Pronunciation of 'friend'?

OK, this is a pronuncation question but somehow it also relates to vocabulary so I hope I’m posting this in the right forum:

I have an audio English course by Berlitz and in one lesson the speaker says the word friend but he doesn’t pronounce the ‘d’. So, he says my frien. A few lessons further there is another speaker who does pronounce the d in friend. So, does this mean that both versions are correct - with and without the d? Is it the same like the t in often which can be asilent letter but it can also be pronounced?
Thank you for shedding some light on this.

Hi Nicole,

This is really a question of stress. I don’t think you’d hear the final ‘d’ in friend if this word is in the middle of a sentence and has already ben used in the conversation. If however you wanted to make clear to someone who was being rude about someone and you wanted to make clear that you liked this person, you would say: But she’s my friend! and make a point of stressing the final ‘d’. You have to accept that British/English speakers are notorious for swallowing sounds.


There are a couple of reasons in addition to what Alan has told you.

Notice that in the word “friend” the last two consonants, [nd], are both pronounced with the tongue in the same position. Notice that in the plural, “friends”, you have three sounds in a row [ndz] that have the same tongue position. In situations like this, we often leave out one of the sounds, which is why you hear “frien”, and why you hear people say “hands” [h?nz] instead of [h?ndz]. This is called cluster simplification.

Another thing is that English has “liaison”, similar that in French. So if a word starts with a vowel, it may borrow the final consonant of the previous word so that it can form a syllable better. You will hear:
[color=blue]My friend [fren] came.
because we simplify that [nd] cluster before the next consonant. But you will hear:
[color=blue]My friend isn’t there.
[fren diznt]
because the /d/ has been moved over to the next word. This is another reason why you hear the /d/ sometimes and at other times you don’t.

They are not the only ones! The first time I heard the song “Little Sister” by Elvis Presley, I had difficulty in making out the word ‘little’, until I realised it was reduced to one syllable: ‘lil’. Still in America, ‘tonight’ becomes ‘renight’ (with a kind of softly rolled ‘r’ – by the way I wonder if some native English speakers still roll their ‘r’s’), ‘beautiful’ is ‘beauriful’ and twenty ‘twenny’, for example.

My name in Scotland or in the North of England is pronounced: Conchi’a (cutting the word in two or chopping the ‘t’), whereas an American will call me: Conchira (softly rolled ‘r’).

This is so common in most forms of English that we even spell it as “li’l” in children’s books and comics. Do a Google search on “li’l” and you’ll find tons of examples.

It sounds like an [r] to you, but it doesn’t sound like one to us. We think of it as a soft [d].

This mistaken understanding of what that sound is in the American English sound system causes a lot of pronunciation problems for speakers of Spanish (and Polish, and Russian and Arabic and…and…and…) when they finally learn how to make a proper American /r/. They start using it to replace every such tap they hear, whether it’s really an /r/ or not. This means they end up saying things like “everybory” or “a lor of people” with an American /r/, instead of a soft /d/ (that tap), and it sounds nothing like what we say.

I had a Mexican couple in class once who were an interesting illustration of this problem. The wife could make an American /r/, but the husband couldn’t yet. If I told him to pronounce a certain intervocalic /t/ “like a Spanish /r/,” he would pronounce the word correctly. If I told the wife to do this, she’d use an American /r/ instead, and her pronunciation would be way off target. I had to tell her to make it a fast /d/.

Jamie (K)" wrote:

Just in case (you must know it already, but it might interest someone else), there are two ways of pronouncing the Spanish ‘r’, a single or soft one and a (very) double one which is like a different letter altogether. Latin Americans don’t always roll the double ‘r’ as strongly as we do in Spain, like at the beginning of a word, though you only write one ‘r’ there. Foreigners often don’t make the difference and it can change the meaning of the spoken word. For example: ‘pero’ (but) and ‘perro’ dog, para (for) and ‘parra’ (grapevine).

Anyway, I’m willing to bet that the position of the tongue when pronouncing ‘Conchira’ (very soft ‘r’) or ‘Conchida’ (very soft ‘d’) changes only imperceptibly and the best ear couldn’t ‘tell’ the difference between both sounds – at least the way we would pronounce it :slight_smile: !

Seriously, it’s a big difference to us, we can really hear it, and it can really aggravate someone’s foreign accent. That “soft d” is exactly the same as the Spanish tapped /r/, but our minds don’t perceive it as an /r/. The American /r/ is not a tap, but an approximant, and the tip of the tongue never touches. It makes a very different sound, and that difference is huge to us.

I’m sorry if I’m being a nuisance regarding this issue, but there seems to have been a misunderstanding. Maybe I didn’t explain myself correctly. Actually, I wasn’t referring to the American ‘r’, which has a distinct sound of its own and is more like a vowel, but to a very lightly rolled (European) ‘r’— made with a totally different tongue position, as you say.