in English


The Combinations




The activity shown in the photo is called 'gurning'. It is a funny picture. It is a double joke in Spanish because the title, 'Tu Tio and Tia' means, 'Your uncle and aunt.'



You may not recognize tu' as a combination, but it is essential to know how these two letters can behave when they are together.   To explain this I must refer to the English word ‘Tuesday’, meaning the day of the week, which you probably know.

Outside the United States of America, the ‘T’ in ‘Tuesday is NOT pronounced like ‘t’ in ‘today’ or ‘time’. In international (British) English ‘Tuesday’ is phonetically, ‘chusdei’(ch of Chelsea, u = oo of Liverpool).

The letter ‘t’ should not be pronounced as a hard ‘t’. In North America they say "Tusdei" with a hard ‘t’, but in many of the other words in this group American English also has the ‘choo’ sound.

Many words in English are affected by this. In these examples

the sound of ‘tu’ is ‘choo’:

Tuesday, picture, tune, cultural, nature, natural, rupture, rapture, capture, attitude,feature, future, adventure, creature, virtual, conceptual.

There are other examples, but not very many. You will learn them by practice. However, this sound does not apply in all cases where the letters ‘t’ and ‘u’ appear together –

Where the letter ‘u’ in the ‘tu’ is pronounced as the basic ‘u’, (the much more common sound), phonetically ‘a’ of Arsenal, then it is just another vowel. For example:

tub, tunnel, turn, Turkey, turkey, turtle, turf, turret, tusk, tuxedo, turmoil, tumble, tussle.

To summarize:

1. Where the ‘u’ sound is ‘oo’ of Liverpool then the ‘choo’ sound is required. Even if you are learning North American English, or you are in North America, where the ‘choo’ sound is generally used to some extent, the ‘choo’ of Tuesday will help you to remember this sound in all the other words.

2. Where the ‘u’ sound is the basic ‘u’ then the letter ‘u’ takes its principal sound, a of Arsenal, and does not combine with the ‘t’ to produce the ‘chu’ sound.



The combination ‘tio’ appears very often in English words.  In this case the ‘t’ has the sound of ‘sh’ of Shay Given (goalkeeper extraordinaire):


motion moshon (o of Ohio, o of Tottenham)
action akshon (a of Arsenal o of Tottenham)
nation neishon (a of USA, o of …….“……..)
ratio (……”….o of Ohio)
reception (i of Leeds, o of Tottenham)
relation ( " " ")


There are some exceptions, where the ‘t’ is a hard ‘t’ followed by two vowel sounds:

 patio, question, digestion



tia is less common and it also has the sound of Shay Given instead of a hard ‘t’. For example:


palatial pal-eys-shal
spatial spey-shal
penitential pen-it-en-shal
confidential kon-fid-en-shal
potential pot-en-shal
torrrential tor-en-shal


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