Being native-like with your English is not just about speaking – it’s also about being able to understand fast-talking native speakers. We tend to “eat” sounds, we tend to link sounds, and we tend to blend sounds together. I’m super-excited to share five advanced English pronunciation points and how you can use them to speak and understand English better. We’ll also have a super-fun listening quiz at the end!
Sounds can be totally different than how they are written
Sounds can be totally different from how they are written! This is very common. Let’s start with some everyday phrases, and then I’ll get into more detailed examples.
Hi, how are you?
We actually say, “Hi, how are ya?” (Listen to me pronounce this at 3:27 in the video.)
Of course, “you” is not spelled with an “a,” but that’s how we pronounce it, quickly and as an unstressed pronoun.
Hi, how is it going?
We actually say, “Howzitgoin?” (3:39 in the video.)
What are you doing?
This becomes “Whadayadoin?” (3:56 in the video.)
We hear this all as one giant word, not as separate words.
Those are some everyday phrases where the sounds combine because they are spoken very quickly. The next points that I’m going to share with you all have to do with sounds changing or disappearing.
Point 1 – Assimilation
“It’s nice to meet you.”
This becomes,“S’nicet’meechu.” (4:16 in the video.)
The words “meet” and “you” combine and make what is called an “assimilation.” The “t” and “y” sounds blend together into a “ch” sound. There is no “ch” in this expression, but that’s what it sounds like.
Would you like to exchange phone numbers?
Woodja like to exchange phone numbers? (4:40 in the video.)
In this sentence, the “d” and the “y” combine to make a “j” sound that we normally hear in words like “judge.”
“Did you get my phone number?”
This becomes, “Didja get my phone number? (4:59 in the video.)
The same thing happens with “Did you…” We combine the “d” and the “y” to make the “j” sound – “Didja get my phone number?”
“Don’t you have WhatsApp?”
This becomes, “Dontcha have WhatsApp?” (5:07 in the video.)
Here, the “t” and the “y” combine to make that “ch” sound, just like they did in “meet you.”
One of my favorite assimilations is this one, so common!
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“Whatcha doin’ this weekend?” (5:16 in the video)
“What have you been up to?”
“What’ve ya been up to?” (5:25 in the video)
We might also say, “Whatcha been up to?” We replace all these words – what, have, you – with “whatcha.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Whatcha wanna do?” (5:43 in the video)
So if you hear “whatcha,” it could mean “what are you doing,” “what have you been doing,” even “what do you want to do.” Just remember that this isn’t for a super formal or professional situation, like a job interview. These are pronunciations you would use casually, with your friends or family. And not only can you use it, but you will definitely hear it!
Point 2 – Sounds Disappear
Sometimes sounds completely disappear – annoying, right? For example, the thing I drink every morning is “hot coffee.” But I don’t say, “hot coffee.” I say “ho’ coffee.”
When you speak quickly and the words have two consonants together like the “t” in “hot” and the “k” sound in “coffee, you will completely drop the “t” sound. “Ho’ coffee.” (6:30 in the video.)
The same thing happens if I’m talking to my dog, and I say, “You’re such a good boy!” I don’t say “good boy” for the same reason – there are two consonants together. Many times, we’ll drop the first consonant. If you think about how you make these sounds in your mouth, your tongue has to do a lot of work to finish that first consonant, like the “d” in “good,” and then change to make the “b” in “boy.” It’s just easier to move from the vowel sound in “good” straight to the “b” sound in “boy.” “He’s a goo’ boy.” (6:58 in the video)
Point 3 – Sounds Change in an Unstressed Word or Syllable
When we don’t put stress on a word or syllable, the sound will change because it’s said very quickly and quietly. The preposition “of” is a great example of this.
The Word “Of”
Whenever you have a phrase with “of” in it, like “cup of coffee,” we just don’t say the word “of” completely. You’ll hear native speakers pronounce it as “cup uh coffee.”
“Would you like a cuppacoffee?” (7:49 in the video)
Actually, any phrase with “of” will do the same thing.
I like somma these things. (I like some of these things, 8:01 in the video)
I want to drink a lot “uh” water today. (I want to drink a lot of water today, 8:09 in the video)
Actually, we do a lot of crazy things with this sentence. You’ll hear “wanna” for “want to.” Also, notice the word “water.” When the letter “t” comes between to vowels, it usually changes to a “d” sound. For the same reason, “lot of” becomes “lodduh.”
“I wanna drinkalada wader.”
Should Have, Could Have, Would Have
The same thing happens with the words “should have,” “could have,” and “would have.” We often link these words together, and spoken quickly they become “shoulda, coulda, and woulda.” (8:38 in the video)
I woulda saved more money, but I spent it on travel. (I would have…)
I coulda saved my money, but I spent it on travel. (I could have…)
I shoulda saved my money, but I spent it on travel. (I should have…)
Linking Words Together
Sometimes verbs and direct or indirect objects will also link together. The verb gets stressed in the sentence, and the object (the pronoun) is reduced, or said more quickly and quietly. With “her” and “him,” this also happens because of the quiet “h” sound that just gets dropped.
Teller she’s pretty. (Tell her she’s pretty, 9:15 in the video)
Tellim he’s early. (Tell him he’s early, 9:17 in the video)
Here’s another example of dropping the “h” of a pronoun. We drop the “h” of “he,” but the pronoun “she” remains the same.
Izibizi? (Is he busy? 9:29 in the video)
Iz she bizi? (Is she busy? 9:32 in the video)
Wuzi there? (Was he there? 9:43 in the video)
Wuz she there? (Was she there?)
So when you use the pronouns “he,” “her,” and “him,” you want to link them together with the words that come before.
The Conjunction “Or”
If you’re offering a choice between two things with the word “or,” you’ll want to say “er.”
catserdogs? (cats or dogs? 9:53 in the video)
coffee’ertea? (coffee or tea? 9:59 in the video)
MondayerTuesday? (Monday or Tuesday? 10:09 in the video)
richerfamous? (rich or famous, 10:14 in the video)
Point 4 – Elision
“Elision” in English is when a sound isn’t pronounced, so it more or less disappears. We saw this already with the “t” or “d” at the end of a word, when the next word begins with a consonant.
My nex’ door neighbors are very nice. (My next door neighbors… 10:26 in the video)
These are some of the mos’ common advanced pronunciation points. (most common, 10:34 in the video)
Point 5 – Letters that Blend Together
If you have two of the same sounds next to each other, the sounds blend together to make one sound.
My momakes the bes’ pancakes. (My mom makes the best pancakes. 10:57 in the video)
So What is the Trick to Know How to Pronounce These Words?
A lot of sounds blend together, a lot of sounds disappear, so how do you know the rules? There really are no rules, unfortunately. You’ll need to listen and practice it yourself until it sounds natural to you, too!
Ready for a quiz? This quiz will test if you can hear words that are similar but do have differences. Listen to me say the words in this quiz at x:xx in the video. Which one am I saying? (The quiz starts at 11:45 in the video.)
1. advice or advise?
Both of these words have the stress on the second syllable.
Advise, with an “s,” is a verb. It means to give someone advice. The “s” is pronounced like a “z.”
Advice, with a “c,” is a noun. It is what you give someone. The “c” is pronounced like an “s.”
2. accept or except?
There is a slight difference in the vowel. Listen at 12:00 in the video.
3. desert or dessert?
Dessert is the sweet food that we eat after a meal, and the stress is on the second syllable.
Desert is a dry sandy land that doesn’t get much rain. The stress is on the first syllable.
4. record or record?
This word is spelled the same way for both meanings. When we put the stress on the first syllable, it’s a noun that means a written log or file of information. When we stress the second syllable, it is a verb that means to copy something or make sure something is written down or remembered.
5. contract or contract?
Here’s another set of a noun and a verb that are spelled the same way but pronounced differently. When we stress the first syllable, contract is a noun that means a written legal agreement. With the stress on the second syllable, it is a verb that means to catch a sickness – “she contracted Covid.”
6. upset or upset?
With the stress on the first syllable, it’s a noun that means the winner of a contest was not the expected winner. When we stress the second syllable, it’s a verb that means to make someone angry or agitated.
7. conduct or conduct?
When the first syllable is stressed, conduct is a noun that means how you behave. With the stress on the second syllable, it’s a verb that means to lead or guide something, like an orchestra.
8. object or object?
With stress on the first syllable, object is a noun that just means a thing. Object, with stress on the second syllable, is a verb that means to disagree.
9. can or can’t
This is one of my favorites – yes, I can, or no, I can’t. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the “t” on the end of “can’t.” Remember? The “t” at the end of a word can sometimes disappear when the next word starts with a consonant.
Here are two tips for “can” and “can’t.”
1. When you say “yes, I can,” keep the vowel sound very short and don’t stress the word. When you say “no, I can’t,” make the vowel sound a little longer.
2. When you say “yes, I can,” you can stress the verb more than you stress the word “can.” For example, say “Yes, I can DO that,” or “Yes, I can GO there.” When you say “no, I can’t,” stress the “can’t” more than the verb. For example, “No, I CAN’T do that,” or “No, I CAN’T go there.”
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Speaking of what to watch next, check out this video to learn more about the “t” and “d” sounds – these two sounds have a habit of changing a lot! Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you again next week!