Non-native English speakers sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between the pronunciation of can and can’t. This can lead to some confusion in conversations.
Since the final /t/ sound in can’t isn’t always pronounced, English speakers use stress to create a difference between can and can’t. Listen to the following sentences. Do you notice a difference between the pronunciation of can and the pronunciation of can’t?
I can meet tomorrow afternoon or Monday morning.
I can’t meet tomorrow afternoon or Monday morning.
Linda and Jose can finish that by tomorrow.
Linda and Jose can’t finish that by tomorrow.
Now listen to these two sentences. Is there any difference in the stress between can and can’t?
He can go to Europe a lot more often than I can.
They asked me to come in early to work, but I can’t.
Practice saying the following sentences. For sentences with can’t, use appropriate stress. For sentences with can, decide whether the word should be stressed or not.
1. I can come in early tomorrow morning.
2. Can you make the deadline by tomorrow?
3. Can’t you do it faster than she can?
4. If the project can be finished by tomorrow, that would be great.
5. I’m sorry, but I really can’t.
6. Can you hand me that book?
7. He can go, but I can’t.
What do you do now?
First, take some time to list some of your professional skills, and practice describing these with can and/or can’t. For example:
I can speak English, Korean, and Japanese. I can also provide medical translation services in these languages.
You won’t find many candidates who can analyze a stock with the level of skill that I can.
Second, bring the list to a speech consultant to review.