20 Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English – American vs. British English – Common Mistakes

20 Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English – American vs. British English – Common Mistakes

Hello, and welcome back. In this lesson, we will look at 20 of the most difficult words for English learners to pronounce. And I’ll also teach you how to say them correctly. For each word, listen to how I say it, then practice saying it after me. So, if you’re ready, let’s jump into it. The first word is this one. How do you say it? Well, the correct pronunciation is /ˈkwes.tʃən/. The first syllable is made with a /k/ combined with a /w/ sound by rounding your lips – /kwes/. The second syllable is /tʃən/ like your chin. So the word is /ˈkwes.tʃən/. Of course, the opposite of question is answer – /æn/, /sər/ – /ˈæn.sər/. This is in American English. In British English, it’s pronounced /ˈɑːn.sə/ with an /ɑː/ sound at the beginning: /ˈɑːn.sə/. Number two is “didn’t”. I often hear two mispronunciations of this word from my students: if you say /ˈdɪd.ɪnt/ or /ˈdɪnt/ – they’re both wrong. To say this word correctly, say /dɪd/ first – /ˈdɪd/. Then add a /n/ sound at the end – /dɪdn/ – using your nose – /ˈdɪdn/. And that’s it. Now, you can say /ˈdɪdnt/ with a /t/ at the end, but when we speak in full sentences, we often leave out that /t/ sound. For example: “didn’t like”: “I didn’t like the movie”. Notice that the “t” has become silent. “Didn’t speak”: “She didn’t speak English.” The next word is “asked”. This is the past tense of “ask”. The trick to saying it correctly is to make the “k” silent. So, it sounds like /æst/ in American English and /ɑːst/ in British English, but in both, we don’t pronounce the “k”. “He asked me a question.” “I asked her for money.” Number four is these two words. How do you say them? The first is /ˈwʊ.mən/ – /wʊ/, /mən/ – /ˈwʊ.mən/. And the second is /wɪ/, /mɪn/ – /ˈwɪ.mɪn/. Woman, women. One woman – three women. Next up is the second month of the year. The reason this word is tricky to pronounce is that people say it in a few different ways. In British English, it’s commonly pronounced /ˈə.ri/ – I know it sounds difficult, but it’s not. To say it correctly, you have to say /ru/, /ə/, /ri/ – /ru-ə-ri/ – /ru.ə.ri/. /ˈə.ri/, /ˈə.ri/. The American version is much easier: the first “r” is silent, so /ˈfɛb.jə.we.ri/. /fɛb/, /jə/, /we/, /ri/ – /ˈfɛb.jə.we.ri/. A quick note: in the pronunciation symbols on the screen, you see the letter “j”, but in the International Pronunciation Alphabet (or IPA), which I’m using here, the “j” represents a “y” sound. OK, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to use British or American pronunciation, but once again, American is /ˈfɛb.jə.we.ri/, and British /ˈər.i/. Number six is this word – how do you say it? The correct pronunciation is /saɪˈkaɪ.ə.trɪst/. It starts with /saɪ/ (the “p” is silent), the part in the middle is /kaɪ.ə/ – /kaɪ.ə/, and the word ends with /trɪst/. The stress is on the second syllable, so this word is /saɪˈkaɪ.ə.trɪst/, /saɪˈkaɪ.ə.trɪst/. Next, we have another scientific word: /ˈlæb.rə.tɔː.rɪ/. That’s the American pronunciation: /læb/, /rə/, /tɔː/, /rɪ/ – with the stress on the first syllable – /ˈlæb.rə.tɔː.rɪ/. The British version sounds quite different: /ləˈbɒ.rə.trɪ/. Here, the second syllable is stressed – /bɒ/. So, the word begins with a short /lə/, then we have /bɒ/, /rə/, /trɪ/. So, /ləˈbɒ.rə.trɪ/. Once again, American – /ˈlæb.rə.tɔː.rɪ/, British – /ləˈbɒ.rə.trɪ/. Number eight is the set of these four words. These are difficult for many English learners because each one is slightly different. The first is easy; there are three syllables: /ˈfoʊ/, /tə/, /ɡræf/. The stress is on the first syllable /foʊ/, so /ˈfoʊ.tə.ɡræf/. The next two words are /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fər/ and /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fɪ/. In these words, the stress is on the second syllable; it becomes a long /tɑː/. And the other vowels become short, so – /fə/, /tɑː/, /ɡrə/, / fər/ – /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fər/. And similarly, /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fɪ/. The last word is /foʊ.təˈɡræ.fɪk/. So, where is the stress? The stress is on the third syllable – /ɡræ/: /foʊ.təˈɡræ.fɪk/. One last time – /ˈfoʊ.tə.ɡræf/, /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fər/, /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fi/, /foʊ.təˈɡræ.fɪk/. Number nine is another set of related words: analyze, analysis, and analytical. As we saw in photograph, photographer etc., these words also have different stress patterns. “Analyze” has three syllables: /æ/, /nə/, /laɪz/, with the stress on the first syllable: /ˈæ.nə.laɪz/. This is a verb, and it means to study something in order to understand it. The noun, the name given to the act of analyzing something is “analysis”. Here, we see four syllables: /ə/, /næ/, /lə/, /sɪs/, and the stress is on the second syllable – /næ/ – /əˈnæ.lə.sɪs/ – /əˈnæ.lə.sɪs/. The word “analytical” has five syllables: /æ/, /nə/, /lɪ/, /tɪ/, /kəl/ and the stress is on the third – /lɪ/ – /æ.nəˈlɪ.tɪ.kəl/, /æ.nəˈlɪ.tɪ.kəl/. This is an adjective; we might say that a person has an analytical mind, meaning that he or she likes to examine or study things in detail. OK, once again: /ˈæ.nə.laɪz/, /əˈnæ.lə.sɪs/, /æ.nəˈlɪ.tɪ.kəl/. Number ten is entrepreneur. This word refers to a person who starts his or her own business. The spelling looks scary (lots of e’s and r’s), but the pronunciation is actually quite easy. There are four syllables: the first is /ɑːn/. The second and third syllables are similar: /trə/ and /prə/. The last syllable is /nər/. The stress is on this last syllable. So, /ɑːn/, /trə/, /prə/, /nər/ – /ɑːn.trə.prəˈnər/, /ɑːn.trə.prəˈnər/. Next, we have another business word – executive. It refers to someone who has an important job in a company. There are four syllables in this word: /ɪɡ/, /zek/, /jə/, /tɪv/. Remember that the letter “j” represents a “y” sound in phonetic symbols. The stress is on the second syllable here – /zek/. So, /ɪɡˈzek.jə.tɪv/, /ɪɡˈzek.jə.tɪv/. Number twelve is a word that’s again pronounced differently in American and British English. How do you say this word? In American English, this is pronounced /ˈske.dʒuːl/ – /ske/, /dʒuːl/ – /ˈske.dʒuːl/. The sound that you see in the middle /dʒ/ – the letter “d” along with what looks like the number three – that’s just the “j” sound. The British pronunciation is /ˈʃed.juːl/. /ʃed/, /juːl/ – /ˈʃed.juːl/. That first snake-like character /ʃ/ is the “sh” sound. So, American – /ˈskedʒ.uːl/, British – /ˈʃed.juːl/. Number thirteen is the word “adjective”. The sound that gives trouble to a lot of English learners is the combination of the letters “d” and “j”. Many people struggle to say /ˈæd – dʒek.tɪv/. But, the good news is that the letter “d” is actually silent here. The word is just /æ/, /dʒek/, /tɪv/ – /ˈæ.dʒek.tɪv/. By the way, how do you say this part of speech? It’s /pre.pəˈzɪ.ʃən/ – /pre/, /pə/, /zɪ/, /ʃən/. Notice that the “s” is pronounced as a /z/ sound. The stress is on the third syllable – /zɪ/: /pre.pəˈzɪ.ʃən/. The next word is “miscellaneous”. This is an adjective which refers to a mixed group of different kinds of things. In the picture, you see a shop selling miscellaneous things. I can talk about the miscellaneous items on my table – there is a pencil, a pair of scissors, a comb, an eraser, a fidget spinner. Now, the spelling of this word looks confusing, but the pronunciation just has five syllables – /mɪ/, /sə/, /leɪ/, /ni/, /əs/. The stress is on the third syllable – /leɪ/. The key to saying a big word like this correctly is to learn it in reverse, that is, from the end. So, repeat after me: /əs/, /ni.əs/, /leɪ/, /leɪ.ni.əs/, /mɪ.sə/, /mɪ.səˈleɪ.ni.əs/, /mɪ.səˈleɪ.ni.əs/ – did you get it right? Alright, next is one more five-syllable word – sophisticated. This is also an adjective, and it means complicated, developed, or advanced. The five syllables are /sə/, /fɪs/, /tɪ/, /keɪ/, /təd/, and the stress is on the second – /fɪs/. Let’s backchain this word, learn it in reverse: /təd/, /keɪ.təd/, /fɪs.tɪ/, /fɪs.tɪ.keɪ.təd/, /səˈfɪs.tɪ.keɪ.təd/, /səˈfɪs.tɪ.keɪ.təd/ – see, it’s easy. Number sixteen is this word – it means an unfair hatred towards a group of people because of their race, gender, religion etc. The problem with this word is that it doesn’t sound exactly as it is spelled. How would you say it? The correct pronunciation is /ˈpre.dʒə.dɪs/ – there are three syllables: the first is /pre/, the second is /dʒə/, and the last syllable is /dɪs/. /ˈpre.dʒə.dɪs/, /ˈpre.dʒə.dɪs/. Up next, we have two military terms that are often problematic for learners. The first word is a title that refers to a mid-ranking officer. It has two pronunciations: in American English, it’s pronounced /luːˈte.nənt/ – /luː/, /te/, /nənt/. The stress is on /te/ – /luːˈte.nənt/, /luːˈte.nənt/. In British English, the word sounds a little different – /lefˈte.nənt/. So, the first syllable, which is spelled “lieu” is pronounced /lef/. I don’t know why, but that’s just how it is: /lefˈte.nənt/. So, in American English, it’s /luːˈte.nənt/, and in British English, /lefˈte.nənt/. The second military word is this one – it’s a title given to a high-ranking officer. So, let me ask you once again: how would you say this word? The right way to say it is /ˈkər.nəl/. For some strange reason, the “colo” is pronounced /kər/, so this word is /ˈkər.nəl/. Number nineteen is words with a double “c”. That double “c” acts like “ks”. So, we say /ˈæ, /ˈæk.sent/ – in both of these words, the stress is on the first syllable. In the next two words, the stress is on the second syllable: /səkˈses/. Once again, /səkˈses/. Similarly, /səkˈsɪŋkt/ – notice in the spelling of this word that there is an extra “c” right at the end before “t” so the second syllable here is /sɪŋkt/ with a /k/ sound – /səkˈsɪŋkt/. By the way, “succinct” is an adjective and it means that something is said in a clear way in just a few words. For example, “His speech was succinct.” And, if you’ve watched the whole video up to now, then this last word is for you: congratulations. The tricky part is the letters “tu” in the middle. They are pronounced /tʃə/. The word has a total of five syllables – /kən/, /ɡræ/, /tʃə/, /leɪ/, /ʃənz/. The stress is on /ˈleɪ/, so /kən.ɡræ.tʃəˈleɪ.ʃənz/, /kən.ɡræ.tʃəˈleɪ.ʃənz/. Alright, before we close this lesson, let’s do a quick recap of the twenty words we have discussed: Question /ˈkwes.tʃən/ Didn’t /ˈdɪdnt/ Asked /æst/ – that’s American; the British version is /ɑːst/ Woman /ˈwʊ.mən/, women – /ˈwɪ.mɪn/ February /ˈfɛb.jə.we.ri/ – that’s American; in British pronunciation, /ˈər.i/ Psychiatrist /saɪˈkaɪ.ə.trɪst/ Laboratory /ˈlæb.rə.tɔː.rɪ/ – that’s American; British is /ləˈbɒ.rə.trɪ/ Photograph /ˈfoʊ.tə.ɡræf/, photographer /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fər/, photography /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fi/, photographic /foʊ.təˈɡræ.fɪk/ Analyze /ˈæ.nə.laɪz/, analysis /əˈnæ.lə.sɪs/, analytical /æ.nəˈlɪ.tɪ.kəl/ Entrepreneur /ɑːn.trə.prəˈnər/ Executive /ɪɡˈzek.jə.tɪv/ Schedule /ˈske.dʒuːl/ – that’s the American pronunciation; British is /ˈʃed.juːl/ Adjective /ˈæ.dʒek.tɪv/ Miscellaneous /mɪ.səˈleɪ.ni.əs/ Sophisticated /səˈfɪs.tɪ.keɪ.təd/ Prejudice /ˈpre.dʒə.dɪs/ Lieutenant /luːˈte.nənt/ (that’s American); the British pronunciation is /lefˈte.nənt/ Colonel /ˈkər.nəl/ Access /ˈæ, accent /ˈæk.sent/, success /səkˈses/, succinct /səkˈsɪŋkt/ Congratulations /kən.ɡræ.tʃəˈleɪ.ʃənz/ Alright, I hope you enjoyed this lesson. As always, happy learning, and I will see you in another lesson soon.

Comments (100)

  1. Hey there, I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Let me know if you have any questions. Also check out:
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  2. The trick of Pronouncing the long words from reverse really worked for me, Thank you. Keep doing the good work. Our support always with you.

  3. I am from thailand. I watch all of your videos. It is very useful for me . I like your accent and intonation. Please make them more. Thank you

  4. I can't understand why people give unlike to this good video

  5. that was great, teacher Ganesh. you know the ways to impart knowledge onto your students. bravo

  6. Thank you so much .I am enjoying myself thoroughly.May you confer upon you all the richest of world.You are a jewel for us.

  7. I plea you to teach us the usage of noun , verb and pronoun in setences.

  8. Sir very much useful to me thanks alot

  9. Great stuff man, are you a native english speaker ? If not i am so impress

  10. Thank you so much, you are an awesome teacher

  11. Where are ur classes I mean where did u teach

  12. Ganesh Sir kindly pronounce the word Wednesday for me.I want to know whether d is silent coz I pronounce it that way.Kindly reply.Thank U Sir.

  13. Make a video on correction of sentences bro

  14. You're just awesome sir!!!!!

  15. So, I was pronouncing the word Adjective wrong ny whole life… 🙁

  16. Thanq so much sir..after watching ur videos my pronunciation got corrected …?

  17. Which accent you follow British or american? I am learning English but I don't know what should I do British or american or both I will learn

  18. Hi sir iam your big fan your teaching style amazing I don't know proper English
    Iam just trying
    Sir make some daily routine sentence mother to kid speaking
    Please help please

  19. Thanks,but how to pronounce genre

  20. Another excellent video!!!

  21. Sir, your teaching is succinct

  22. I just love your videos…..your approach n method is amazing..thanks a lot sir?

  23. Thank you sir u prounciation is very very easily teach

  24. Don't know why he has less views.

  25. Superb, very helpful. Eagerly waiting for more videos on pronunciation.

  26. Your video was succinct. 🙂

  27. extremely useful

  28. You are the Boss! Love your teaching ♥️

  29. thanku soo much sir!! ur all vdo are awesome .. nd really very helpfull……no words to appreciate ur work.
    ''Ur heart is slightly bigger than average human heart …but that's because u r a teacher''…

    again thanku sir

  30. Sir aapki English bahut gajab hai ???

  31. I can say this is definitely one of the most helpful pronunciation video clips ever!!!! ????
    Thank you so much ❗️

  32. i am very thanks full because of you i won my english challenge thanks

  33. We need phonetics class sir

  34. What do Indians use?
    British or American accent??

  35. Your videos are very useful. Great work. Thank you

  36. Thanks a lot!!! It was really helpful

  37. Thanks sir it was very helpful to me

  38. Thank you sir…
    You are doing great ?

  39. Hey, I would like you to do the sounds of words in phonics both for American and British accents

  40. from all my heart thank you

  41. I was tons annoyed by that British pronunciation at 14:38; "lieutenant" is sounded "leftenant", though there's no "f" or "ph". Brits want us to suffer!!!!!

  42. I have difficulty in pronouncing American words and English language

  43. Ganesh, your explanation is fantastic. CELTA graduates are the best.

  44. Thank you. You‘re amazing.
    I‘ve learnt a lot today ….

  45. Sir – you are amazing!!!

  46. I really enjoyed this video
    And learned something

  47. What a amazing teacher you are! Great clarity and wonderful way of teaching. ??

  48. Thanks you sir..

  49. Sir You are the only teacher who teaches the foreign people too.Thats a very proudly moment for we Indians.SIR YOU ARE INDIA's PRIDE.

  50. Police and please

  51. How to pronounce flower

  52. This video is so useful to correct our pronounciation which are being pronounced wrongly

  53. Really beneficial video

  54. Miscellaneous ?

  55. Thank you ganesh , pl more of such , esp longer words

  56. So creative and usefull like always

  57. Great job .Thanks

  58. This is the channel where one can get extra information that no one can tell . Amazing sir

  59. Thank u for selecting common daily routine words.

  60. Nice video…as Indians we prefer to use the british way of pronunciation..& its d right English

  61. Now I am thinking to buy small English dictionary book in the stationary shop.

  62. great job sir??

    I found out that I'm using the American pronunciation.

  63. It's really helpful…Thanks so much sir??

  64. Everything is fine. But please clarify why they (English language creators?) use those silent letters in psychology, adjective, and so many. Can't these silent letters be omitted from the words?

  65. Thank you so much!!
    Best teacher ever!

  66. Hi! is their a criteria that helps one know syllables should be stressed?

  67. Difficult to pronounce …

  68. Please pronounce TO GO

  69. Maan, you're rocking… have started following, thanks a lot

  70. What do you prefer to pronounce? American or British?

  71. I prefer American, coz it sounds so casual.

  72. YOU are perfect and your pronunciation is very clear ,please correct our words as much as you can

  73. How is it possible for a video like that to have one dislike? This is the best video ever when it comes to English pronunciation..I think some people just don't want to follow the crowd, even if the crowd is right..

  74. Love your most of the video. I am new subscriber. Why people are giving dislike

  75. Didn't is hella difficult ??

  76. He is one of the best English trainers I've come across. I mean it.

  77. New subscriber.really superb videos.

  78. I love your lessons ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  79. I like your English very much. Please make videos as many as you can. I am your fan.

  80. lovely, thank you so much

  81. We need more in British accent like this video

  82. Awesome video. I liked it so much. Thanks a lot.

  83. Hoody Doody ( Hi, How are you) Recently I watched your video when i was scrolling my youtube page, from that day onwards i have turned fan of Ganesh sir ? ? ? ? ? ?. Thankulyou so much fir all your efforts sir. I would like to go in depth of pronunciation, so can you please address' the best for learning english pronunciation?

  84. You are doing a great job

  85. Is there formula for calculating the syllabic stress of a word

  86. Fidget spinner ?

  87. You know your things brother ?

  88. Sir could you please pronounce all the months

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