A new threat

Dutch doesn’t have words that end in a D. Well, it does, but the pronunciation is often the same as a final T and they have a hard time distinguishing the two.

It’s a biggie for Dutch kiddies’ spelling tests: words ending in -t, -dt and -d can all be pronounced the same, so you have to think of the grammar. Rather like the difficulty many English speakers have with the homophones their, they’re and there. The same errors regularly sneak into Dunglish – and the spelling checker won’t catch them, of course (though Grammarly usually does, for example).

  • Common examples include send-sent and build-built
  • The big favourite is extend-extent. Erroneous phrases like “to what extend” are a Dunglish classic (especially given that “how much” is usually the better option anyway!)
  • Other ones I’ve seen include thread-threat, vend-vent, bend-bent and hard-heart
  • There’s not much difference between the Dutch short E and short A either. I had a colleague once who insisted Fred rhymed with prat

Hey, that previous one was the hundredth post! A nice little milestone.

Prevalence: high. Usually leaving the D when the verb has declined to the T form.
Frequency: high. If you’ve got a blind spot for it…
Native: no. We simply hear the difference: a final D is vocalized. (There are a few cases where two variants are allowed, like burned-burnt or learned-learnt, but the pronunciation difference is still there!)

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

3 thoughts on “A new threat

  1. Have any other native English speakers ever inadvertently unvoiced a final voiced consonant when translating into English? It happens to me now and then; I guess because I’m hearing my “inner reading voice” unvoicing them in Dutch…


    1. I’m not aware of Dutch having affected my pronunciation like that. The only thing that stands out is when I pronounce anything Dutch the correct way (e.g. Grolsch, Van Gogh, Ruud Gullit) – people certainly pick up on those.


      1. I think it only happens to me now and then when I’m reading long texts, with homophones but pronounced with Dutch-style unvoiced endings. I bet there’s a translation/psycholingstics PhD thesis in this!

        Liked by 1 person

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