Can and Can’t pronunciation

Can and Can't pronunciation The pronunciation of “can” and “can’t” in English is difficult to both hear and speak. In this lesson, you’ll see a simple trick to mastering this. You CAN do it!

Despite their simplicity (only 3 letters), it’s difficult to understand when people say it to you and when you’re saying it to yourself.


We pronounce this positive modal verb of ability together as [‘aikin].

I can dance.


I can cook badly.

I = a pronoun as a subject (who?), can cook = verbs as a predicate (what?), badly = an adverb as a modifier (how?).


Cannot [kә’not] is a more intelligible negative modal verb but this full form of can’t is obsolete. It’s still used for prohibition and categoric denial though.

You cannot drink alcohol here!

I cannot do that!

Isolated can and can’t sound differently. But when merged with subjects in fluent speech, they sound identical (especially in American) no matter how opposite. The trick to tell can’t from can is this. As can’t resembles can too much only because of its [t] consonant, we pronounce it separately by dividing it from subjects with a pause – [ai ‘kænt].

I can’t fly because I’m not a bird.


Even if mispronouncing can’t as can, we can be helped by body language. Nod your head for positive statements or shake your head for negation. This way people would understand you correctly for sure.