Speak Easy #01 – [y] and [w] insertion

Episode description

In this episode, Suzanne and Andrew teach you a pronunciation trick that will make your English sound smooth and natural. You’ll learn how to link words together by inserting a [y] or [w] sound.  


Andrew:           Hi, I’m Andrew and this is the Culips English Podcast. Happy New Year! We’re kicking this year off by launching a brand new pronunciation series called Speak Easy. And this is the first episode! In this series, Suzanne and I will teach you a ton of tips and tricks to make your pronunciation sound clear, natural, and easily understandable. Now the Speak Easy study guides are going to look a little different from our regular study guides. Instead of vocabulary explanations and examples, Speak Easy study guides come with exercises that let you practice the pronunciation tips and tricks that you’ll learn. And of course, the transcript is still included as it always is. So if you wanna get the study guide for this episode or any of our other episodes, visit our website Culips.com. C-U-L-I-P-S dot com. OK, we’re excited about this series, I think you’ll like it a lot. Let’s get right to it.

Hey everybody. My name is Andrew.

Suzanne:         And I’m Suzanne.

Andrew:           And you’re listening to Culips. Hey Suzanne.

Suzanne:         Hey Andrew, how are you?

Andrew:           I’m good, how are you?

Suzanne:         I’m doing well.

Andrew:           Suzanne, I’m super excited because we are debuting a new type of series here on Culips. A pronunciation series that we’re calling Speak Easy.

Suzanne:         Yeah, that’s right Andrew.

Andrew:           Our other series like: Catch Word, Chatterbox, Real Talk, Simplified Speech all of these are designed to help you sound like a native speaker, when you talk so that you use the same vocabulary, the same expressions as a native speaker. But, I think a lot of you guys are interested in actually sounding like a native speaker with your pronunciation. And so this is why we decided to do this series is to help you sound natural with your pronunciation and Sue is actually a pronunciation teacher and pronunciation coach in her other work apart from Culips. So we have an expert on the Culips team already so yeah we’re very excited to present you guys with this new series.

Suzanne:         Yeah, and this will offer you some tips and tricks that you can quickly apply to your everyday pronunciation of English. And we don’t need to sound like a native speaker to be understood, but some of these little tips and tricks will help you feel more confident, might help you understand native speaker speech better and will help you feel and sound more fluent.

Andrew:           That is right, so today we have a cool little tip and trick to teach you guys and we could call this [y] insertion or [w] insertion. When we link together, we connect some words together and we insert a [y] sound or a [w] sound to help make a smooth connection between words.

Suzanne:         Yeah, when you hear sometimes native English speakers speak you might not be able to distinguish the words or separate the words that they’re saying because they sound like they’re flowing together or connecting really quickly. Almost like they’re one word and that’s because they utilize this little trick and it’s a [y] or [w] insertion.

Andrew:           That’s so cool. So Suzanne, maybe you could explain about this pronunciation tip in a little more detail. What is it exactly? [y] or [w] insertion?

Suzanne:         Sure, so in English, whenever a word doesn’t end in a consonant, like [b] or a [d]. Like bad, that ends with a consonant right?

Andrew:           [d] is a consonant.

Suzanne:         Right, that means it usually will end in a vowel sound and most of the time in English our words end in the vowel /i:/ or /u:/. And that is just how the ends of English words work. We tend to just use /i:/ or /u:/. So, if you have a word that ends in /i:/ or /u:/ such as bee or you and then the next word begins with another vowel, like able or are, you add a [y] or [w] sound between those two words. And if the word ends with an /i:/ sound, you’ll add an extra [y] sound or /ji:/ /j/ /j/ sound before the next word. And if the word ends with an /u:/ sound, you’ll add an extra [w] sound or /w/ sound before the next word.

Andrew:           That explains it really well, those are some great rules to follow. But it’s a little bit complicated Suzanne, so let’s break it down a little bit further. Let’s look first at inserting a [y] OK? Inserting a [y] at the end of a word that ends with /i:/ to connect it to another word that starts with a vowel.

Suzanne:         Yeah, so like for example you have the phrase be able, right? So I won’t beyable to make it to the party, be able.

Andrew:           I won’t be able to make it to the party. Now, of course there’s not very many native speakers that pronounce it like I just did. I won’t be able to make it to the party. No that’s not how natural conversation works. So when we speed it up to a natural speed it sounds more like I won’t beyable to make it to the party. I won’t beyable.

Suzanne:         Yes, and so it can be difficult sometimes for non native speakers to blend those two words right? Sometimes they’ll make it a glottal attack like be able, be able. Like there’s kind of a little shock down in the vocal cords area, or the throat.

Andrew:           Like they’re, stopping the air from flowing out of their mouth when they’re speaking to try and make a separation between be able.

Suzanne:         Exactly.

Andrew:           But, that’s not how we do it, is it?

Suzanne:         No and also sometimes, some speakers will add like an H sound. So they might say behable, behable. And that can make it sound like a different phrase all together.

Andrew:           Mhm, French speakers we’re looking at you right now.

Suzanne:         Yeah, a lot of times because there is no [h] sound in the French language, well there is a [h] letter, but they don’t pronounce it. So there is no [h] sound in the French language, so they kind of slip it in, in English in a lot of different places to make up for it. And in this case there’s a tendency to do that between two vowels. So, since the [b] if you think about it, the [b] ends in an /i:/ sound, and the able begins with a vowel sound. Try putting Andrew, a [y] or /ji:/ sound between the two words, in order to blend them.

Andrew:           OK, so I start with /bi:/, /bi:/ and then I switch to /e?bl/ so be able then I can connect it by saying beyable, beyable, beyable, is that right?

Suzanne:         That’s right, that’s right and you guys can try along with us beyable, beyable.

Andrew:           Beyable, beyable. And you can really feel your mouth, right? If you pay attention to the shape of you mouth, it’s really gonna pull back, your lips are pulling back towards your ears.

Suzanne:         Like a smile.

Andrew:           Like a smile when you’re making that [y] sound like beyable, beyable.

Suzanne:         Yeah and your tongue is usually in this kind of sound the /i:/ sound, the tip of your tongue is behind your lower front teeth and the front and sort of middle part of your tongue, is really arched forward, right? beyable, beyable. Right?

Andrew:           That’s right.

Suzanne:         So you’re kind of extending that /i:/ sound, is what you’re doing. You’re kind of going a little more intense, just so that it is long enough to connect to the next word.

Andrew:           Suzanne, what are a couple of other words that use this pronunciation technique or some other phrases that we can hear this pronunciation technique used in?

Suzanne:         There are some common ones, right? Like she is. Sheyis.

Andrew:           Oh yeah, sheyis. So it’s not she.is, it’s sheyis, sheyis.

Suzanne:         Sheyis. Yeah. Is she coming to the party? Yeah, sheyis.

Andrew:           Yeah, sheyis, sheyis. Right.

Suzanne:         Or he is, right? Heyis.

Andrew:           Right, heyis, heyis.

Suzanne:         Yeah, or even they are. Theyyare, theyyare.

Andrew:           Are they coming to the party? Yes, they are, yes, theyyare.

Suzanne:         Yeah, and it’s subtle, we’re kind of emphasizing it a little bit more. Doing it a little bit more extreme than in rapid speech. So when you do it in rapid speech, it’s maybe not as strong as we’re doing it right now, for as an example.

Andrew:           That’s a good point, we are over emphasizing it, but guys at the end of this episode we’re going to present you with a dialogue conversation example, where you’ll hear many words and phrases using the pronunciation tips and techniques that we’re teaching you today. And we will do that at a completely normal conversational speed. You’ll be able to hear all of these examples of connected speech, spoken at a totally normal conversational pace, in the dialogue at the end. So while we’re explaining it here, we kind of over emphasizing so you can hear it, and then you’ll be able to practice listening at regular speed at the end.

Suzanne:         Yeah, and just to cap it off, with the [y] insertion, you also can put a [y] in the middle of a word. For example: create, creyate, or creyative. Or regular, regylar.

Andrew:           Oh, I hear that. So, creyate, creyate, creyate. You can hear the [y] in the middle and Sue is that because you have the same instance of an /i:/ sound being beside a vowel in a multi-syllable word?

Suzanne:         Yeah, so if you think about it, /kri:/ is a /i:/ sound right? That’s a pure vowel, /i:/. And then the next syllable is actually made up of a diphthong.

Andrew:           Right.

Suzanne:         Which is when you have two vowel sounds that come together to make one. So technically you have like three vowel sounds going on there. Create, create. And in order to blend them all together, you sort of extend that /i:/ sound so that it doesn’t sound too choppy. Create, creyate.

Andrew:           Yeah, this is I guess, an example of English speakers just being a little lazy right?

Suzanne:         Yeah.

Andrew:           We’re just trying to find a short cut like, ah linking all these vowels together is just too much effort. So how can we make it flow, how can we make it be smooth and adding the [y] is how we do that. So, again we’ll take a word like create and then smush it together, make it smooth by adding the [y] and changing it creyate.

Suzanne:         Exactly, now we also have a similar effect with the [w] insertion or the /w/ sound right?

Andrew:           When we’re representing it with a letter, we can use the [w] letter but it’s really the /w/ sound.

Suzanne:         Right, or the /u:/ right? We are extending the /u:/ sound.

Andrew:           OK, so could you break this down for us Sue? In what environment do we wanna insert this /u:/ or /w/ sound?

Suzanne:         So, it’s very similar to the [y] insertion rule. If you have the end of a word ending in /u:/, and then the next word beginning with a vowel sound you want to add a little bit more /u:/ or a [w] sound in order to link them and make it more connected. For example, the phrase you asked her. Youwasked her, right? So some people could wanna maybe do the glottal attack again and say you.asked.her, you.asked.her, you.asked.her right? And kind of attack on the Ah.

Andrew:           It’s too much effort though to do that, it’s easier just to add that /w/ in there and say youwasked her,  youwasked her, youwasked her.

Suzanne:         Youwasked her. Did I ask her? No, youwasked her.

Andrew:           Youwasked her, yeah.

Suzanne:         Good.

Andrew:           Oh, so we have youwasked her, what’s another example?

Suzanne:         Yeah, so we also have you are, youware.

Andrew:           Youware, Youware, yeah. Youware.

Suzanne:         How is it? Howwis it?

Andrew:           How is it? How is it? Howwis it, howwis it?

Suzanne:         Yeah, like I just moved to Montreal.  Oh yeah?  Howwis it? Howwis it there?

Andrew:           Right, howwis it there? And you could maybe, if you’re having a dinner party and your guest sit down to try the food that you just cooked for them, you could ask them, “Howwis it? Howwis it?”

Suzanne:         Yeah and hopefully they say, it’s delicious.

Andrew:           It’s to die for.

Suzanne:         You can also put it in the middle of words, similar to the [y] insertion. You can say, coward, cowward.

Andrew:           Cowward, yeah.

Suzanne:         Yeah so there’s extra /ka?/-/?rd/ right? /ka?/-/?rd/, but cowward so you kind of bring that [w] over to the [r] sound word. And then, nowhere, nowhere.

Andrew:           No.where., nowhere, nowhere.

Suzanne:         Yeah, or however, howwever.

Andrew:           We don’t say how.ever, it’s howwever.

Suzanne:         Yeah, howwever blah blah blah.

Andrew:           So Suzanne, I think it’s time that we play that conversation example for all of our listeners so that they can hear many instances of these two techniques in a conversation that occurs at a totally normal conversational pace.

Suzanne:         Yeah.

Andrew:         So let’s take a listen to that right now.

Friend 1: ???????Hey, didn’t you have that interview today?

Friend 2:       I don’t think I’ll be able to go. I heard they don’t pay overtime.

Friend 1: ??????? Well, nowhere pays overtime these days.

Friend 2:       True, but I hear there’s going to be some new openings over at Google.

Friend 1:       Wow, a job there would be so awesome. Are you sure they’re hiring?

Friend 2:       Yeah, I heard they are.

Friend 1:       It’s a regular desk job?

Friend 2:       Yeah, it’s a regular desk job, however the hours are flexible.

Suzanne:         All right, so in that dialogue example did you hear any [y] or [w] insertions? In words or phrases? Let’s see if we can pick them out, Andrew?

Andrew:           Yeah, I heard an example when the lady said, “I don’t think I’ll be able to go.” Beyable to go. Beyable, beyable.

Suzanne:         Yeah, exactly beyable. There was a [y] insertion there and actually in the word interview too. Viyew.

Andrew:           Oh yeah.

Suzanne:         In the word view right? Before, we don’t say /vu:/, right? We add a little bit of a [y] before it’s viyew.

Andrew:           That’s right. Hey, didn’t you have that interviyew, viyew, interviyew today?

Suzanne:         Yeah, exactly.

Andrew:           The lady in the conversation was complaining about that company not paying overtime.

Suzanne:         Yes.

Andrew:           They don’t pay overtime. Payyovertime, so there we can hear that /y/ sound right? Don’t payyovertime.

Suzanne:         Exactly, and then the gentleman said well nowhere, nowhere pays overtime these days. Nowhere so there was an extra [w].

Andrew:           Extra [w] sound, very good.

Suzanne:         Yeah.

Andrew:           And then well, the lady responded by saying, well there’s gonna be some new openings over at Google. New openings, newwopenings. So we see the word new and openings connected together by the insertion of that [w] sound. Newwopenings.

Suzanne:         Yeah, and then we also have a simple one which we say quite a lot, right? So awesome, wow a job there would be sowawesome.

Andrew:           Sowawesome.

Suzanne:         Sowawesome.

Andrew:           Oh my god, it would be sowawesome.

Suzanne:         Yeah.

Andrew:           So again, they’re linked, so and awesome are linked together by the /w/ insertion.

Suzanne:         Yeah, and then we also have regular, we don’t say reg.u.lar. It’s regylar. Regylar desk job.

Andrew:           Regylar desk job, it’s a regylar desk job. Exactly.

Suzanne:         Yeah and then I think the last one we have, we say yeah it’s a regylar desk job, however, howwever, howwever the hours are flexible.

Andrew:           Howwever.

Suzanne:         So there we added a [w].

Andrew:           Right, another example of the /w/ insertion, however. To connect that all together and make it smooth and polished sounding.

Andrew:           Well Sue, I think that is all the time that we have for today.

Suzanne:         Yeah, well today we learned two simple tricks that help our speech flow. We learned the [y] and the [w] insertion, so whenever you’re in a bind you can remember to put a [y] sound when the word ends with an /i:/ and the next word starts with a vowel. And you can add a [w] sound when one word ends in /u:/ and the next word starts with a vowel.

Andrew:           That is right, our website is Culips.com and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/culipspodcast. So please check it out and get in touch with us. If you wanna send us a Facebook message that’s totally cool. Or you can email us at contact@culips.com and because this is the first edition of our new Speak Easy series, we would love to hear some feedback from you about what you thought of it. So get in touch with us. Sue, thanks for teaching us how to make our speech flow more naturally today.

Suzanne:         Sure, my pleasure.

Andrew:           And we’ll talk to you soon, OK? Goodbye everybody.

Suzanne:         Bye.

Announcer:     Do you like listening to Culips? If so, please show your support by leaving Culips a 5-star rating and a review on iTunes or Stitcher. This helps new listeners find the show. So don’t delay, rate and review today.


Practice exercises

Each of these sentences contains an example of the [y] or [w] insertion rule you learned about in this episode. Read the sentences out loud and find where a [y] or [w] needs to be inserted. Then listen to the MP3 to check your answers and practice  by listening and repeating.

Example: Yes, she is. à Yes, sheyis.


  1. I won’t be able to open the jar.
  2. She created the other class for the experienced students.
  3. I ate all the oatmeal cookies.
  4. Did you order that brie or did you end up getting it as a gift?
  5. He asked so many questions that she ate all the oysters while he just kept talking.
  6. Why are there so many other people here?
  7. I took two of those – one for you and one for me.
  8. She opened all the gifts that you asked her to.
  9. Joe asked for a new apple tree and a blueberry bush for the backyard.
  10. Did you only bring three issues of that magazine? I thought Sue asked you to bring all ten!


Read the dialogues out loud to practice the [Y] and [W] pronunciation rule you learned in this episode. Listen and repeat with the included MP3 file.

Dialogue 1:

A:      Who answered the door this morning?

B:      Oh, I did. It was the new electrician.

A:      Did you call him or did Joe?

B:      I think Joe asked him to come and take a look at the old circuits.


Dialogue 2:

A:      Hey Alex, do you think you’ll be able to make it to our party on Saturday?

B:      Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that! What time does it start?

A:      Well you asked me if you could get there later and that’s okay if you have something before.

B:      Yeah! Lou asked me if I could help him out with him new apartment. He already moved in, but the walls need a new coat of paint.

A:      Sweet, why don’t you ask Lou if he wants to come on out to our place too?

B:      Cool! That’d be a great time! See ya then!


  1. I won’t beyable towopen the jar.
  2. She creyated theyother class for theyexperiyenced students.
  3. Iyate all theyoatmeyal cookies.
  4. Did youworder that brieyor did youwend up getting it as a gift?
  5. Heyasked so many questions that sheyate all theyoysters while he just kept talking.
  6. Whyyare there so manyyother people here?
  7. I took twowof those – one for youwand one for me.
  8. Sheyopened all the gifts that youwasked her to.
  9. Joewasked for a newwapple tree and a blueberry bush for the backyard.
  10. Did youwonly bring threeyissues of that magazine? I thought Suewasked you to bring all ten!

Dialogue 1:

A: Whowanswered the door this morning?

B: OhwI did. It was the newwelectrician.

A: Did you call him or did Joe?

B: I think Joewasked him to come and take a look at theyold circuits.

Dialogue 2:

A: HeyyAlex, do you think you’ll beyable to make it towour partyyon Saturday?

B: Ohyyeah, I almost forgot about that! What time does it start?

A: Well youwasked me if you could get there later and that’s okay if you have something before.

B: Yeah! Suewasked me if I could help her out with her new apartment. Sheyalready moved in, but the walls need a new coat of paint.

A: Sweet, why don’t youwask Sue if she wants to come on out towour place too?

B: Cool! That’ll beya great time! Seeyya then!

                                                                  Episode credits

Hosts:     Andrew Bates and Suzanne Cerreta

Music:     Something Elated by Broke For Free

Episode preparation/research:     Suzanne Cerreta

Audio editor:     Andrew Bates

Learning materials writer:     Suzanne Cerreta and Andrew Bates

Business manager:     Tsuyoshi Kaneshima

Project manager:     Jessica Cox