How to Pronounce Usual and Usually

Nov 16, 2020

How to Pronounce Usual and Usually

11/16/2020

"Usual" and "usually" are great examples of how vowel syncope and syllable reductions can impact pronunciation! You might be surprised to learn that there are TWO ways to pronounce "usual", and THREE ways to pronounce "usually" - watch the video to learn which pronunciations are the most common, and see all pronunciations up close and in slow motion!

(Video Transcript)

 

Hi, I’m Julie with San Diego Voice and Accent, and in this video you’ll learn how to pronounce the words usual and usually.

 

This video is from another viewer request. I thought this word pair would make a great video because there is more than one way to pronounce these words, and that can make these words difficult to say correctly.

 

Usual and usually without reductions

The first way to pronounce these words is to say each syllable just like the words are written. 

 

Usual can be 3 syllables. Usual, usual, usual.



And usually can be 4 syllables. Usually, usually, usually.



Usual and usually with vowel syncope

The second way you can pronounce these words is to drop the vowel from the middle syllable and reduce the number of syllables. This happens because the middle syllable is unstressed, and it is common in American English to reduce or simplify unstressed syllables. 

 

Usual can be pronounced as 2 syllables. Usual, usual, usual.



And usually can be pronounced as 3 syllables. Usually, usually, usually.

 

Notice how when the syllable count does down, a W consonant is inserted at the beginning of the second syllable. Usual. Usually.

 

Either pronunciation is acceptable. I personally use both forms of usual, usual as 2 syllables and usual as 3 syllables. 



But I typically only use the 3-syllable version of usually. Usually, usually.

 

Usually with syllable reduction

And I find that I will often drop the W from this pronunciation to simplify it even more, so it becomes usually, usually, usually. This pronunciation is much easier to say.

 

Let’s see usual and usually up close and in slow motion.

 

How to pronounce usual and usually: In slow motion

First the word usual. Usual as 2 syllables is on the left, and usual as 3 syllables is on the right. Both words begin with the same sound. They start with the Y consonant, then the lips round for the OO vowel. Then both words transition to the J consonant, and the lips remain rounded. Then the 3-syllable word has an extra sound at this point - another OO vowel. But the 2-syllable word transitions to the W consonant, and the lips round even more. Then the tongue pulls back for a small UH sound, and finally the Dark L.

 

Now you’ll see the word usually. There are three ways to pronounce this word, and you’ll see slow motion shots of each option. The first example shows the word usually when it is pronounced as three syllables with the W sound in the second syllable. 

 

This second example shows the word usually when it is pronounced as three syllables without the W sound in the second syllable.

 

Let’s see what the three syllable options look like side by side. On the left is the word usually without the W sound, and on the right is the word usually with the W sound. Both words begin with the same sound: the Y consonant. The lips round for the OO vowel, and they stay rounded as the tongue tip comes up slightly for the J consonant. Here is when the words differ from each other. On the right you’ll see the lips round even more for the W consonant, but on the left you’ll see the lips relax for the UH vowel. Finally, both words end with the same syllable, the light L and the EE vowel. 

 

And finally the third pronunciation option. This example shows the word usually when it is pronounced as four syllables. It begins the same as the previous two options, but notice how it differs in the second syllable. The lips round for the OO vowel. Then it ends with the light L and the EE vowel. 



I hope this video helped to build your awareness of the different ways you can pronounce the words usual and usually. Thanks for watching, and let me know how I can help you master the American accent!