Here is my response to a reader who asked the following question:
“Hello Lisa, its me Alex again. I have one more question about the American accent – I have ordered your book on amazon.com but it has not come yet so I am not sure if it is already mentioned in your book. Anyway, is it true that the final “t”s on words are always not released?Thanks!”
Alex: The T sound in English is very often not released on final words in American English. If you always release it, this will create a foreign sound. Non-native speakers tend to always release the T. I discuss this final T a lot in my book “Mastering the American Accent.”
It’s OK to occasionally release the T sound, especially to add more emphasis to a word and when the word is at the end of a sentence. For example, if you say: “I’m not that fat,” you are more likely to release the T of “fat”, but again, you don’t have to.
I have listened carefully to Americans speaking and if I were to estimate, I would say that Americans hold (don’t release) the final T about 80 percent of the time. Please be aware that the average native speaker is not aware of this rule. Americans automatically just do this, subconsciously. So, if you ask them to teach you to pronounce some words, they are likely to switch into a sort of “teacher mode” and their speech is no longer natural. So, they might talk differently. I have heard it happen a lot. You almost have to record them and have them listen to their own speech so that they can hear what how they actually speak.
It’ best to try to listen to natural conversations. For example, when you hear someone say:”that’s right“, “at the bank,” and “cut my hair.” I bet they are not releasing it.
So, for those of you who are wondering what “not released T” means: it’s when you start producing the T sound with the tip of our tongue touching behind the upper teeth. The tongue stops and is held there. No puff of air comes out and no sound is produced. You can hear this on the CD’s of my book.