Dropped Sounds & Deleted Syllables – Why Entire Syllables Disappear from Words in American English

The words we’re going to talk about today aren’t especially interesting, but they probably sound different than you expect.

We’ll focus on several words that you use almost every day, so that you feel more comfortable saying them naturally.

Is what we’re discussing today still a mystery? Then grab a warm beverage, like hot chocolate, and let’s get started!

In this video, you’ll learn 20 words in American English that have dropped, deleted, or disappearing syllables.

If you’ve ever noticed that a word sounds shorter than you expect, or you’ve heard a native speaker drop an entire syllable from a word, this video will help.


Why do we drop or delete syllables from words in American English?

Let’s talk about why these syllables seem to disappear in the first place!

In American English, every word has one syllable that’s stressed.

When a syllable is stressed, that means we make the vowel sound longer, louder, and higher in pitch, with extra clear mouth movement.

By emphasizing the syllable with our voice, it stands out and it’s more obvious.

In order to focus attention on the most important syllable of the word, we de-emphasize, or relax, on the rest.

Unstressed syllables are shorter, quieter, and lower in pitch.

At times, we relax so much on these unstressed syllables that they’re reduced.

This means that the vowel sound changes to a very relaxed /ə/ or /ɪ/ sound.

We reduce vowel sounds in order to say words more efficiently.

It also focuses attention on the stressed syllable.

In the words we’re going to practice in this video, the vowel sounds are reduced so much that they’re dropped entirely.

As you’ll notice, this happens more often in words we say all the time.

Because we say these words so frequently, our mouths are looking for quicker ways to pass through those less important syllables.


Remember to Clearly Stress the Correct Syllable

Before we get started, I want to point out a few important details.

First, the most important thing you can do to say these words clearly so that people understand is to stress the correct syllable.

If you’re struggling to relax on these dropped syllables, don’t worry.

When you stress a word correctly, that helps people understand you better.

You’ll notice that most of these words are stressed on the first syllable.

In my experience, a lot of people struggle with stressing the first syllable, because they’re worried about getting to the rest of the word.

Remember to really linger on this stressed syllable: make it longer, louder, and higher in pitch, with an extra clear vowel sound.


Some Syllables Are Always Deleted, Others Depend on the Speaker

In some of these words, the syllable is always dropped.

The word has evolved so that the vowel sound has disappeared entirely.

In other words, the syllable is sometimes dropped, and sometimes pronounced.

It really depends on the speaker, the regional dialect, or even the context.

If the person speaking is lingering on the word for some reason, and trying to focus attention on it, they may not drop the syllable.

But if they’re moving more quickly through the word, they may drop the syllable.

When you hear these different pronunciations of the words, stay curious.


Native Speakers Delete Different Syllables in American and British English

Last, I just want to remind you that we’re talking about the words in American English. 🇺🇸

There are differences in British English.

There are some syllables that are dropped in British English that we pronounce in American English, and vice versa.

If you think of any other examples of words with dropped or deleted syllables, leave them in the comments.


Super Common Adjectives with Dropped Syllables

Let’s look at some super common adjectives that you’re probably going to use on a regular basis.

interesting

Let’s start with one of my favorite words: interesting.

When you look at this word, you probably expect it to have four syllables: in-ter-est-ing.

However, because we say this word so often, we actually drop one of those syllables. Instead of saying “in-ter-est-ing,” we say INteresting or /ˈɪntrəstɪŋ/.

As you can hear in the video, there are only three syllables in this word. The reduced syllable is dropped entirely.

This word is stressed on the first syllable.

Remember to really linger on that vowel sound, making it longer, louder, and higher in pitch: INteresting, INteresting, INteresting.


comfortable

Another word that we use all the time is “comfortable.”

Instead of having four syllables – com-for-ta-ble – the word actually has three syllables: comf-ter-ble.

As you can hear, that second syllable has completely disappeared in natural pronunciation: COMfortable or /ˈkʌmftərbəl/.

It may not feel that comfortable to completely delete that second syllable, but try to relax.

Focus on creating that contrast between the stressed syllable and the relaxed ones: COMfortable, COMfortable, COMfortable.


every

Now let’s look at the word “every.”

This is another word that has evolved to only have two syllables.

We don’t pronounce it “e-ver-y,” we pronounce it EVery, with stress on the first syllable.

The middle vowel sound has disappeared entirely: every or /ˈɛvri/.

Now you try it: EVery, EVery, EVery.


favorite

The next few words all contain a reduced /ər/ sound.

Some of us drop the /ə/ sound before the /r/; we flow right into the /r/ sound and delete the vowel sound entirely.

For example, let’s look at the word “favorite.”

As you can hear, when I say “favorite,” it’s just two syllables long.

Other people may say fa-vor-ite with a schwa sound before that “r.”

However, I personally pronounce it FAVorite or /ˈfeɪvrɪt/.

If you decide to pronounce any of these words with three syllables, remember that the vowel sound /ər/ is reduced.

It’s not fa-vor-it with a /ɔ/ sound in the middle, it’s /ˈfeɪvərɪt/. It’s a reduced vowel sound.

And like I said, sometimes we relax our mouths so much that we drop the syllable entirely: FAVorite, FAVorite.

These words are a great way to practice the contrast between the stressed and the unstressed syllables!


different

Here’s another word that is sometimes pronounced with two or three syllables: different.

As you can hear, I pronounce “different” with only two syllables: DIFferent, DIFferent.

The second /ər/ has completely disappeared and I flow right into that /r/ sound: DIFferent, DIFferent.

Some people may pronounce the word dif-fer-ent or /ˈdɪfərənt/, but because we’re looking at disappearing syllables, let’s practice it as different or /ˈdɪfrənt/.

Now you try:DIFferent, DIFferent, DIFferent.

As you can hear, dropping syllables helps you say the word more efficiently. It takes less time!


average

Another word that follows this pattern is the word “average.”

Some people will say this word as a-ver-age or /ˈævərɪdʒ/.

However, we’re going to practice it with just two syllables.

Remember to stress the first syllable by making it longer, louder, and higher in pitch with extra clear mouth movement: AVerage, AVerage, AVerage.


several

Let’s move on to the word “several.”

Some people may say this with three syllables: se-ver-al or /ˈsɛvərəl/.

However, I personally say it with just two, and that’s what we’re going to practice: SEVeral or /ˈsɛvrəl/.

Notice how you’re stressing that first syllable and relaxing on the second.

It should feel like less work on the second syllable.


Food-Related Words with Deleted Syllables

Moving on, let’s take a closer look at some words that are related to food.

Because we say these words pretty often in American English, our mouths have found more efficient ways to move through them.

vegetable

Let’s talk about the word “vegetable.”

When you look at this word, it seems like it should be pronounced like ve-ge-ta-ble or /ˈvɛdʒətəbəl/.

However, we say it with only three syllables: VEGetable or /ˈvɛdʒtəbəl/.

As you can hear, we’re stressing that first syllable, and we’re relaxing on the other two.

Give it a try: VEGetable, VEGetable, VEGetable.


chocolate

This next word is one of my favorite to teach people. It’s the word “chocolate.”

If you speak a Romance language, you’re probably used to saying this word with four syllables.

However, in American English, it’s just two syllables: CHOColate or /ˈtʃɔklət/.

This is a great word for practicing contrast, because we have a reduced vowel in that second syllable: CHOColate, CHOColate.

You really want to focus attention on that first syllable and relax on the second: CHOColate, CHOColate, CHOColate.


beverage

The next word we’re going to look at is the word “beverage,” when you’re talking about something you’d like to drink.

While some people may say it with three syllables, be-ver-age or /ˈbɛvərɪdʒ/, it’s very common to say it with just two, just like chocolate: BEVerage or /ˈbɛvrɪdʒ/.

Try to create clear contrast between the stressed syllable and the reduced one: BEVerage, BEVerage, BEVerage.


restaurant

Here’s another word that can be tricky for people, especially if you have a similar looking word in your native language: restaurant.

This word is sometimes pronounced with three syllables, and sometimes we drop that middle syllable.

When we say it with two syllables, it’s pronounced RESTaurant or /ˈrɛsˌtrɑnt/.

I notice that I sometimes add that schwa sound in the middle, and sometimes I don’t. It probably depends on how relaxed I am when speaking!

Let’s try saying it with a dropped syllable: RESTaurant, RESTaurant, RESTaurant.


grocery

Now let’s look at the word “grocery.”

Once again, some people pronounce this with three syllables, gro-cer-y or /ˈgroʊsəri/, and some people say just two: GROCery or /ˈgroʊsri/.

I notice when I talk about a “grocery store,” I drop the syllable.

Let’s practice deleting the syllable: GROCery, GROCery, GROCery.

One of the biggest reasons we practice these disappearing syllables is so that you’re not confused when you hear someone delete a syllable entirely.

It can be a little bit surprising when a word sounds different than you expect it to!

So my goal is to help you train your ear to understand these words, even if they’re missing a syllable you think should be there.


Everyday Words With Disappearing Syllables

Here are some other words you may use in your daily life that have a dropped or deleted syllable.

evening

Let’s talk about the word “evening.”

Even though the word looks like it should be pronounced ev-en-ing, it’s now pronounced EVening or /ˈivnɪŋ/.

Over time, we’ve dropped that second syllable and it’s just two syllables.

Remember to stress that first syllable by making the vowel sound longer, louder, and higher in pitch, with extra clear mouth movement.

You’re going to relax on the second syllable: EVening, EVening, EVening.


family

Let’s take a closer look at the word “family.”

Even though there’s an “i” in the middle of that word, a lot of people often drop that sound entirely, including me: FAMily or /ˈfæmli/.

Let’s practice: FAMily, FAMily, FAMily.


business

Another word where the “i” just simply seems to disappear is the word “business.”

Over time, we’ve completely dropped that “i” sound in the middle.

It’s just two syllables with stress on the first one: BUSiness or /ˈbɪznɪs/.

This is a great word for practicing contrast, because it has the same vowel sound on both syllables.

However, the first syllable is stressed, and the second is reduced: BUSiness or /ˈbɪznɪs/.

Now you try it: BUSiness, BUSiness, BUSiness.


camera

Let’s look at the word “camera.”

Although some people may pronounce this word ca-mer-a or /ˈkæmərə/, most people say CAMera or /ˈkæmrə/ in order to say it a little more efficiently.

Let’s try it: CAMera, CAMera, CAMera.


Deleted Syllables in Adverbs That End in -ly

Finally, let’s look at a bunch of adverbs that end in -ly.

basically

Let’s take a look at the word “basically.”

When you see this word, it looks like it should be pronounced ba-si-cal-ly, but we actually drop that vowel sound before the -ly ending:BAsically or /ˈbeɪsɪkli/.

Dropping that vowel sound helps us move through that word more efficiently.

Now you try it! Make sure to emphasize the first syllable: BAsically, BAsically, BAsically.


specifically

Moving on, we have the word “specifically.”

As you can hear, there’s a lot of /ɪ/ sounds in this word, and we’re stressing the second syllable: speCIfically or /spɪˈsɪfɪkli/.

As you notice, we’re dropping that vowel before the -ly. We don’t say specificALLY, we say speCIfically, speCIfically.

Give it a try; we’re going to emphasize that second syllable for a change: speCIfically, speCIfically, speCIfically.


naturally

Here’s another word I use all the time: naturally.

As you can hear, I’m saying this word with three syllables: NAturally or /ˈnætʃrəli/.

Some people may say it with four syllables: na-tur-al-ly or /ˈnætʃərəli/.

However, I tend to drop that schwa sound: NAturally, NAturally. It makes the word go a little faster.

Try saying it: NAturally, NAturally, NAturally.


probably

Another word that sometimes drops a syllable is the word “probably.”

I noticed that I tend to pronounce it as three syllables, like /ˈprɑbəbli/.

However, some people will rush right through that word, and they’ll just say PRObably or /ˈprɑbli/. They’ll drop that middle syllable.

In really, really relaxed speech people drop the /b/ sound entirely and just say the /l/: /ˈprɑli/.

This is why you may have seen “probably” written as “prolly” online.

Remember, it’s not important for you to pronounce the word as PRObably with the dropped schwa sound, but it *is* important that you understand it if people decide to drop that middle syllable.

Give it a try: PRObably, PRObably, PRObably.


Bonus Word: Wednesday

As a bonus, I want to mention another very common word, which is the word “Wednesday.”

As you can tell, we pronounce this day of the week very different than how it looks!

This has to do with the history of the word and how it’s evolved.

Even though it looks like we should say Wed-nes-day, we actually say WENZday or /ˈwɛnzdeɪ/ in American English.

Let’s try it together: WENZday, WENZday, WENZday.


Focus on Contrast to Say Words Efficiently

Now that we’ve practiced all of these words with dropped, deleted, or disappearing syllables, be sure to practice!

Remember, the reason we drop vowel sounds from these words is because we say them all the time.

Our mouths are trying to move through them more efficiently.

As you practice, focus on contrast.

Emphasize the stressed syllable by making the vowel sound longer, louder, and higher in pitch, with extra clear mouth movement.

Try to relax and do less work on the rest of the syllables.

As you continue to relax on every vowel sound but the stressed one, you’ll find it easier to drop these syllables.

For even more practice with word stress and contrast, check out Word Stress in American English or Practice Contrast with Vowel Sounds. You’ll find over 50 drills and practice exercises inside the Stress Simplified program.

Leave a Comment

You agree to share your name and email address with Kim in order to leave a comment. The data from this comment form will only be used to respond to your comment.