Flap T (Quick "D" Sound)

The Flap T is the quick ‘D’ sound that you hear in words like “better” and “city.”

Lillian Diaz

1/1/20251 min read

The Flap T is the quick ‘D’ sound that you hear in words like “better” and “city.” We don’t use the true T here, that would sound like /beh-tur/ and /si-tee/ instead, we use a quick flap of the tongue to make a rapid D sound: /BEH-dur/ and /SI-dee/. Notice that the syllables before the T are stressed and the T syllables are unstressed*. This is very important! If you give equal stress to both syllables, the word will sound a bit strange.

The Flap T is most often found between vowel sounds and R and L sounds. Unlike the True T, the Flap T is always found in unstressed syllables, so it is not in words like “attain” or “deter.”

You’ll also hear it in between words, when the T at the end of a word is followed by a vowel starting the next words. For example, the phrase “not at all” has two Flap Ts.

To make the Flap T, the tip of the tongue must come up to reach the alveolar ridge (that bony part behind your top teeth) and quickly flap back down to transition into the next vowel sound.

Here are all the most common occurrences of Flap T:

  • In between vowel sounds (meeting, a lot of)

  • In between R and a vowel sound (smarter, article, hurting)

  • In between a vowel and an L sound (battle, settle, cattle)

  • In between an R and an L (startle, myrtle)

Memory Tip: the phrase “A little bit of butter” includes all three of the above rules and can help you remember where to find the Flap T. “little” → in between vowel and L. “bit of” → in between two vowel sounds. “butter” → in between a vowel and an R sound.

*Just a reminder, stressed syllables are pronounced for a longer duration and often a higher pitch than unstressed syllables. Think of it in terms of rhythm: DA da da DA da da, where the capitalized beats are emphasized and pronounced longer than the lowercase beats.