Top 13 Common Words You (Maybe) Say Wrong in English

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Learning English Pronunciation

English has many common words you say wrong, and that is, well, common. If you study English long enough, you’ll be sure to find quite a few of them, since many of these words are used in many daily conversations. Be aware that many of these words aren’t exactly pronounced as how they’re written, but don’t worry! Some of these words are difficult to pronounce even for native speakers, but it’s always important to know how!

A lot of these words don’t follow any particular pattern or rule, so practice is key! There are 13 words that we’re going to cover, and as you practice them, you’ll be able to understand better why they’re easy to mispronounce. There’s a reason they’re called “common words you say wrong.”

Common Words You Say Wrong

So, let’s get down to the bottom of things and figure out how to pronounce these 13 commonly mispronounced words in the English language. Next to them is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation.

Almond – /ˈɑmənd/

Salmon – /ˈsæmən/

Etc. – /et ˈset(ə)rə/

Clothes – /kloʊðz/

Enthusiastic – /ɪnˌθuziˈæstɪk/

Recipe – /ˈresəpi/

Perfume / Cologne – /ˈpɜrfjum/ – /kəˈloʊn/

Debt – /det/

Receipt – /rɪˈsit/

Subtle – /ˈsʌt(ə)l/

Subtitle – /ˈsʌbˌtaɪt(ə)l/

Mayor – /ˈmeɪər/

Rural – /ˈrʊrəl/

Common Pronunciation Traps

These are some of these common words you say wrong in American English. Words such as ‘Almond’ and ‘Salmon’ are deceiving. It’s tempting to pronounce the /L/ sound in both words, but it’s actually silent! We don’t pronounce that /L/ sound in both words. Second, beware of words that look similar to each other (‘Recipe’ and ‘Receipt’). Despite their similar spellings, and despite they’re both nouns, their meanings and pronunciations are entirely different. Third, words like ‘Debt’ and ‘Subtle’ will NOT have the ‘B’ sound.

Finally, words like ‘Rural’ are very difficult to pronounce, even for native speakers! Shocking, isn’t it? The combination of the /r/ sounds and vowels makes this word rather unpopular, so even native speakers try to avoid saying it! One helpful tip is to stress that first syllable (RU-ral). Think of the word ‘KangaROO.’ Now, use that last syllable to help you pronounce ‘Rural’ (KangaROO-ral).

There’s no better way to improve pronunciation than to practice it! If you know someone who is a native speaker, then ask them to help you pronounce them, or have them give you feedback on how you can improve! Keep practicing them until it becomes a habit, and remember that another good way to learn is to listen to other native speakers.

Nicole Levesque, English accent teacher

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