Can’t Vs Cunt Pronunciation

Not knowing the pronunciation between ‘can’t’ and ‘cunt’ in English can get you into embarrassing situations in an English speaking country. That’s because ‘cunt’ is one of the worst swear words you can say in English.

However, the difference in the pronunciation of the two sounds is not hard to learn so don’t worry about saying the wrong word.

In British English the word ‘can’t’ has a long /a:/ vowel. The phonemic spelling of the word is /ka:nt/. When we make this sound the jaw drops down and the tongue position is towards the bottom of the mouth, though it does not touch the teeth.

The American English pronunciation of this word is different. They say /kænt/. This pronunciation doesn’t not have a long vowel sound. It’s the same vowel as in the words ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ in British English pronunciation.

The swear word ‘cunt’ has a different vowel. The vowel in this word is /ʌ/. This is the same sound as in the word ‘love’ and ‘cup’ in the British English pronunciation. The main this to note about this sound is that it is a short sound.

There is sometimes confusion about the way native English speakers with a London / cockney / Esturary English accent say the word ‘can’t’. In these accents speakers often drop their /t/ sounds. This means that you do not hear the /t/ in this word and instead hear something like ‘carn’ or in phonemic spelling /ka:n/. This confuses people because they don’t know if the positive verb ‘can’ or negative verb ‘can’t’ is being said. However it need not be confusing. That’s because ‘can’ takes a different vowel. It’s the same as the American English pronunciation because it has the vowel /æ/.

To practise the difference between the vowels in the words ‘can’t’ and ‘cun’t’ you should say these minimal pairs:

/a:/            /æ/

charm      chum

dance       dunce

heart         hut

tart            tut

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