A Dilemma on Thanksgiving | English Listening Lesson 09

Story: I had a real dilemma at Thanksgiving dinner this year!

Pronunciation lesson: The reduced form of of

This podcast is for intermediate to advanced English learners. I use core vocabulary to tell you a story about something that happened in my daily life in Canada. Each podcast also includes a pronunciation lesson that explains something I said in the story. You’ll hear the story twice. The first time, the story is a little slower than normal. After the pronunciation lesson, you’ll hear the story again, but at a regular speed. I speak naturally and with a standard American accent.



Every year on the 2nd Monday in October, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. This is not to be confused with the American Thanksgiving, which happens in November. Thanksgiving began as a special day to thank God at the end of the harvest, when the farmers had finished collecting all the crops from their fields. Even though most Canadians aren’t farmers anymore, Thanksgiving is still an important holiday. We celebrate the day with a big family dinner.

We had our family over for dinner on the Sunday so everyone could relax on the Monday before they had to go back to work. The house was full of fun and lively conversations. There were 9 of us around the dining room table. I don’t know how my mother cooks such a large meal. Every year, she makes such a delicious dinner! We had turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, as well as fall vegetables like potatoes, squash, turnip, and carrots.

When it's cooked, squash looks similar to turnip.

When it’s cooked, squash looks similar to turnip.

I had a real dilemma this year! Everyone who came to dinner brought a dessert: We had cupcakes, 3 different kinds of pie and an apple dessert! Dessert is my favourite part of the meal. How could I possibly eat dinner AND all the desserts? Do I eat a big dinner and choose only one dessert? Or do I eat a little less at dinner, so I can save room for more of the desserts? This was my dilemma.

Thanksgiving desserts

In the end, I compromised. I ate some turkey and vegetables, but not too much. I attempted to eat a little bit of all the desserts, but I only had room for 1 cupcake, some apple crisp and a slice of pie. We put one of the pies in the freezer to save it for later, and during the week after Thanksgiving we ate one of the other pies.

I was so full after dinner, but it was a very happy Thanksgiving!



Listen to some things I said in the story:

3 different kinds of pie
a slice of pie
one of the pies

Did you hear the word of in those phrases?

Of is a preposition. It’s a function word so it’s unstressed in a sentence. It’s reduced to just the sound /ə/ before a consonant sound.

So, instead of 3 different kinds of pie, you’ll hear:
/kaɪnzə/ pie
3 different /kaɪnzə/ pie

Instead of a slice of pie, you’ll hear:
A /slaɪsə/ pie

Instead of one of the pies, you’ll hear
/wʌnə/ the pies

It’s not wrong to fully pronounce of and pronounce the /v/ sound at the end. Also, when of is before a vowel sound, the final /v/ sound is usually pronounced. You should learn to recognize both the fully pronounced and the reduced form of of.

This is why you will sometimes see native speakers write a slice a pie or kinda. They say /ə/ and forget that the sound actually represents of.



We had turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, …
= In North America, stuffing with turkey at Thanksgiving means bread stuffing. Bread is cut up into small squares, mixed with spices, stuffed into the turkey & cooked in the oven.

We had turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, …
= a sauce made with the juice from cooked meat (in this case, turkey juice); sometimes flour is added to the sauce to make it thicker

We had turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, …
= a small, dark red berry/fruit
Cranberry close-up

…as well as fall vegetables like potatoes, squash, turnip, and carrots.
= a vegetable that grows in cold climates; it has a hard a skin & it has to be cooked to be eaten
6. Squash anyone

…as well as fall vegetables like potatoes, squash, turnip, and carrots.
= a root vegetable (it is the root of a plant) that grows in a cold climate; it needs to be cooked to be eaten

We had cupcakes, 3 different kinds of pie and an apple dessert!
= a miniature cake

apple crisp
… but I only had room for 1 cupcake, some apple crisp and a slice of pie.
= also known as apple crumble; baked apples with a crispy topping, usually oats + sugar, among other ingredients



have (someone) over
We had our family over for dinner on the Sunday so everyone could relax on the Monday before they had to go back to work.
= someone comes to your home as a guest to visit, have a meal, etc.



(What is core vocabulary?)

3*** words
fall [noun]

2** words
crop [noun]

1* words
harvest [noun]
dining room
compromise [verb]



(What are collocations?)

not to be confused with
begin as
a special day
thank God
family dinner
go back to work
dining room
dining room table
different kinds of
eat dinner
save room
In the end
a little bit of
a slice of pie
save (something) for later
during the week




19 Comments on A Dilemma on Thanksgiving | English Listening Lesson 09

  1. magda
    October 18, 2010 at 8:41 pm (5 years ago)

    I learned a lot, with this lesson. Thanks.

  2. freemelia77
    October 25, 2010 at 4:36 am (5 years ago)

    perfect, very good teacher skills

  3. Dani Jiménez
    November 24, 2010 at 5:10 am (5 years ago)

    I'm a student from Madrid and I've already read your story and i think it's very interesting.
    I've learn many things about that day, so thank you.
    Godd luck.

  4. miguel sanz
    November 24, 2010 at 5:13 am (5 years ago)


    I'm from Madrid and I've alredy read your story. You told me many things that i didn't know before

  5. Cristina
    November 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm (5 years ago)

    I have learned a lot with your lesson "A Dilemma on Thanksgiving!". thaks.

  6. its.me.m4rkos
    January 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm (4 years ago)

    I'd like to know if the vowel sound (I) in an unstressed syllable (like in: Pump-kin, pock-et, vir-gin, Kev-in, etc.) really is changed into a schwa by some speakers, therefore those words I mentioned would be pronounced like this: pumpkin /ˈpʌmpkən/, pocket /ˈpɑ:kət/, virgin /ˈvɚʤən/, Kevin /'kevən/ instead of the /I/ sound at the unstressed syllable. Does this happen Melanie?
    Thanks! :)

  7. its.me.m4rkos
    January 26, 2012 at 11:24 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks a lot for replying me. I really needed the answer of a person who knows the language better than anyone else (you). That cleared up my mind. :)
    I totally agree with you about the importance of these two different sounds. I used to do a comparison pronouncing a same word with both sounds in the unstressed syllable just to hear the difference, and sometimes in some words even I knew which sound I was making I couldn't notice a significant difference between them. It's like you make a sound, you know what sound you are making but you can't really say if it's really being pronounced differently (sometimes). Well, I don't know. That's why english is so fascinating! :)
    Again, thanks for your explanation. You can't imagine how it helped me. ;)

  8. Melanie
    January 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi, Marcos!

    This is an interesting question. In an unstressed syllable, the difference between /ə/ and /I/ is very small and not very important. I checked two different dictionaries (Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary & Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary) and got two different answers! One had /ˈvɚʤən/ and one had /ˈvɚʤIn/. This is one case where is doesn't really matter if you say /ə/ or /I/ – no one will hear the difference!

    I hope that helps!
    = )

  9. Tai
    May 30, 2012 at 11:16 am (4 years ago)

    Thank teacher so much. it ís very good :)

    • Melanie
      May 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Tai! It’s nice to see you again. I’m glad you’re still enjoying the listening lessons. = )

  10. Amy
    November 2, 2012 at 11:08 am (3 years ago)

    Hi, Melanie! Iam havinga trouble with listening part!! Seems like the story doesnt play when i hit the lesson,

    • Melanie
      November 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Amy!

      Have you tried it again? It’s loading & playing fine for me.

      What country are you in?

      = )

  11. Justin
    November 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm (3 years ago)

    Hello Melanie,
    Your blog is so unbelievably marvelous and fantastic. I just moved to Toronto and visited some immigrants service sections. I am wondering if your blog is too small stage for you to fully tap your potential ability to spread your exclusive language savvy and unique understanding so that more immigrants can benefits from you. As you know, there are so many immigrants who cannot improve their English by leaps and bounds in a certain time. Thus the English proficiency will block them from integrating the society, finally their English level will prevent them from joining in the economy development marching. I am so interested in English language improvement and in exploring it deeply. I am proud of letting you know that I was taught 20 years by one Canadian English teacher, he also lives in Toronto. As for myself, I know that I have a long way to go. I am thinking that if you have a bigger stage, you can push the development of Canadian Economy. Do not you think so too? I trust completely that you are the model of English teacher!. I really would like to talk more with you if your time is available. If you can set up a stage, I can be one of them to back the stage so that you have more successful performance for immigrants. Would you mind dropping me a line at your convenience? sincerely Yours, Justin

  12. samou
    December 5, 2012 at 7:21 am (3 years ago)

    well , this is an important way to learn english pronounciation , I corrected soo many words that I was totally sure that it is prounounced in another way but it is never too late to correct oneself, i listented to your story at list 3times without looking at the written form than I read with you. it is, acctually, a good technique . Thank u verry much Mélanie .

  13. Greg
    May 22, 2013 at 10:05 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Melanie! Thank you for your amazing podcasts and pronunciation guides. They are really helpful!
    Would you mind answering my question?
    This podcast is about the reduced form of OF. I can’t understand how to pronounce the reduced form of OF in the phrase “One useful way of seeing the difference…”.

    Thank you!

    • Melanie
      May 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Greg!

      “One useful way of seeing the difference…”.

      ‘Way of’ can be pronounced two ways in this sentence:
      /weɪə/ and /weɪəv/

      It just depends how the speaker is speaking. If the speaker is speaking naturally & quickly amongst friends, he would probably say /ə/. If he is giving presentation or doing an interview, he would probably be fully pronouncing ‘of’ /əv/

      = )

      • Greg
        May 23, 2013 at 1:07 am (3 years ago)

        Thank you, Melanie
        You’re the best english teacher in the world!

  14. Amr Wady
    October 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm (2 years ago)

    Hello Melanie,

    Happy Thanksgiving Day. I am wondering if you could teach English online on Verbling or Colingo sites.

    Greetings from Egypt. :)

  15. Mr. Duval
    October 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm (2 years ago)

    How can I support this amazing thing…


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