Elision of /k/

The last case we are going to deal with is the elision of the velar plosive /k/, which is not as well-known as others, so I’ll try to give a thorough description.


We’ll start by having a look at a very well-known case: the past or participle of the verb ask.

When asked is followed by a vowel, the /k/ is often elided and the pronunciation is /ɑːst/.

sound_loud_speaker George’s position, though as yet none has asked him for his opinion on the matter, is one of cautious endorsement (Julian Barnes, Kusp).

sound_loud_speaker And he said that he had gone to Denzel Washington and asked him for his advice about playing a gay character (Samira Ahmed, BBC4).

Notice that in both examples, in addition to the elision of /k/, the /h/ in the pronoun him is dropped as well (that’s why we say it’s followed by a vowel). Then, the combination of verb and pronoun acquires a very distinctive sound: [ˈɑːst ɪm].


On the other hand, when asked is followed by a consonant, quite often not only the /k/ but also the /t/ is dropped, so the pronunciation becomes just /ɑːs/.

sound_loud_speaker When he came into the Front Row studio I asked Ben Kingsley how he saw the film (Samira Ahmed, BBC4). ǀ aɪ ˈɑːs ˈben ˈkɪŋzli ǀ


Now, let’s state a general rule: broadly speaking, the phoneme /k/ is very frequently dropped when it appears in the middle of the cluster /skt/.

Very often, this happen within one single word:

sound_loud_speaker But their suffering was masked by other struggles (Emma Powell, The Guardian).

sound_loud_speaker I opted for enlisting as a crew member on an icebreaker. No ordinary vessel this, but one tasked with cutting a sea passage through the frozen waste (Cambridge Advanced test).


But it can also be found as a combination of two different words:

sound_loud_speaker So, this was an opportunity for risk takers, this was an opportunity… (Ulinda Rublack, BBC4).


And, as in the case of asked, when the following word begins with a consonant, the /t/ can be dropped as well.

sound_loud_speaker Graham and Bradley risked going to jail and the ruin of the paper (Terry Gross, NPR).


However, the elision of /k/ is not limited to the cluster /skt/. As you will see in the next two examples, it can also be found when /k/ is preceded or followed by other consonants.

sound_loud_speaker This is Evan Barrett, former deputy director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (Ramtin Arablouei, NPR).

sound_loud_speaker Willie debunked a lot of those ideas (Thomas Rath, BBC4).


The tendency to drop the /k/ seems to be really strong. So much so that, as the following examples demonstrate, it also happens after vowels, which is more surprising and not very often described in the literature.

sound_loud_speaker I never worked in a kitchen before, and it was interesting to see how one worked (Cambridge Proficiency test).

sound_loud_speaker No, I think that’s absolutely right, and I think, we’ve talked already briefly about how this is a play written at the same as Romeo and Juliet (Hellen Hackett, BBC4).

sound_loud_speaker And this provoked a huge reaction, and I think it ties in a bit to what you were saying before about how to get a sense of how controversial this debate was (Katie East, BBC4).


This is the type of work I do with my students in my one-to-one classes. I make them practise these processes with exercises until they improve their comprehension of native speakers and are capable of speaking like that themselves. If you are interested in my classes, you can contact me here.

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