Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 8 – Pronunciation – Can or Can’t?

Boy, I’ve gone through this on so many occasions over the last couple of weeks, so it’s time to finally understand Can and Can’t.

How do English speakers distinguish between can and can’t? Do they depend on the /t/ sound in Can’t? Unfortunately, the /t/ often blends into the next word in the phrase. English speakers rely primarily on rhythm patterns and the vowel sound.

I can’t trust him. (2 stressed words)

I can trust him (1 stressed word)

The negative word “can’t is stress; it has a long, clear /ae/ sound: /kaeng/

The structure word “can” is unstressed; it has the reduced schwa vowel sound: /kan/

Sometimes “can” sounds like there is no vowel sound: /kn/

Listen to my podcast down below. I will say one of the following sentences and you will pick the sentence I say out loud: a or b.

  1. I can hear you.
  2. I can’t hear you.
  3. I can meet you at the airport tomorrow.
  4. I can’t meet you at the airport tomorrow.
  5. I can go swimming tomorrow afternoon.
  6. I can’t go swimming tomorrow afternoon.
  7. He can see us today.
  8. He can’t see us today.
  9. I can drive home later.
  10. I can’t drive home later.


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