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Pronouncing English Words: When TU sounds like CH

 

In this lesson I’m gonna let you in on a little secret that will hopefully make several common words easier to pronounce.

Here it is: sometimes the letters T and U together actually sound like CH or the “ch” sound as in "cheese" and "chocolate."

This is not always the case, so first let’s talk about instances where T and U together will definitely NOT sound like CH:

1) When TU is at the beginning of a word. When TU is at the beginning of a word, you’ll hear that nice, crisp, true T.

You’ll hear this True T when the T is by itself:

turn

tube

Tuesday

Or when that T is part of a blend with the letter S:

student

study

stupid

2) The TU will not sound like CH when it’s at the beginning of a stressed syllable. At the beginning of a stressed syllable, you’ll again hear that True T.

return

disturbing

opportunity

institution

constitutional

Exception: mature (here  the TU is at the beginning of the stressed syllable and it does sound like CH, muh-CHER)

So, when does the TU sound like CH?

I’ve studied a list of the 5000 most common words in English to bring you this answer:

The answer is, most of the rest of the time.

Definitely in words that end in TUR(E):

adventure

agriculture/agricultural

architecture

capture

century

creature

culture/cultural

departure

feature

furniture

future

gesture

infrastructure

lecture

legislature

literature

manufacture

mixture

nature/natural

picture

sculpture

signature

structure

temperature

texture

torture

venture

But it’s not just those TURE words- here are other examples where T and U blend together to sound like CH:

actual

eventual

intellectual

mutual

ritual

spiritual

virtual

punctuation

situation

statue

virtue

fortune

So in most instances, where you see that T and U together, the sounds combine- they blend together to sound like CH. 

As with all things in English, there are exceptions. Here are a few to note:

attitude

status

magnitude

costume

momentum

These ever present exceptions remind us of one key thing to remember when learning pronunciation: you’ve got to really use your ears. You have to train your ears to listen for sounds and not rely on your eyes looking at letters.

And if you're feeling uncertain about what you hear, check your dictionary for a transcription.

You’ll see this lovely symbol /ʧ/ that will tell you when that T and U sound like CH.

So there you have it. A quick tip on pronouncing TU that will hopefully make several common words easier to pronounce.

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