Informal English contractions…what are they and why should you care about them?
Hi, I’m Ryan from Go Natural English, and today I’m talking about why you should care about the “secret” informal English contractions and how you can use them to help spice up your English, improve your fluency, and sound more natural!
I’m sure a lot of us know what contractions are. “Don’t” is the contraction of do not. “Can’t” is the contraction of can not. “I’m” is the contraction of I am. We learn these contractions early on in our English journey.
But what we don’t learn are the informal contractions. These combinations of words and sounds that native speakers use very frequently in daily speech with friends, with colleagues, with teachers, and with parents.
You won’t find these in textbooks very often, if at all! You might see them, though, written in text messages or in social media. You’ll hear them in music or in movies. That’s why it’s important to learn what they are and where they come from.
If you’re interested in hearing them, learning how to use them, and how to say them, keep watching!
Number one – I’m gonna tell you what it is – and I just used it! “Gonna” is a combination of “going” and “to.” “Gonna” is VERY common and speakers use it all the time. Its fluid – it rolls off the tongue. Gonna replaces “going to,” or “have to.”
If I wanted to say,
“I am going to eat when I wake up.”
I can say,
“I’m gonna eat when I wake up.”
“Gonna” can also be written. You can find it in text messages between friends, or informal settings. You wouldn’t want to write any of these words in your CV or in your IELTS exam. These are all very informal and almost like slang.
Be careful when you’re using them and in what situations. However, when you’re speaking, they sound very fluid and very natural.
Numbers two and three are both question contractions. We would never write them this way. It’s the way they sound when you’re speaking them; it’s a vocal contraction.
If I see a friend walking towards me, I might wave to him and say.
“Hey, what are you up to?”
This is a very formal and proper way of saying it. But if I’m just being natural, and being fluid, I would say to him,
“Wader you doing?”
“Wader you up to?”
“Wader you.” In this contraction, “what are” becomes “wader.”
Now, in order to pronounce it and sound fluid, the way to think about it is to drop the “T” from “what” and add a “D” sound. You get “wad.” A-R-E becomes an “er” sound, in the neutral North American English accent.
Now you have “wader.”
“Wader you up to?”
”Wader you doing?”
If I wanted to talk about myself, if I’m sitting in my room studying for an exam, and I’m blanking. I can’t think of anything else. I might ask myself,
“What am I doing?”
“What am I thinking?”
In the same way, we drop the “T” and add the “D” sound.
“Wadam I doing?”
“Wadam I thinking?”
“Wader we doing?”
“Wader you gonna do?”
“Wadam I gonna do?”
“Wader we gonna do?”
“Wader we gonna eat after school?”
What If I Need to Use “Do” in a Question?
If you want to use “do” in a question…
“What do you think?”
…we’re going to drop the “T” from “what,” and add the “D” sound – “wad” – and add “do.” We get “waddo.”
“Waddo you wanna do?”
“Waddo the kids want?”
“Waddo you think will happen if I study English every day?”
Again, we would never write this! We would always write it normally – just “what” and “do.” But when we speak it the way it sounds together, it’s like a vocal contraction.
Number four is “gotta.” Can you think what two words come together to build “gotta?” “Gotta” is a combination of “got” and “to.”
A lot of times you may find “gotta” written in a text, in a social media post, on Instagram, or Whatsapp. You’ll definitely hear it in movies and sometimes in music.
“I gotta eat, I’m so hungry!”
“I have a big exam tomorrow, I gotta study!”
Kinda and Sorta
Number 5 and number 6 are sorta similar. They’re kinda alike. I just gave you number 5 and number 6 – “kinda” and “sorta.” These two words are very similar, and they’re both basically expressing an amount, like “somewhat,” or “so-so.”
“Do you like apples?” “Um, so-so.”
“Do you like the weather today?” “So-so.” “Somewhat.”
You can use “sorta” and “kinda” to replace these, and it sounds a little bit more fluid, and more natural.
“Kinda” is a contraction of “kind” and “of,” and “sorta” is a contraction of “sort” and “of.” “Sorta” and “kinda are already informal, so when you use them you’re definitely moving up on the informal scale. But you’re also moving up on the speaking naturally scale!
These are spelled exactly how they sound. “Kinda” is k-i-n-d-a, and “sorta” is s-o-r-t-a.
Number 7, I really wanna tell you. “Wanna” is a contraction of “want” and “to.”
“I want to learn English.”
You can sound a little bit more natural by saying,
“I wanna learn English.”
“I wanna speak English fluently.”
if you’re really hungry, you might say,
“I wanna eat.”
“Wanna” is spelled w-a-n-n-a. You’ll find “wanna” in text messages, in songs, in social media, and online, as well as all of the other ones that are that you might find written in places. Don’t use this on an exam or on a test! It’s definitely informal, it’s definitely slang.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
8, 9, and 10 are like brothers and sisters. Coulda, shoulda, woulda – all informal contractions of “should’ve,” “could’ve,” “would’ve” – “should have,” “could have,” “would have.”
These already have contractions – “should have” can be “should’ve” – and that’s totally normal and totally fine. But when you’re speaking quickly, and native speakers often do, it will roll off the tongue faster by saying “shoulda.”
If somebody says something in hindsight about something that they could have done better, or that they should have done better or would have done better – for example,
“Oh man, if I’d studied more I would’ve done better on my test.”
You can say to him, in a very playful, jabbing way,
“Coulda, shoulda, woulda!”
One More Bonus Contraction!
I want to talk about one more that’s fun because it’s a DOUBLE informal contraction. it’s a contraction of TWO contractions!
“Imma” is a contraction of what? Can you figure it out?
“Imma” is a contraction of “I’m gonna.” The first one that we learned today was “gonna.” If I want to combine it with “I’m,” I can do that, and form “imma.”
“Imma is DEFINITELY very high on the informal meter! It’s the most informal one that we’ve learned today. You’ll hear it in music, and you’ll hear it in certain regions.
“Imma” comes from “I am going to.” These four words can be smashed together to form “imma.”
“Imma go to the store tomorrow.”
“Imma play basketball in a minute.”
“Imma eat food.”
“Imma start studying later.”
Now you can recognize it and see where it comes from. It’s not just a random group of words – it has its own little tree, its own heritage if you will.
Now that you know some informal contractions, good luck! Hopefully, this has helped you learn, start to speak with a little bit more fluency, and use them in a confident way. A lot of these are only going to be useful if you use them in a confident way.
So if you guys have any questions about any of the informal contractions I’ve talked about today, or perhaps you know more and want to ask questions about those – how to use them, when to use them, or how to pronounce them – leave a comment down below and we’ll talk about it! Also, check out this post with another very common English contraction that might be confusing. See you in the next video!