Pronunciation of 'to' and 'two'.

Ben Jamin

Senior Member
Listening to spoken English I notoced that both native English speakers, and second language speakers use a pronunciation sounding like "tyuu" or "tjyuu". It seems to me that this pronunciation is taking over the ground.
What is the origin of this pronunciation? What English dialect it comes from? Where is it dominant, and where not used?
Can anyone answer?
  • Sprache

    Senior Member
    Practically every Brazilian I've ever met pronounces two as choo. Could this be because the sound /u/ in most major English dialects is more fronted than the cardinal /u/ that is found in many other languages, including Portuguese and I suspect Polish? I've always assumed that the more central position of English /u/ sounds different to Brazilian Portuguese speakers from their own back vowel /u/, and in an attempt to say it, they produce something that sounds like /tʃɪʊ/.


    Senior Member
    Inglés canadiense
    At least in Britain, "tune" is /tju:n/ and "tube" is /tju:b/, but "to" and "two" are definitely /tu:/, with no palatalisation
    Agree. Here, in Canada, word initial /tu/ can be palatized or not, it depends on the word and the speaker (it could be that the palatized pronounciation is viewed as more proper by some). I always say Tuesday /'tu:zdeɪ/, but I have known people (also born in my city) that say /'tʃu:zdeɪ/ (almost never /'tju:zdeɪ/).

    To is always /tu/ or, waaay more commonly in informal speech, /tə/; and two is /tu:/ or /tuʊ/, but never /tju/ or /tʃu/.
    Last edited:

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Hello! Listen to this on Forvo: "Two" Pronunciation by mmdills22 (Female from United States).
    There are many recordings with similar pronunciation from American speakers.


    Senior Member
    That vowel is actually very far from [tʰuʊ]: [uʊ] sounds something like this (Danish). This is the phenomenon known as 'oo-fronting' or 'fronting of the goose vowel' etc. It's typically described for British English (rampant in London) but seems to be at least equally as common in American English, and way more standard. The first vowel is in the environs of [ʉ] (Swedish) and [ɯ] (Japanese), then closing towards an [w].

    This phonetic study excerpt finds that this fronting is especially strong after coronal consonants (t, d, n). There's a map on the third page showing areas where it's most extreme in purple. To the non-natives who are unaccustomed to it, the result will sound like either an /iw/ or a /ju/ depending on their native tongue. The natives note this pronunciation using ew, as in kewl = cool.

    This coupled with aspiration (even not that heavy) is what makes it sound extremely close to [t͡ɕ] as in Polish ciu and BR-PT tiu. This is evidently what's happening with Ben Jamin and all those innumerable Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

    I want to stress that the "non-fronted" pronunciation of /uw/ is already miles away from the cardinal u of Italian, Polish or German and starts in a lax and centralised vowel [ʊ].
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    If I am speaking emphatically, as in "I saw him going to the beach, not coming from the beach" or "I asked for two shots of tequila, not one" I pronounce both words the same way: /tu/.
    In "let's go to the beach" and when counting quickly, 'to' and 'two' both become /tə/.
    'Schwa-ized' 'two' and emphatic 'to' are unusual, though.


    Welsh & English
    I think tə might be the phonetic realization in quick speech, even if the speaker thinks they're going for tu. Incidentally, I think a lot of native English speakers tend to underestimate how often they're reducing unstressed vowels to a schwa.