40: been, not bean: /bɪn/, not /bin/

Americans usually pronounce 'been' with a 'short i,' not a 'long e.'


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 40th episode. There is only one more podcast until our first video podcast, which I will release on January 1, 2009.

Today's podcast is about the word been, b-e-e-n. I always hear my students pronounce been as bean, which is not necessarily incorrect, it's just not the American style. Listen to the difference: British (been), American (been). Since I teach people who do live in the United States, I like to let them know that there is a British pronunciation of this word, and an American pronunciation.

According to all of my students who were taught British pronunciation, as well as the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the British, pronounce this word as bean, with a long e. In the US, bean (with a long e sound) is thought of as b-e-a-n, the food we want our kids to eat more of.

The British long e pronunciation makes perfect sense, since it is spelled like the long e is usually spelled. However, Americans say been, with a short i, as if the word was spelled b-i-n. I know, it's frustrating that the most frequent words we say have the least expected pronunciation. It isn't just English though; your native language probably does this, too. It is a common feature among many, many languages.

So, in the US, we say, "Where have you been?" and the British will say, "Where have you been?" Don't worry, this difference in pronunciation will not cause miscommunication between a non-native speaker and a native speaker. But, if you are trying to get as close to an American pronunciation style as possible, it would be a good idea to spend some time with been. Let's practice the minimal pair between bean b-e-a-n and bin b-i-n.

Repeat after me:


bean, been
bean, been


By the way, I'm already working on creating the second video podcast, and it will have something to do with long and short e and long and short i, and the common spellings. I haven't decided all the details yet, but I can tell you that I'm hoping to publish that podcast on January 16th, since I'm hoping to publish two video podcasts, and two audio-only podcasts per month, starting in January.

I also want to mention that transcripts for this episode, as well as every episode of this podcast, are available on Pronuncian.com (p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.com)

As a side note, since so many cultures and religions of the world celebrate some sort of holiday this time of year, I want to wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday season.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening!