How to improve your English diction (with useful sayings and proverbs)

(actualisé le ) by Ray

Here you will find some tried and proven guidelines, exercises, tips and tidbits designed to help learners of all ages and stages to improve their verbal-communication skills in the language of Shakespeare and Laurence Sterne.

Audio versions have been included at the end of each section.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. PRONUNCIATION RULES

1. RULE NO. 1: ALWAYS STRESS A FINAL S
2. RULE NO. 2: NEVER PRONOUNCE "i" LIKE "ee"
3. RULE NO. 3: ALWAYS PRONOUNCE FINAL CONSONANTS
4. RULE NO. 4: say "THE" not "ZE"
5. RULE NO. 5: say "AND" not "OND"

B. USEFUL SAYINGS AND PROVERBS

1. OLD FAVOURITES
2. WORDS OF WISDOM
3. EVERYDAY SAYINGS

- A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs)

- A word once uttered can never be recalled (Horace)


A. PRONUNCIATION RULES

1. RULE NO. 1: ALWAYS STRESS A FINAL S

=> AN ENGLISH SPEAKER ALWAYS STRESSES A FINAL S

- he always sings parts of his texts as songs
- a sinner sins, singers sing, workers work, a winner wins
- Jean’s pair of jeans

verbs: for the present singular
he/she/it: needs weeds returns responds burns stares learns walks talks listens

nouns: for the plural
the: parts darts lacks shocks teachers speakers talkers ponds hands bands

Résumé (Dorothy Parker)

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

Polonius: What do you read my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words!


2. RULE NO. 2: NEVER PRONOUNCE "i" LIKE "ee"

=> IT is not EAT
=> IS is not EASE
=> SICK is not SEEK
=> FIT is not FEET

  • EASY TO WIN BY PICKING WITH SKILL
  • IT IS IN – IF IT IS – IT EATS – AN ILL WILL – BILL IS STILL ILL IN THE GRILL WITH JILL
  • PICK – SICK – LICK – TICK – WICK
  • BILL – HILL – SILL – FILL – KILL
  • HIT – SIT – BIT – FIT – LIT
  • THICK – STICK – WICK – TRICK – FLICK
  • PIN – GIN – WIN – KIN – FIN

BUT:

  • SIDE – WIDE – PRIDE – HIDE – LIED – FRIED – TRIED – TINY – MINE – I – WHY – FRY

We Real Cool (Gwendolyn Brooks)

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.


3. RULE NO. 3: ALWAYS PRONOUNCE FINAL CONSONANTS

  • WE WANTED TO REFRAIN AND PART BY TRAIN WITH PILES OF HARD CASH
  • HARD – CARD – LARD – SHARD – WARD
  • PART – CART – WART – DART – SMART
  • POND – FOND – WAND – BAND – CANNED
  • TRAIN – STAIN – PLAIN – MAIN – VAIN
  • CASHED – WASHED – LASTED

The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Romeo and Juliet (Uno who)

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.


4. RULE NO. 4: say "THE" not "ZE"

  • THIS AND THAT – THE THING IS THERE – THE ONE AND THE MANY
  • MUSIC HATH CHARMS TO SOOTH THE SAVAGE BREAST
  • THE NAME OF THE GAME
  • THE THE THE – THAT THAT THAT – THIS THIS THIS – THERE THERE THERE
  • THING THOUGHT THOUGH THROUGH

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (James Thurber)

At the drugstore on the corner she said: "Wait here for me. I won’t be a minute". She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it. He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking....He put his shoulders back and his heels together. "To hell with the handkerchief," said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.


5. RULE NO. 5: say "AND" not "OND"

=> block your nose!

  • AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT
  • AND LAND AND SAND AND BAND AND HAND AND MANNED AND CANNED AND GRAND AND SPANNED
  • THE GOOD AND THE BAD
  • THE LAD WHO HAD BEEN SAD AND BAD AND GLAD
  • THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T.S. Eliot)

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea


Pronunciation rules – audio

B. USEFUL SAYINGS AND PROVERBS

1. OLD FAVOURITES

- All that glistens is not gold

- All’s well that ends well

- Discretion is the better part of valour

- Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise

- He laughs best who laughs last

- He who pays the piper calls the tune

- I know on which side my bread is buttered

- Keep your nose to the grindstone

- Look before you leap

- Make hay while the sun shines

- Many hands make light work

- Out of sight, out of mind

- Pride comes before a fall

- That’s water under the bridge

- There’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip

- Two heads are better than one

- When the cat’s away, the mice will play


2. WORDS OF WISDOM

- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

- All good things must come to an end

- An apple a day keeps the doctor away

- Better three hours too early than a minute too late

- Brevity is the soul of wit

- Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched

- Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today

- Every cloud has a silver lining

- If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well

- If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

- It takes all sorts to make a world

- It’s an ill wind that blows no good

- It’s no use crying over spilt milk

- Keep a stiff upper lip

- Lightening never strikes in the same place twice

- Never say die

- Sarcasm is the lowest form of humour

- Seeing is believing

- The early bird catches the worm

- The road to Hell is paved with good intentions

- There are two sides to every question

- Time is money

- Two wrongs don’t make a right

- Where there’s a will, there’s a way

- You can’t have your cake and eat it too

- You can’t take it with you


3. EVERYDAY SAYINGS

- A penny for your thoughts

- Better late than never

- Birds of a feather flock together

- Don’t make a mountain out of a mole-hill

- Don’t be a spoilsport!

- Don’t beat around the bush!

- Don’t mollycoddle her/him/me!

- Don’t rock the boat!

- Great minds think alike

- Go jump in the lake!

- He’s off his rocker!

- His eyes are bigger than his stomach

- I know which side my bread is buttered on

- In for a penny, in for a pound

- It never rains but it pours!

- It’s as easy as pie!

- It’s not worth a hoot!

- It takes two to tango

- Keep your shirt on!

- Let’s run a flag up the pole to see who salutes

- Little things please little minds

- Look on the bright side of things!

- Mum’s the word!

- Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will

- Rain, rain go away, come again some other day

- Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me!

- That’s a piece of cake!

- That’s like bringing coals to Newcastle

- That’s like leaping out of the frying pan into the fire

- That’s like the pot calling the kettle black

- That’s like water off a duck’s back for him/her

- That’s no skin off my back

- That’s the name of the game

- That’s the way the cookie crumbles

- When push comes to shove ...

- You can say that again!

- You can’t get blood out of a stone


Useful sayings and proverbs – audio