:


In spoken English, we link words when a word ending in a consonant sound is followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound. The last sound of the first word becomes the first sound of the second. For instance:


How its written Warm up Moved into Was also Fight evil Pick apples
How it sounds War-Mup Move-Dinto Wa-Zalso Figh-Tevil Pi-CKapples


Remember that it’s the sound of the word that is important, not whether or not it is written with a consonant or a vowel. The following examples are vowel sounds, written with consonant letters.


How it’s written Speak honestly Tell Yvonne
How it sounds Spea-





Longer sentences can sound like this:

Written: Jen Ellen was a civil engineer, but she also fought evil.

Sounds like: Je-Nellen wa-za civi-lengineer, but she also fough-tevil.


Linking between vowels and vowels:


When a word ending in a vowel sound comes before a word beginning with a vowel sound, English speakers insert the sound of “Y” or “W” between them. Which one depends on the first vowel sound.

After vowels that end with wider lips, like the long E (as in fee) and the diphthongs long A (as in pay), long I (as in try), and “oy” (as in boy), insert a “Y” sound.


How it’s written Be available Tree animal Pay online Pie and Toy airplane
How it sounds Be-Yavailable Tree-Yanimal Pay-Yonline Pie-Yand Toy-Yairplane


After vowels that end with round lips, like the long U (as in too) and the diphthong long O (as in no), insert a “W” sound.


How it’s written No otters Sue Edna Throw out Too honest Blue apples
How it sounds No-wotters Sue-Wedna Throw-Wout Too-Wonest Blue-Wapples


Remember, it’s the vowel sound that’s important, not the letters. In these examples, there’s a vowel sound that’s written with a consonant.


How it’s written Pay homage Through Africa


High up Every hour
How it sounds Pay-Yomage Through-Wafrica High-Yup Every-Yhour


Linking Between Consonants and Consonants


When one word ends with the same or a similar consonant sound, link them and pronounce the sound only once, slightly lengthening it. Don’t stop between words or say the consonant twice.


How it’s written Best trees Tame mammals Good day Get dirty Red door
How it sounds BesTrees TaMammals GooDay GeTDirty ReDoor


One thing to remember is that word linking came about naturally. You might find yourself already linking words when you speak, just because it’s easier. The more you practice speaking, the more you’ll find yourself fluidly linking words. Try to notice when you do and don’t link words, and how native speakers do it. Understanding word linking will help you speak like a native, and understand natives when they speak.