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Linking in English – Pronunciation Video Lesson

by Oli Redman on 28 August, 2014 , No comments

Do you sometimes find it difficult to understand spoken English? Understanding spoken English (especially native English) can be difficult because we don’t pronounce each word separately. In English, we link words together, so two or more words can sound like one word. In this lesson, you can see some common examples of linking in English pronunciation. You can also see how learning about linking can help your English listening and improve your English fluency.

Look at a sentence:

  • Do you remember that time when Anna and Amy fell in the swimming pool?

Try reading the sentence.

Can you pronounce the sentence in one sound, without any pauses?

Listen to me one more time:

  • Do you remember that time when Anna and Amy fell in the swimming pool?

When native speakers talk, they don’t pause between words. They pronounce whole phrases and even sentences as one continuous sound.

If you want to speak English more fluently and sound more natural, you should try to do this too.

But how?

There are many pronunciation points you need to study, but today we’re going to look at just one very important point: linking.

Linking is how you connect words when you speak, so that two words are pronounced together.

For example:

  • that_time
  • when_Anna

Here we can see two different types of link. You’ll learn about these ways to link words, and more, in this lesson.

Before we start, we need to check one thing. Do you know the difference between consonants and vowels?

A, E, I, O and U are vowels.

All the other letters are consonants.

Okay? Let’s look at the first way to link words.

1. Linking Two Consonants

When you say that time, what happens?

How many times do you pronounce /t/?

The answer: just once. The two words ‘share’ the /t/ sound: that_time.

Try it. Can you link the words?

When one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word starts with the same consonant sound, we link the sounds.

For example:

  • red_dress → we have two /d/ sounds together, so the two words share the sound: red dress.
  • cheap_places → we have two /p/ sounds together, so again the two words share the sound: cheap places.
  • feel lucky → the two words share the /l/ sound: feel lucky.

Can you pronounce the links? Repeat after me:

  • red_dress
  • cheap_places
  • feel_lucky

Let’s put them in a sentence:

  • She bought a really nice red dress last week.
  • Do you know any cheap places to stay in Barcelona?
  • I feel lucky—let’s play poker!

Can you read the sentences? Focus on pronouncing the links between the consonants.

Next, remember that links depend on the sounds, not the spelling.

For example:

  • look cool

The letters here are different—‘c’ and ‘k’—but the sounds are the same: /k/. So we link the words, and they share the /k/ sound: look_cool.

You can see the same thing here:

  • quite tall
  • nice sofa

We link these because the sounds are the same, even though the spellings are different:

  • quite_tall
  • nice_sofa

Let’s try these in some short sentences:

  • You look cool in those jeans.
  • He’s quite tall for his age, I suppose.
  • That’s a nice sofa!

Can you say the sentences? Pause the video and try. Focus on pronouncing the links correctly!

Okay, to review, when one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word starts with the same consonant sound, we link the sounds.

But, there are two exceptions to this rule: we don’t link /tʃ/ or /dʒ/ sounds.

For example:

  • each choice
  • orange juice

In these examples, you can’t link the two consonant sounds. You have to pronounce two sounds.

Try to pronounce the second sound immediately after you release the first sound. This will help you to speak more fluently:

  • each choice
  • orange juice

Let’s try them in a sentence:

  • Each choice you make is important.
  • Would you like some orange juice?

Practice these sentences, and see how fluent you can make them!

Okay, let’s look at one more point about linking consonant sounds.

2. Linking Similar Consonant Sounds

You already know that you can link two of the same consonant sounds together.

You can also link similar consonant sounds.

For example:

  • cheese sandwich
  • breathe through

Cheese ends with a /z/ sound, and sandwich starts with a /s/ sound. These aren’t the same, but they are similar.

The only difference between /s/ and /z/ is that /z/ is voiced. Everything else is the same.

That means we can link the sounds.

Try saying cheese sandwich.

When you say the /z/ on the end of cheese, your tongue is behind your top teeth.

Leave your tongue there and change to /s/ without moving anything, then say sandwich.

It’s the same idea with breathe through.

Breathe ends with /ð/, and through starts with /θ/. These are also a voiced/unvoiced pair.

Say breathe and put your tongue between your teeth to pronounce /ð/. Then, leave everything where it is and pronounce /θ/, and then say through.

Let’s try these examples in sentences:

  • Get me a cheese sandwich, would you?
  • Do you have to breathe through your mouth like that?

Try saying the sentences. Remember: there shouldn’t be any break between the linked words!

So, what other consonant pairs can you link like this?

You can also link:

  • /d/ and /t/ –> I need_two kilos of shrimp.
  • /k/ and /g/ –> The water was a kind of dark_green colour.
  • /p/ and /b/ –> I sleep_better if the room’s really dark.
  • /f/ and /v/ –> Have you packed enough_vests?

It doesn’t matter which way round the sounds are. You can link /d/ to /t/ or /t/ to /d/.

For example:

  • I need_two kilos of shrimp.
  • She asked_Dave what would happen.

Now it’s your turn! Repeat the sentences after me. Focus on the links:

  • I need_two kilos of shrimp.
  • The water was a kind of dark_green colour.
  • I sleep_better if the room’s really dark.
  • Have you packed enough_vests?

So now you know the most important points about linking consonants together, but what about vowels?

3. Linking Consonants to Vowels

Let’s go back to our first example sentence:

  • Do you remember that time when Anna and Amy fell in the swimming pool?

Think about the words when Anna. What happens?

We link the consonant onto the vowel. Together, the words are pronounced /we’nænə/.

You can do this if one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word begins with a vowel sound.

Look at the sentence again. Can you find two more examples like this?

You can also link and Amy and fell in.

Try saying the full sentence with these vowel links:

  • Do you remember that time when_Anna and_Amy fell_in the swimming pool?

If you find it difficult to pronounce the links, slow down. You don’t need to speak fast to link correctly.

Let’s practice with some different examples. Look at three sentences. Can you find the consonant-vowel links?

  • There’s an elephant in the garden.
  • I ate an apple and two pears.
  • These are the best tomatoes I’ve ever had.

There are three consonant-vowel links to find in each sentence. Can you see them?

Let’s see where the links are:

  • There’s_an_elephant_in the garden.
  • I ate_an_apple_and two pears.
  • These_are the best tomatoes_I’ve_ever had.

Can you pronounce the links in these sentences?

If you find it difficult to pronounce consonant-vowel links, there’s a simple trick you can use.

Imagine that the consonant is at the start of the second word.

For example, try saying:

  • There_za_nelephan_tin the garden.
  • I ey_ta_napp_land two pears.
  • Thee_zare the best tomato_zi_vever had.

Looks weird, right? But many English learners find this useful.

Remember, we write the words separately, with spaces between them, but we don’t pronounce them that way. In speech, the consonant doesn’t ‘belong’ to the first word—you can easily think of the consonant sound being at the start of the second word.

Let’s look at our last way to link.

4. Linking Two Vowel Sounds

Let’s look at one more phrase:

  • He asked me for two apples.

Here, there are links between he asked and two apples.

You can link two vowel sounds like this: add a consonant sound in the middle to connect the sounds.

You can add /w/ or /j/ depending on the two vowel sounds.

For example:

  • two apples –> we link the sounds with /w/ –&gtθ two_/w/_apples
  • he asked –> we link the sounds with /j/–>θ he_/j/_asked

Let’s try these in some sentences:

  • There are two_/w/_apples in the bowl.
  • He_/j/_asked for a glass of water.

You’re probably thinking: how do I know which consonant sound to add? When do I use /w/ or /j/?

There are rules, but the rules aren’t very practical to use. The best way is simply to relax and try to read the words as fluently as possible. You will use the correct sound automatically.

Remember that linking makes it easier to speak fluently. If you’re not sure which sound to use to link two vowels, simply try them all. The easiest one to say is the correct one.

Let’s practice: which sound should you add to link these words?

  • see Andrew
  • go out

Remember: if you’re not sure, just try saying the words quickly and fluently. Pause the video if you want to think about it.

Here are the answers:

  • see_/j/_Andrew –> add a /j/ sound
  • go_w_out –> add a /w/ sound

Let’s practice these in sentences:

  • I’m going to see Andrew this weekend.
  • Shall we go out to get something to eat?

So now you know all the ways to link words in English.

5. Review

There are three basic ways to link words in English: consonant to consonant, consonant to vowel, and vowel to vowel.

You can link two consonants if one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word starts with the same sound, or a similar sound. In this case, the two words ‘share’ the consonant sound.

You can link any consonant to any vowel. It can be helpful to imagine that the consonant ‘belongs’ to the second word.

You can link two vowel sounds together by adding a consonant between them. You need to add /w/ or /j/ depending on the two vowel sounds.

If you’re not sure how to link two vowels, just relax and try out the different combinations. Remember that linking is supposed to make speaking easier, not harder!

Thanks for watching!

Can you find the links in these sentences? Remember: look for consonant-consonant links, consonant-vowel links, and vowel-vowel links with an extra sound.

  1. I want two apples and one big grapefruit.
  2. Both the windows are broken.
  3. My friend isn’t going to be on time.
  4. I can’t tell when Neil’s joking.
  5. These are the best tomatoes I’ve ever had.

Read the IPA and try to write the words. Every answer should be at least two words.

  1. tʊː’wɒftən
  2. getə’wɜːk
  3. hɪː’jɪznt
  4. njʊːwaɪ’trɑʊzəz
  5. tɔː’leɪdɪːz
  1. I want_two_/w/_apples_and_one big_grapefruit.
  2. Both_the windows_are broken.
  3. My friend_isn’t going to be_/j/_on time.
  4. I can’t_tell when Neil’s joking.
  5. These_are the best_tomatoes I’ve_ever had.
  6. Too often
  7. Get to work
  8. He isn’t
  9. New white trousers
  10. Tall ladies
Oli RedmanLinking in English – Pronunciation Video Lesson