Reductions in English

One of my students is a young Chinese boy whose father sits with him during every single lesson.  The father is very involved in our classes and he is incredibly focused on ensuring his son’s pronunciation is perfect. The father designs our lessons very meticulously and guides us through it step-by-step. Whereas I applaud the father’s enthusiasm and dedication, it can also be a bit counter productive. Why? Because native speakers do not pronounce every single sound and syllable when they speak. Instead, we use a lot of reductions in our natural speech.

What are reductions (in English)?

Reductions are when two words are combined while certain sounds are omitted / left out or combined when speaking naturally.

Two arrows combining into one to signify reductions in English - 1280w X 1274h

Some examples of reductions

You all -> y’all

What are you all doing? -> What’re y;’all doin? or What y’all doin?

You -> ya

How ya doing? 

What ya up to?

The rule about “going to”

The phrase “going to” can be used in two basic ways. However, this reduction can only be used for one of them. When talking about future plans, we often shorten ‘going to’ to the reduction: gonna.

Going to -> gonna

Are you gonna see a movie this weekend?

I’m gonna visit my grandparents this weekend.

Note: Do not use ‘gonna’ when talking about a destination. For example, you can not say, “I am gonna to the bank.” However, you can say, “I am gonna go to the bank.”

The Two T’s Rule

If you have a word that ends in a T sound (increased) and the next word begins with a T sound you do not pronounce both T’s. Instead you combine the two words into one word.

increased trade -> increastrade

The two countries increastrade between them.

The word “to”

The word “to” often gets transformed into -> ta or a

Want to -> wanna or wanta

Do you wanna see a movie this weekend?

Wants to -> wantsa

Who wantsta go see a movie this weekend?

And become ‘n

And -> n

Cookies ‘n Cream

Peanut Butter ‘n Jelly

Fruit ‘n nuts.

Saying the word ‘A’ is too hard? So, let’s make it a reduction.

A -> gets attached to the end of a previous word

Read’a book.

Have’a good time.

See’a movie.

I know what you are thinking.

“Why do native speakers reduce so many simple and easy to say words?”

You are absolutely right. It does SEEM to be a ridiculous thing to do. However, you have to remember why we do this. The reason is to make English easier to speak and a bit more efficient. Of course, many of these break a variety of grammar rules, but reductions are used in natural speech, which is usually quite informal.

You should not feel compelled to learn all of these, nor do we recommend actually studying them. It is something you will learn naturally over time. So, don’t force it.

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