Good pronunciation is essential to sounding like a native English speaker. Because words don't always sound like they are spelled, it can be confusing to learn how to say them correctly. But don't worry. There are rules to help you understand how to pronounce them. In this lesson, you will learn three different ways to pronounce the EX sound in English. Do you know the pronunciation difference between "excellent" and "exact"? Watch this lesson, and find out.
Oh, E. You didn't expect your ex-girlfriend to do that, did you? Wow. That's nasty. Here's the problem. This isn't how you spell "expect". And this isn't how you spell "ex-girlfriend". But this is how you pronounce it. So today's lesson is on pronunciation. How to pronounce the EX in English. It seems easy. X, here. But really, what happens is when the X comes in certain, you know -- how do I explain? I'll do it this way. English is what we call a "stress time language". And what that means is we stress certain parts of our language. So we make some parts of the language stronger than others. You might think, "Why is this important?" Well, most other languages are syllable stressed. And a "syllable" is basically a vowel sound with some consonants, and the words are joined this way. Okay? But in English, we don't really care about the sound of the syllable as much as we do about the stress on the words. And because of that, when we do stress, it helps us figure out what is a verb, what is a noun, what is an adverb, and what is an adjective, and what we call "functions", like prepositions and, you know, pronouns. We can tell the difference by the stress on the words. Easy? Good.
So this is why I have to mention this because that will explain why these things change. The stress in English depends on -- where we say the X is depending on the sound it makes. Remember what I said? Stress in English tells us if it's a thing or a verb or a describer, an adjective, or an adverb or a function. And we have this here to help us figure out which one is which.
There are a couple of rules I'm going to give you in a second or two. I'm going to go to the board and look at that. But one thing I'm going to say now and at the end is please remember that English is a global language, and not all the English in England is the same as in Canada or the same as America or Australia. So some of the words, you'll go, "Well, we say it like this." I'm like, "Yeah. You do. But we say it like this." It doesn't make it wrong. It's just to remember. And that's why I usually say I make 80 percent rules. 80 percent of the time, nobody cares because it's basically right. So those of you with your books going, "Well, I read the Merriam dictionary, and it said this." You're right. You got me. So what? Okay? Because the other dictionary says something else. All right? So this is to basically help you understand that this is how you can understand what we're doing. You don't have to be perfect, but you can understand what we're saying and copy it. And to help make it easy for you to learn these things. Are you ready? Let's go to the board.
Boom. I'm a new X-Man. Mr. Disappear. See? X-Man? Get it? Anyway. Let's go to the board, all right?
So to help us figure out whether it's "eks", "iks", or "egz", I'm going to give you a couple of, well, three little grammar rules that are quick and you can follow that will be helpful to you.
No. 1, if the first syllable -- that's why I made it No. 1, because I'm smart like that -- is stressed or -- please remember this part; it's very important -- or if it's followed by a consonant, we're going to see "eks". Okay? So you've got your "ex" plus "con". So in the first two cases we, have "extreme" and "expand". Okay? So we're looking at is a consonant here, okay? And you know, we're not talking about the stress in the syllable here. We're just talking about the fact that there's a consonant following. Cool? All right.
But if we look at "excellent", we do say, "This is excellent work." We say the "ex" first. Is similar to "X-Men" where we really put the stress on the first part. So the first syllable is stressed. So you have, "Excellent work." But nothing to the extreme. Right? So you have the second stressed, but we're saying really what we care about is there's a consonant following the "ex". Good? All right. That's the first one.
Now, let's look at the second one. See? Smart guy, again. Second syllable, No. 2. I work at this. I'm a professional. Don't try this at home. Okay? The second syllable is stressed. So we look at "expect", "exclude", and "external". All right? And because of that -- see what we've got here? We say -- the second syllable, it becomes "iks". "Ikspect", "iksclude", and "iksternal". Right? We don't know "EXternal". It's "external". "It's an external thing." "He's excluded." All right? "What do you expect?" Not "expect". "What do you 'ikspect'?"
The sounds are the same. The only difference is that for the /th/ as in "this," you need to vibrate your vocal chords. Compare this to the /s/ and /z/ sounds. They are exactly the same. The mouth position does not change. The only difference is the vibration of the vocal chords. Well, the same is true for the /th/ as in "this" and the /th/ as in "think." "This" requires vibration, but "think" does not. The mouth/tongue position does not change. It is the same. I hope this helps.
Hey, James, this nª 3 rule is applied to British English, right? I'm askin' cos I both always saw in the US dictionaries and heard them pronounce "exam" like "ig'zam". Looking forward to your answer. Hugs!
+Joe W to be comfortable just say what you hear .. don't follow rules, there are many accents used depending on where you are and to whom your speaking, and this holds for all languages not merely english!