This question recently got closed as a dupe:

Of course, for many speakers, whether produced consciously or not, there will be a second /t/ in the word potential. For some speakers this will be accidental and for others it will be part of their phonemic inventory for the word. The reason, of course, is that in this type of environment, we are likely to see an epenthetic /t/.

So the answer to this question is that there is no reason at all not to pronounce a second /t/ in this word, but also that this fact bears no relationship to the spelling and is allowed by the specific environment of a nasal being followed by a post-alveolar fricative.

This question bears no relationship to the question that it has been closed as a duplicate of:

Can we reopen the first question, please.

Update note:

This question has now been reopened. Thank you.

  • Don't you think it is a little weird for someone who asks a question on ELU to ask "Is it wrong to pronounce the second "T" in word "potential"? I don't understand the question. I am just guessing either (1) he thinks he shouldn't pronounce T in potential at all or (2) he thinks he should pronounce T in a different way from pronouncing "Toy". I don't know what the question is about. The English rule seems to be here. rachelsenglish.com/t-pronunciations. It didn't take me more than 2 seconds to find it.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:20
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    @Rathony Did you read the anwer properly? You don't seem to understand about epenthetic /t/. There is nothing about epenthetic /t/ on the linked-to page. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:24
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    You are assuming that the OP will be able to understand what the epenthetic /t/ is. Don't forget the OP accepted the duplicate. In addition, the question asks about general English rule about /t/ in words. Not only about epenthetic /t/. Either it is general reference or too broad.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:28
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    @Rathony You seem to get very exercised when people disagree about the merits of a question which you have close-voted. It's generally a good poolicy to respect other members' points of view and reflect on whether, in fact, the question has some sort of merit that you had not foreseen - clearly the case here. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


I concur. The OP actually accepted the nominated duplicate (which is why it was shown as closed by Community) but certainly the sound in patient is not the same as the sound of potential.

I've re-opened that post. Presumably you have an answer formulated ready for it!

  • Thanks. Have written a brief answer :) Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 11:38
  • Don't you think it should be closed as "lack of research" than "duplicate"? I am the second close-voter and I would have closed it as "lack of research" if it had not been dupe-closed by @ suməlic. The question asks "Why shouldn't we pronounce the second "T" in word "potential"? and there is no research at all. How could this question can be reopened by just changing the title to "Is it wrong to pronounce..."?
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:14
  • @Rathony Maybe, if you closed it as a dupe, the most pertinent question to ask oneself here, is how can this kind of problem be avoided in the future. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:26
  • @Araucaria The most pertinent question you have to ask will be (as I told you yesterday), wouldn't etymologists, linguists and serious English enthusiasts be able to pronounce /t/ in any word before you decide to answer such a blatantly off-topic question (no research, not clear, too broad)?
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:30
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    @Rathony I think you're showing that you don't understnd the nature of the site. The question is not whether linguists can say a particular word. It's whether it's interesting for them why something should happen be pronounced in a particular way. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:32
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    @Araucaria Only when the question is clear, researched and not too broad. I see a problem when it is answered only partly without knowing what the question is all about. Actually your post doesn't answer the question, don't you agree? The question asks about "Any english rule about "t" in words"? And you are explaining only about "epenthesis T".
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:36
  • @Rathony I don't agree! Maybe you should write an answer post instead of writing all these comments. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:37
  • No. I don't answer a question when I don't know what the question is. I don't understand what this Meta question is all about.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:38
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    @Rathony - you haven't actually answered or asked any question for some time. You appear just to be into close voting and downvoting on this site. Wouldn't your contribution be more effective and appreciable by the community if you dedicated your energies also to asking and answering good questions?
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 12:59
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    Some people would pronounce it like potenshal, so the dupe isn't all bad. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 15:22
  • @JOSH Yeap. I know that as I commented to you the other day. How many answerable questions do you find a week? I find a very few, but I am trying not to answer a question asked by someone who doesn't even know how to pronounce "potential". Actually, I vote to close fewer questions than before. I think I can show you the record if you want. :-)
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 16:47
  • @curiousdannii That's also one of the issues that I wanted to comment on. That's why the OP should have included some research. T sound is extremely difficult for some Asian people, especially Thai and Vietnamese, and the right answer will be very dependent on their nationality. We should not assume all the people in the world can pronounce T in the way native speakers do as if the pronunciation were standardized in one way or another.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 16:54

The original poster had already accepted the linked question as a duplicate. It is clearly wrong to say that it has "no relationship" with the question that was asked. Not all speakers have a second [t] in "potential."

Thank you for pointing out the potential for t-epenthesis here--I had overlooked that. That said, I don't think it requires an entirely new answer here.

I think it would have been sufficient to add a link to Should the IPA of the word "conscious" be /ˈkɑːnʃəs/ or /ˈkɑːntʃəs/?, which covers the exact same issue that you've interpreted this question to be about.

I also think it's a bit hyperbolic to say that neglecting to mention t-epenthesis would have caused serious harm to the OP or future readers. It's good for English-language learners to know about this kind of epenthesis so that they won't be surprised if they hear it, and so that they can use it if that is easier for them.

But not all varieties of English have this type of epenthesis. It's not incorrect to transcribe the pronunciation of "potential" as /pə'tɛnʃl/; phonemically, this may be the best transcription even for dialects with t-epenthesis. There are a host of other phonetic or dialect-dependent details not apparent from this transcription that might or might not be useful to mention depending on the specific learner: aspiration of /p/ and /t/, devoicing of /ə/, pen-pin merger changing /ɛ/ to /ɪ/, nasalization of the vowel before /n/, velarization of /l̩/ (or in some dialects, outright vocalization to something like [o]). Without more information from the original poster, it's hard to tell which elements of this transcription might be misleading.

  • Your answer would be much improved if you could include some comments on the way the question was asked and edited. To be honest with you, I don't know what the question is about and why it was asked in the first place. I strongly believe the OP is just a beginner who started to learn English a week or two ago. Otherwise, the original question sounds very strange, not to mention the edited version which sounds even more weird.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 17:00
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    @Araucaria: The answer was not a tautological "it's pronounced with /ʃ/ because it's pronounced with /ʃ/." It explains the more general pattern that causes this word to be spelled with "t" but pronounced with /ʃ/. The OP asked "Any english rule about "t" in words?" The linked question explains the general correspondence between the spelling "ti" and the sound /ʃ/. The OP, in response, said "Got it. Thank you. I should remember the "-tial"'s pronounce."
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 18:09
  • @Araucaria The question to you is even simpler. "Why do you answer an off-topic question?" while you don't even know what the OP is asking about? When the duplicate was suggested by sumelic, the OP accepted it. As I commented above, the OP started to study English a week or two ago. Why are you so keen to help him on ELU? Don't you think it would be better to guide him to ELL or show some general reference links that I included in the comment to your question?
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 18:34
  • @Araucaria What SE is all about is the question should include research, be clear and be helpful. I am getting really tired of discussing these very basic guidelines on SE with you. Do you really think the question shows at least one of them?
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 18:38
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    @Araucaria: It would be wrong to say /pə'tɛntiəl/. It doesn't matter if you say /pə'tɛnʃəl/ or /pə'tɛntʃəl/. It's most important to know that "tial" = /ʃəl/ and not /tiəl/; it's useful but not necessary to know that "ntial" may optionally be pronounced as [ntʃəl].
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 18:57
  • @Araucaria Did you visit the OP's profile? The OP seems to be Chinese. Have you studied Chinese? I did and gave up. What you don't seem to understand is (1) Yeah, you are a native speaker, (2) you sound like you know something about the language, (3) you think you can explain how to pronounce T to Chinese, but NO! You can never explain how to pronounce T to Chinese with your answer unless you learn how to speak Chinese. Don't even assume that T is pronounced as you think it would be pronounced in all the countries in the word. When you visit Vietnam or Thailand, you will be shocked.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:05
  • @Araucaria: What do you mean by "lowest common denominator"? I do think the OP's comments and confirmation of the duplicate indicate that he was not aware of the spelling pattern where "ti" = /ʃ/; do you disagree?
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:08
  • @suməlic Exactly. I don't think the OP speaks English at all. He started to learn it a few weeks ago. And established members on ELU are arguing about such a learner's basic post on Meta.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:09
  • @Araucaria You give the OP the benefit of the doubt when they comply with the guidelines of ELU. They are not a rocket science. They can follow them if they want to stay here. If they don't, why do we care? Let them go.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:12
  • @Araucaria: not sure why you're stressing "wrong" when that was the word you added with your edit. The original wording was "Why shouldn't we". Forgive me for taking this to mean the OP wanted to know why the word isn't pronounced /pə'tɛntiəl/, and if there are any similar words spelled with "t" that don't have a corresponding /t/ phoneme.
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:22
  • I don't get why you're so certain I'm being disingenuous. It would probably go better if you just assume I'm slow. I think the sentence could be interpreted multiple ways. It would be best for the OP to edit it to clarify, but rather than doing that, he confirmed the suggested duplicate, so I don't think my interpretation of what he meant is totally wrong. You seem to be certain that your interpretation is correct, however.
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 19:27

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