The Difference In Pronunciation Between The Words Can and Can’t For A British Accent

Learn the difference between can and can’t for a British accent!

Hi Esther here from Speak More Clearly and welcome to this training video in which we will look at the difference in pronunciation between the words ‘can’ and ‘can’t for a British accent.

Now, for the British pronunciation of these 2 words, you need to learn to listen for the difference, but basically the vowels used are not the same vowel. 

Can is said with a short ‘a’/ae/ or a schwa /ə/ depending on the sentence. That is the ‘a’ /ae/ as in ‘cat’. 

Can’t is NOT said with an ‘a’ as in cat. Can’t is said with an ‘ah’ /ɑː/ as in father vowel. 

Listen to the difference between the 2 words. 

can  /kaen/      

can’t   /kɑːnt/ (like the french philosopher Emmanuel Kant) 


Let’s practise together 




Let’s say a sentence :

I can come.  


Again depending on the sentence, often the ‘a’ in can is said as a schwa  /ə  /. The ‘a’ is shortened.  So instead of can it’s said / kən/. 

For example:

I can come tomorrow.  


And for can’t:

I can’t come tomorrow.

The /t/ is stopped – your tongue goes up to the ridge to start the /t/ sound, but it stays there and doesn’t release and drop down as it normally would for /t/.


I hope this has made the difference clearer for you. 

If your goal is to speak English clearly and be understood well, we have a lot of audio and video lessons in our American, British and Australian accent courses.

For more pronunciation tips, check this video lesson on how to pronounce privacy, semi and mobile with an American, British and Australian Accent.

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