Dear Dutch people: “clothes” rhymes with “nose”. It really does.

I’m not sure why it is and I am worried that Dutch secondary school English teachers are to blame, but lots of Dutch people completely mispronounce the word “clothes”.

They say something like “clothe-ees”. Though one of the main principles of this blog is that having a Dutch accent is okay, in this case this pronunciation doesn’t work because it will lead to misunderstandings.

Also, the solution is so easy: “clothes” rhymes with “nose”. Don’t believe me? Listen to Avril Lavigne

(For those people who don’t fancy listening to 90s skater pop right now, the lyrics are: “All of her friends, they stuck up their nose, they had a problem with his baggy clothes.”)

Or look at these pages from one of my sons books:

that dog is NOT Marshal from Paw Patrol. I feel a lawsuit coming on...

But I asked a native speaker and they said it was “clothe-zzzz”

If you ask a native speaker about their language, they are going to want to be helpful and tell you what they feel is the “correct” pronunciation. So they’ll think about the spelling and pronounce it slowly for you and then they will indeed end up pronouncing the “th” in the middle (as a hard th, by the way, like in “them).

But when native speakers are just talking and not thinking about it, they’ll say “I bought some new close.” I promise. Unfortunately, most people don’t realise how they actually talk so if you ask them they might insist that they always pronounce the “th”. People are funny that way.

If you really don’t believe me you’ll have to get a native speaker talking about clothes without knowing why, record them, and then listen to your recording. It’s the only way to find out the truth, I’m afraid! Or you can just go ahead and believe me 😉

Heddwen Newton is a teacher and translator. Her website EnglishforDutchpeople.nl is about efficient and unconventional ways for Dutch people to improve their already good English, and other nerdy stuff to do with English and Dutch. She also owns the Dutch website HoezegjeinhetEngels.nl where she discusses difficult-to-translate Dutch words and their least-bad English translations.

2 thoughts on “Dear Dutch people: “clothes” rhymes with “nose”. It really does.”

  1. As a native English speaker, I’m always surprised by people who insist that merry (as in Merry Christmas), marry (as in becoming a spouse), and Mary (a person’s name) have different pronunciations and then demonstrate them. To me, a distinction without a difference.

    1. That’s really interesting! I saw from your other comment that you are Canadian. For me, as a Brit, there’s a definite distinction between those words. But I would never insist that one of my Dutch students makes that distinction because the context makes it totally clear which one is meant.

      I’m just listening to the audiobook “Because Internet” read by the author Gretchen McCulloch who is Canadian and I just love the way she says the “ou” sound as in “out”. I’m sure you’re used to hearing remarks like that! 🙂 Fantastic book, by the way 😉

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