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John can watch them today with her, and Paulo can go with him tomorrow.
Before we begin, take a second and read that above sentence aloud. If you really want to test yourself and monitor your progress, then I recommend recording yourself reading it. Did you notice anything special or unique about the underlined words? Once you’ve record yourself, you can move on….
In school we’re taught to e-nun-ci-ate our words when we talk, to speak clearly and not mumble our sounds. However, have you ever heard a native English speaker actually pronounce every…single..word when speaking? Of course not! English speakers (and most languages) are lazy, we do all kinds of things to make speaking easier. We reduce, link, and modify sounds, we contract words, and we often say words differently than they may look. As the title suggests, I want to emphasize that I am writing about American English here, but I know those on the other side of the world have their own word modifications and reductions, we’re just not reviewing them here.
As I mentioned, there are many words with sound reductions, links, and modifications; however, to simplify things, we are only going to review 5 of these words today. To have some fun before we get into the lesson, how many of you reading can relate to this meme?
I would bet money that you have experienced this AT LEAST once if you are an English learner, and even an English speaker too! Not giving up, not saying “never mind,” and not just agreeing because you didn’t understand someone is something I pretty consistently tell my students. But, there’s a meme so it has got to be true!
I wanted to use this meme to not only put a little smile on your face before you learn, but also to point out one of our sound reductions. Did you already notice the “n” in the middle of bottom text? Do you know what this “n” is supposed to mean?
Well, if you said “and,” then you are absolutely correct, nicely done!
In addition to AND, we will also review the reduction of sounds in the pronouns THEM, HIM, and HER, as well as the modal, CAN.
So why do these words “change” in speech?
These words are a few of many that have weak and strong forms. So they change in speech, depending on how they are being used. The strong forms, when they are said with stress, happen only when they’re used individually or when the word is being emphasized.
The weak form, however, is used when the word is unstressed in a sentence. Because these words are “function” words (giving grammatical meaning, not lexical) they are not emphasized or stressed, and are linked or modified in connected speech. We’ll review these weak sounds since we’re focusing on conversational English.
AND is going to to sound like the consonant “n”. Notice that even in the meme above, the creator wrote the letter N in place of the actual word. Remember, writing in this way is not correct, and definitely shouldn’t be practiced.
THEM and HIM are going to sound the same, so contextual clues will let you know which one is being used. In both words, you need to drop the beginning sounds “th” for them and “h” for him and just say the ending “-em”. However, in connected speech, you will make more of an “um” sound, closer to a short “u” (of umbrella) rather than a short “e” (of elephant).
HER is going to follow the same pattern as the pronouns above, you’ll drop the beginning “h” sound and only pronounce the “er”. Remember that in American English, it’s a very hard “r” sound…like a pirate!
CAN is going to have a change in the vowel sound; instead of pronouncing it with a short “a” sound, like apple, you should be pronouncing it with a short “i” sound, like igloo. So the word in connected speech will sound almost identical to the word “kin”.
Let’s take another look at the sentence you read at the top of the post:
John can watch them today with her, and Paulo can go with him tomorrow.
If you listen back to your recorded voice, do you think you were saying them correctly, according to the information you just read in this post? Consider reading the sentence, as if it were written like this:
John kin watch-um today with-er, n Paulo kin go with-um tomorrow.
Try and re-read the sentence, focusing on the sound changes, and again record yourself to check the progress. Let me know how you did below!
For more examples, watch English Outside the Box‘s newest 5-minute English video about pronunciation and word reductions on my YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe to continue getting new content and free English lessons!
You can also watch it here! ♥
The end of the video gives you ways to connect with me via the blog or social media, which is a great way to receive some feedback and take your learning to the next level. Don’t be shy, I’d love to hear from you and hear you creating some of your own examples, so I’ll talk to you soon!
Happy Studying! ♥
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