Lesson 15 – Contractions


Try to mimic the pronunciation in the following video.


  1. What kinds of words are usually stressed?
  2. What kinds of words are usually unstressed?
  3. When do you break the stress rules?


Mark the stressed words:

  1. July is the hottest month of the year.
  2. How long did you go swimming for?
  3. These were the events leading up to her birthday celebration.

In the second sentence, how would you give it a better rhythm?

Write the IPA for the third sentence.

Unstressed words in a sentence

Stress count

Notice that even though the number of words in the following sentences are different, the number of stressed syllables is the same.

ˈKids ˈeat ˈice.
The ˈkids ˈeat ˈice.
The ˈkids are ˈeating ˈice.
The ˈkids are ˈeating some ˈice.
The ˈkids are ˈeating some ˈice cream.
The ˈkids are ˈeating some ˈice cream with me.
The ˈkids will be ˈeating some ˈice cream with me.

ˈDon’t ˈfeed ˈbears.
ˈDon’t ˈfeed the ˈbears.
ˈDon’t ˈfeed them the ˈbears.
ˈDon’t ˈfeed them to the ˈbears.
You ˈdon’t ˈfeed them to the ˈbears.
You ˈdon’t want to ˈfeed them to the ˈbears.
You ˈdon’t want to ˈfeed them to the ˈbears now.

Differentiating unstressed words

Listen to the unstressed words in the following sentences:

(Sentences taken from Manual of American English Pronunciation by Prator and Robinett.)

ˈWhere did (he, she, it) ˈgo?
ˈPlease ˈgive (them, him, her) the ˈtickets.
Is ˈBob (on, in) the ˈbus?
It’s ˈbetter (than, that) you ˈthink it is.
Would you ˈlike some ˈmoney (and, or, for) a ˈcar?
The ˈstore (can, could, would) ˈbring you the ˈpackage.
They ˈhaven’t ˈgiven (us, as) ˈmuch ˈmoney.
ˈWhen are you going to ˈtell me (the, a, her) ˈstory?
Were you ˈasked (your, her) ˈname?
The ˈbook ˈcame (from, for) the ˈlibrary.



Contractions are two words that are pronounced like one.

Be contractions

am, is, are
I I’m
you you’re
he he’s
she she’s
it it’s
we we’re
they they’re
that that’s
who who’s (are)
what what’s (are)
where where’s (are)
when when’s (are)
why why’s (are)
how how’s (are)

Will contractions

I I’ll
you you’ll
he he’ll
she she’ll
it it’ll
we we’ll
they they’ll
that that’ll
who who’ll
what what will
where where will
when when will
why why will
how how will

Would contractions

I I’d
you you’d
he he’d
she she’d
it it’d
we we’d
they they’d
that that’d
who who’d
what what would
where where would
when when would
why why would
how how would

Have contractions

have has
I I’ve
you you’ve
he he’s
she she’s
it it’s
we we’ve
they they’ve
that that’s
who who’ve
what what have
where where have
when when have
why why have
how how have

Had contractions

I I’d
you you’d
he he’d
she she’d
it it’d
we we’d
they they’d
that that’d
who who’d
what what’d
where where’d
when when had
why why had
how how had

Can combinations

I I can
you you can
he he can
she she can
it it can
we we can
they they can
that that can
who who can
what what can
where where can
when when can
why why can
how how can

Could combinations

I I could
you you could
he he could
she she could
it it could
we we could
they they could
that that could
who who could
what what could
where where could
when when could
why why could
how how could

Not contractions

is isn’t
are aren’t
was wasn’t
were weren’t
have haven’t
has hasn’t
had hadn’t
will won’t
would wouldn’t
do don’t
does doesn’t
did didn’t
can can’t
could couldn’t
should shouldn’t
might mightn’t
must mustn’t

Would contractions

would would’ve
should should’ve
could could’ve
might might’ve
must must’ve


Non-standard contractions

going to gonna gənə I’m gonna see her next week.
got to gotta ‘gɑɾə I gotta go.
has to hasta ‘hæstə She hasta finish her homework first.
have to hafta ‘hæftə What do you hafta do?
ought to oughta ‘ɔdə He oughta be done by now.
used to usta ‘justə I usta play that when I was a kid.
want to wanna ‘wɑnə What do you wanna do?
kind of kinda ‘kaɪnə It’s kinda cold in here.
a lot of a lotta ə’lɑɾə Wow, there’s a lotta people in here.

Note that the meaning can change based on the pronunciation:

I’m gonna be good.
I’m going to church.
What have we gotta eat?
What have we got to eat?
What does she hafta say?
What does she have to say?
It’s what he hasta do.
It’s all he has to work with.
This is what you usta cook with.
This is what you used to cook with.
How much do you wanna do it?
How much does he want to do it?

Sentences based on Manual of American English by Prator and Robinett

A word of caution

Wanna, gonna, gotta and the others are spoken English and informal written English. You shouldn’t use them to write in formal or academic settings. You may see them in informal settings like pop songs, text messages between friends, or movie subtitles.

Be careful of being too informal

‘ʤiʔ’jɛʔ noʊ ʤju

Which means

What did you do?
Why don’t you say it?
Did you eat yet? No, did you?


Assignment 1

This is the final exam dialog. Mark the stressed words according to the rules.

Good morning, Susan. Where are you going?
Hi, Mrs. Jones! I’m going to the store.
I need to go, too. Let’s go together.
Sounds good. Are you buying food?
Yes. I want to get something healthy for my family.
Will you get fruit or vegetables?
Yes, but there’s a problem.
My kids don’t like vegetables, and my husband doesn’t like fruit.
So will you get fruit or vegetables?
I think I’ll get both: apples, bananas, carrots, and tomatoes.
You have two kids, don’t you?
Yes. Two boys.
I’m sure they eat a lot, don’t they?
That’s for sure. They eat more than my husband does.
How often do you have to go shopping?
About twice a week.
Do you usually walk to the store?
No, I usually drive to the store.
Well, here we are.

Assignment 2

Find one minute of audio speaking from a native speaker. Transcribe it in IPA.

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