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There are vs. They are (+TH bonus)

I wanted to share something with you.
This week I talked to a student of mine who’s made a huge progress in her training. I was overwhelmed with pride to hear the impact the work she did had on her life and communication in English.

The thing is, she had struggled A LOT at the beginning, almost to a point where she wanted to give up. She would barely open her mouth, and would avoid any situation that required her to speak.

But at some point, something clicked.

One day she had an important video conference at work where she had to speak in front of a few executives. At first she tried to get someone else to speak, but at the last minute she decided to take on the challenge. At the beginning everything was a little shaky, but as she went on she found the words flowing out and surprised herself as the sounds she’d been practicing diligently, suddenly appeared in her speech without even thinking about it.

It wasn’t perfect, sure, but it was an incredible progress.
She has realized that she’s not standing still, and there is change.
From that moment on her confidence increased, and her English became a lot more fluent and clear.

I guess the most important thing I want to say is – don’t get discouraged.
I mean, you can get discouraged, but you shouldn’t quit.
Accent and language training may get overwhelming at times.
But if you do the work, there’s always this ‘A-HA’ moment where you realize that you’re doing something right, that it works, and that you’re constantly changing and improving.

But you need to remember this one thing –
Practice is crucial and all, but the most important thing is to free yourself from any self-judgment and self-criticism. Otherwise you will be too busy to notice when those ‘A-HA’ moments come your way.

In today’s lesson I’m answering Delphine’s questions –
How to distinguish between ‘they are’ and ‘there are’
and how to pronounce s-th transitions (as in ‘is the’) easily and clearly.


Hey guys! It’s Hadar and this is The Accent’s Way, your way to finding clarity, confidence, and freedom in English.

I gota question from Delphine asking me two important things and I think you can benefit from the answer, as well. So this is what she writes: Hi, Hadar. I discovered your videos on YouTube a few days ago as I was searching some help about English pronunciation. I think yours are very clear and really helpful actually.Thank you for making a new one each week.
– You are very welcome.
Personally, I’m still struggling to pronounce ‘there are’ and ‘they are’, I can’t make the difference between the two. This is so annoying! Do you have any tips?
– I know! And yes, I do.
Also, I can’t pronounce properly “is there” the transition between /z/ and the /th/ is challenging. I watched your video “Simplifying the TH sound” many times, but I still can’t find the right way to pronounce that clearly. Many thanks, Hadar.

No, thank you Delphine for these awesome questions. And my answer is going to be divided into two. Pronouncing “they are” versus “there are” and the S-TH transitions.

So let’s begin with the first: they are and there are. First thing you need to remember is that the word ‘are’ reduces into /er/ and when a function word – it’s a function word- reduces we connect it to whatevercomes before or after, okay?
These words reduce in order to allow the more important words: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs to stick out. Those words are elongated, okay? That’s the basics of American intonation and rhythm.

So, when you have the word they are and the word are is reduced /er/. What you receive is actually: there, there. Yes! Just like “over there”. So, for example, they’re very happy about it. “They’re coming tonight”. “They’re over there”. Do you hear it? It sounds exactly the same. “They’re over there”. The word “there are” also – the words, sorry – they also connect: “there are”.

Now another thing you want to know is that when a word ends with a consonant and the next word begins with a vowel, the consonant of the first word becomes the beginning of the second. So instead of saying there are, you actually say the-rar the-rar. It’s a lot easier to pronounce, as well. The-rar.

However, we already established that the word ‘are’ reduces when it’s unstressed, so what you actually get is the-r’r – the-r’r. “There are a few things we need to talk about”. There are a few things we need to talk about. There are a bunch of great movies out there. the-r’r – there. “They’re saying that there are a few things we need to talk about”. there and they’re, there – they’re. Okay, good. So that’s about the “there are” vs “they are”.

Now, let’s talk about the S-TH transitions.
When it comes to the S-TH transitions, you need to remember two things. One, the tongue has to be very soft and quick and two, you have to go through these two positions inside the mouth for the /z/ and /s/ and outside for the th sound. Alright.

So in the “simplifying the th video” we talked about tip of the tongue consonants, such as t, d, n, l, and we said that when they precede a th sound you can cheat and place the tongue on the tip of your teeth. For example, tell them and then the tongue is already there for the th. Instead of placing it behind the teeth as you usually do.
“Tell them” – then you have a long way to go. Tell them, in the, put this. But when it comes to the S or Z before TH you cannot cheat and you definitely don’t want to merge the two sounds, okay? You cannot say “ith-there any more left” or “has zem”, okay? You can kinda like leave the tongue inside and then it sounds like two Z sounds or two TH sounds, okay? No, you have to go through both sounds “is the”.

So, for that, again, your tongue has to be really quick and really soft. What you want to do is use a lot of breath and actually push your tongue forward with your breath. “Has-them” “Is-the” okay? Don’t push your tongue against the upper palate as you pronounce the /z/ sound,then it’s gonna get stuck on the way, okay?

What you’re gonna get is “is da” It’s gonna sound like a D. “Is-the”. “Has them” Soft, very light, and use your breath to push the tongue forward, and backwards same thing. “With some” -soft, “With some people” “With some” Alright, now if you want to practice it, what you want to do is just go through these transitions. You know, ten, twenty, thirty times a day: z-th, z-th, z-th, and then S-TH, and backwards, okay?

So when you go through these transitions outside of conversation, it’s gonna be a lot easier for you to use them in conversation. Okay? Your tongue is gonna be prepared and in shape, okay. Think of it it’s a muscle. There are a lot of muscles in the tongue and you want to train those muscles and develop muscle memory, okay? And these transitions are really, really helpful, so try it out. I promise it’ll get easier.

Alright, so that’s it for today. Thank you Delphine for your awesome email and your questions. I hope you enjoyed it. And guys, if you liked it please share this video with your friends and come on over to my website to check it out and get more great content.
Have a wonderful week, thank you for watching again and I will see you next week in the next video.

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