官方APP下载:英语学习播客(支持苹果手机、安卓手机)
创办于2003年
UNSV记不住?那就记中文谐音“忧安思危”吧!
  Slow and Steady Wins the Race!
UNSV英语学习频道 - Slow and steady wins the race!
公众微信服务号(英语全能特训)
英语全能特训(微信公众服务号)
UNSV英语学习频道淘宝网店
客服短信:18913948480
客服邮箱:web@unsv.com
初级VIP会员
全站英语学习资料下载。
¥98元/12个月

Can and Can't: Hearing the Difference

作者:Alice Bryant 发布日期:7-24-2021

This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Toshi in Japan. Here is the question:

Question:

Hi! How do native English speakers distinguish between "can touch" and "can't touch"? They sound the same for me. Also "can tell" and "can't tell" "can take" and "can't take" and so on. Thank you!

Answer:

Hi Toshi. Hearing the difference between the positive "can" and the negative "can't" is sometimes tricky, even for native English speakers.

But understanding these things can help:

  • the difference in vowel sounds
  • word stress differences
  • and the ending sound in "can't"

Vowel, stress differences

Let's talk about the differences in vowel sounds and word stress together since they are connected.

Here are the sentence examples we will use:

I can take you to the place today.

I can't take you to the place today.

In the positive phrase "can take," the usual /æ/ in "can" is reduced to something called a schwa. The schwa sound is similar to an /ʌ/ sound, but weaker. But in the negative phrase "can't take," the word "can't" uses the true /æ/ vowel sound. In "can't," the vowel sound is never reduced.

This difference in sound is also connected to word stress – how loud and long we say each word in a phrase or sentence.

In "can take," the word "take" should be said a little louder and longer than "can." However, in "can't take," the word "can't" should be said a little louder and longer than "take."

Listen for the vowel and stress differences again in the two phrases:

  • can take
  • can't take

The glottal stop

Another way to tell the negative and positive forms apart is through something called a glottal stop. It is a quick stop sound that happens when you close the vocal cords to briefly end the flow of air.

In American English, we use a glottal stop for many sounds, including the ending -t in the shortened words "can't" "won't" and "don't."

Now, listen to the examples again and see if you notice all of the differences more easily:

I can take you to the place today.

I can't take you to the place today.

At home, you can also try saying these sentences aloud.

And that's Ask a Teacher for this week.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

distinguish –v. to notice or recognize a difference between two or more things

positive –adj. showing support, approval or agreement

negative –adj. denying support; showing disagreement

vowel –n. a speech sound; in English the letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y

phrase –n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea

vocal cords –n. tissue in the throat that permits us to make sounds

版权所有©2003-2019 南京通享科技有限公司,保留所有权利。未经书面许可,严禁转载本站内容,违者追究法律责任。 互联网经营ICP证:苏B2-20120186
网站备案:苏公网安备 32010202011039号苏ICP备05000269号-1中国工业和信息化部网站备案查询
广播台