• Cecilia Viana

Are you saying these words wrong?

Anyone who has studied English knows that pronunciation is not a walk in the park. Mastering the sounds of English can take a while, but it’s normal. We need to practise a lot in order to get our face muscles used to new movements. However, what happens sometimes is that we learn to say one word wrong, and then it is very difficult to “unlearn” it, which results in a chronic mispronunciation syndrome. (Disclamer: such a syndrome does not exist, I just made that up!)

Some of the words that are frequently mispronounced are:


This is a basic word, one of the first you learn in your life. It looks so simple and innocent, but NO, it’s not, and many people get it wrong. It surprises me how this word, which was used as the name of the most famous, influencing and loved sitcoms of all times, is still mispronounced.

  • How many people say it: friends

  • How it should be said: frends (no “i”)

Remember: frends, frends, frends


This is another word that looks “innocent”. How do we pronounce ‘cus’? It’s hard to predict. Should we say fokius?

Please, don’t. Oh, please, don’t!

  • How many people say it: fokius

  • How it should be said: fəʊkəs

What is this strange symbol that looks like an upside down "e"? It's called a schwa, and it is a vowel sound. In this post, I won't use phonetic symbols because not everybody is familiar with them, but this sound is impossible to replace with "normal letters". So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the schwa: ə. It sounds like the first sound in the words "again" or "about".

Remember: fəʊkəs, fəʊkəs, fəʊkəs.


This is a popular word in the world of IT. However, in spite of its popularity, it is commonly mispronounced. It is understandable: the “ou” diphthong can be quite tricky; “ou” sounds like an “au” in noun, pound, and mouse, for example. For some reason, many people say “surs”. Is this the right way of saying it? Of course not!

  • How many people say it: surs

  • How it should be said: sors

Remember: sors, sors, sors.


Let’s go straight to the point. How are you saying “liked”? Are you saying laikid or something like that? If so, please, please you have to stop. This is a regular verb in the past, and as you may know, all regular verbs in the past finish in “ed”. That’s easy. However, that "-ed” can be pronounced in three different ways. In this case, the “ed” sounds like a “t”, so “liked” is pronounced laikt.

  • How many people say it: laikid

  • How it should be said: laikt

Remember: laikt, laikt, laikt.

If you say “laikid”, people may think you are saying “like it”.


Last but not least, we have the word “difficult”. If you are from Argentina or if you like football, you may remember an interview in which Carlos Tevez said “very difficult”. He was clearly struggling in this interview. English is not his first language and the interviewer spoke quickly and asked him questions that couldn't be answered in a few words. Tevez’s last words,“very difficult”, became viral, and I remember many people making fun of this, and repeating those words with the wrong pronunciation, of course.

This word is not that easy to pronounce, because there are three things that we need to pay attention to: The initial "d", the “u” sound”, and the final “t”.

  1. The initial d: this sound is not the same as the "Spanish d” we would pronounce in a word like “día”, “medio”, o “Madrid”. It’s a stronger sound.

  2. The “u”: it doesn’t sound like an “u”, but as a schwa (ə, the ambiguous sound).

  3. The final “t”: In Spanish, we tend to omit the last consonants. So, sometimes, “merlot” sounds like “merló”, and “boycott” sounds like “boicó”. Avoid doing this in English.

  • How many people say it: difikul

  • How it should be said: difikəlt

Remember: difikəlt, difikəlt, difikəlt

If you find yourself mispronouncing these words, what you can do is write your own sentences and make a recording of yourself. Listen to you pronunciation and make the recording again if necessary. Repeat the words with the correct pronunciation until your neurons make the connection, and you’ll remember them forever. Let’s be positive here!

Before you go, test yourself. How do you say these words?

  • Friends

  • Focus

  • Source

  • Liked

  • Difficult

Did you get them right?

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