Can You Pronounce These Common English Contractions?

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

I’ve got 20 common English contractions to practise with you today! l will teach you how to pronounce it’s, don’t, you’ve, weren’t, ain’t, aren’t, haven’t, wasn’t, hadn’t (and many more!) so that you sound more natural when you speak English!

A contraction is a shortened form of English words; they are extremely common in spoken English, and are used in informal written English too. Learning to *hear* and *use* English contractions is one of the best ways to improve your listening skills and sound more natural when you speak in English!

So, that is what we are going to do today!

Don’t miss the BONUS SPEAKING PRACTICE!! I’ve included some conversation practice at the end of this lesson – so you can speak with me! We’ll practise using these contractions fluently, in a useful, everyday conversation between friends.


Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. In this pronunciation lesson today I’m going to teach you how to pronounce I’ve, where, it’s, didn’t and many more of the most common contractions in spoken English.

And at the end you and I are going to practise speaking together. We’ll practise using these contractions in short dialogue back and forth in a regular conversation together.

If you want to jump past the pronunciation work and you want to practise speaking fluently with me in this dialogue you can jump over to that timestamp there but I recommend that you spend some time with me now warming up your mouth muscles and practising with me first.

If your goal is to sound relaxed and natural when you speak English you have got to practise with me in this lesson.

Are you ready?

So what is a contraction?

A shortened form of a word where there are fewer sounds spoken. For example, the word have can be heard in an English sentence just as ‘ve. And most English contractions involve auxiliary or modal verbs and these are often unstressed parts of a sentence.

So the sounds change and they reduce, they become lower in pitch, harder to hear.

You’ll hear contractions used by native English speakers all the time when they speak or maybe you won’t because they’re actually harder to hear and a little harder to process but you can also see them when they’re written in informal English and you can usually recognise them because they have that little apostrophe.

Which one of these contractions is hardest for you to pronounce or is there another that you find really difficult? Let me know down in the comments.

So in this lesson we’re going to go through all of the contractions that are made by auxiliary verbs: do, have, and be. And there are plenty of them.

DO

Let’s start with do, the auxiliary verb in the simple tense. But you’ll only hear it spoken as a contraction when it’s used in its negative form, do not, which is don’t. There are two things that I want you to notice here.

One is that vowel sound changes.

Don’t is different to do. Don’t.

The second is that stop T which is really, really common. Instead of hearing that T sound fully aspirated with that release of air to make the sound, the stop T   stops it short before the air is released. It’s like you catch the sound. Listen to the difference. Don’t.

I’m releasing the air. Don’t or don’t.

Sometimes my students say to me “But Emma I can’t hear that T, it’s not there!”

That’s not true because without that stopped T sound, that nasally sound continues for longer. Don’t. Compare that to don’t.

So that sound is stopped short, that’s your stopped T sound. I probably could keep talking about that for a while but it’s really, really common to hear that stopped T in negative contractions and in many other everyday English words that end in a T sound. Practise it with me.

Don’t. I don’t want to go.

What about does not?

It is way more common to hear native English speakers say doesn’t.

And again you can hear that stopped T sound, right? You’ve also got two syllables there, one of them is stronger than the other. Can you hear it? Doesn’t.

That first syllable. We’ve got a few tricky consonant sounds there at the end so you know if you’re feeling a little bit stuck here, a little bit tongue-tied, why don’t you just pause for a minute and just focus on the end of that word?

I mean really this word is often spoken so quickly that it sounds like So really just loosen up the muscles in your mouth.

Don’t get stuck trying to be really precise. Doesn’t.

  • He doesn’t play football.
  • It doesn’t matter.

And then we have our past tense form, did not, which is didn’t. You’re right, didn’t. That first D is stronger than the second one, didn’t.

There’s that cluster again. Again I’m using that stop T sound because that’s the most comfortable for me. You can choose whether you want to use the aspirated at the end or not. In my accent, it’s very very common to hear the stop T.

Are you ready to practise with me?

  • I don’t like it.
  • We don’t eat meat.
  • They don’t bother me.
  • She doesn’t want to.
  • It doesn’t matter.
  • You didn’t call.
  • He didn’t believe me.

BE

Okay now let’s look at the verb be. So in the present tense it conjugates to am, is and are.

Be is a little different because it can be contracted when it’s a main verb as well as when it’s an auxiliary verb.

  • Here’s the paper.
  • He’s coming.

So here the be verb is the main verb in our sentence and here it’s the auxiliary verb. It’s making the continuous tense. There are many be contractions to get through so I want to go through them one by one, practise out loud with me. I’m. You’re.

Remember the pronunciation is exactly the same as this word here. You’re.

And in my accent you don’t really hear that ER sound at the end it’s just the vowel. Where and again the pronunciation of this contraction is just the same as that word. There.

Again, exactly the same as these two.

  • He’s
  • She’s
  • It’s

It’s has a tricky consonant cluster. It’s.

Practise these sentences after me.

  • I’m hungry.
  • You’re coming too.
  • She’s gonna win.
  • It’s about to rain.

Okay let’s take a look at the negative forms now.

With negative contractions with be verb, we have two choices. We have two different ways that we can pronounce these contractions.

You can make the contraction by linking the be verb to the subject or by linking the be verb to not. Let’s take a look.

You are not can be you’re not or you aren’t.

That’s a new sound there. Aren’t. Can you hear that n’t at the end?

  • We’re not.
  • We aren’t.
  • They’re not.
  • They aren’t.

All right let’s take a look at is. He’s not. He isn’t.

That’s another new sound. We have isn’t.  I know there are a few tricky consonant clusters there aren’t there? Isn’t. Practise practise practise.

  • Isn’t
  • She’s not
  • She isn’t
  • It’s not
  • It isn’t

Now because that T sound comes between two vowels it actually sounds a lot more like a D in my accent. Can you hear it? It isn’t.

If I slow it down, it isn’t. So to make that sound I’m just flicking my tongue ever so quickly up behind my teeth on the gums. It isn’t.

And lastly we have the negative contraction with am.

I am not becomes I’m not and I amn’t. There is only one way to pronounce this contraction. I’m not. I amn’t doesn’t exist.

In some dialects you will hear I ain’t.

  • Everything you think you know about famous quotes, it ain’t so!

I ain’t is used in this way. I ain’t is much less common but it is really important to know that ain’t exists in English and it’s going to help you with your listening comprehension when you’re watching movies or you’re hearing different accents or different dialects.

So even if you don’t use it yourself it’s good to know it.

I ain’t is the same as I’m not.

Okay let’s practise be verb contractions with you after me.

  • You aren’t coming, are you?
  • She isn’t going to lose.
  • They aren’t leaving yet.

And of course, we have the be verb in the past tense right?

Was not becomes wasn’t. Wasn’t.

And this is often unstressed in our sentences so the sound really flattens out, it becomes a lot more like wasn’t. It’s a lot like doesn’t really. Doesn’t.

To clearly pronounce this word it needs to be wasn’t.

To understand native speakers, especially Australians you’ll need to listen out for wasn’t.

  • I wasn’t waiting long.
  • He wasn’t there.
  • It wasn’t raining yesterday.

And of course, then we have were not. Were not becomes weren’t and you’ll notice that in my accent I don’t pronounce that ER sound in the middle there. Weren’t.

And don’t be afraid to play around with that stop T either. Weren’t.

  • You weren’t invited.
  • We weren’t planning to go.
  • They weren’t old enough.

HAVE

Have is our auxiliary verb in the perfect tenses. It’s the present perfect, isn’t it? We have have and has.

They really only get contracted when they’re used as auxiliary verbs like this. There are a couple of exceptions to that rule. Some dialects maybe they use the contraction when have is the main verb but they’re the exceptions. It’s not really common to hear

I’ve one of those.
Or
He’s three.

In fact, he’s three has a different meaning entirely. We’re using the be verb aren’t we and we’re saying he is three years old so don’t contract have or has when it’s the main verb in a sentence but do contract it when it’s an auxiliary verb, it’s very natural.

So you hear have as just ‘ve.

What is really important here is that you have your mouth positioned correctly to make this sound. You need your teeth touching your lower lip. Let’s try out these contractions together.

  • I’ve.
  • I’ve been waiting.
  • You’ve.
  • You’ve had enough.
  • We’ve.
  • We’ve seen her.
  • They’ve.
  • They’ve eaten it all.

A little tip there. When some of these contractions can feel a little bit hard when we’re practising out loud and we’re focusing just on the contraction, they’ve eaten.

If you link that ‘ve consonant sound to the next word which is also very, very natural in spoken English linking those sounds, it’s a little easier to pronounce.

  • They’ve eaten.

When you contract has it sounds like /s/ or /z/ They work together. They have the same tongue and mouth position but one uses air to make the sound, it’s unvoiced. And the other uses your vocal chords, it’s voiced this sound. Listen out.

It’s. Now because T is an unvoiced sound as well, the sound that is unvoiced follows.

It’s. Now compare that to she’s. Now vowel sounds are all voiced sounds so the sound that follows is She’s.

Okay practise with me, ready?

  • It’s been broken.
  • She’s been at school.
  • He’s asked his mum.

Let’s look at negative contractions with have now. There are two ways that you can say have not just like with the be verb. The first way is using the contraction that we just learnt and then adding not.

So we have the subject with ‘ve not.

  • We’ve not seen her.
  • They’ve not asked for it.

The same rules apply for has. We have our subject with not.

  • It’s not been broken.
  • He’s not asked his mum.

Now this way of contracting is pretty common in British English but in Australian and American English, it’s much more common to hear the other way of contracting have.

Haven’t and hasn’t.

Now the pronunciation here is quite simple really. We just take the verb have, has and we add n’t to the end.

This part. Lucky we did all that practice with n’t right? Hasn’t.

Try these sentences with me.

  • I haven’t been to Africa.
  • She hasn’t asked her mum yet.

To be honest it really doesn’t matter which type of pronunciation you choose, either of them is going to help you to sound more natural when you’re speaking English so I want you to compare. We’re going to go one and the other.

  • I’ve not.
  • I haven’t.
  • You’ve not.
  • You haven’t.
  • We’ve not.
  • We haven’t.
  • They’ve not.
  • They haven’t.
  • He’s not.
  • He hasn’t.
  • She’s not.
  • She hasn’t.
  • It’s not.
  • It hasn’t.

Have and has are in the present tense but there is only one past tense form had, so I guess that makes things a little easier right? No matter what the subject, we’re always using had not.

So let’s try the contraction. Hadn’t. All right follow along after me.

  • I hadn’t eaten so I was hungry.
  • You hadn’t bothered to find out
  • We hadn’t brought our pillows.
  • It hadn’t rained all day so why was he so drenched?

So we practised the pronunciation of lots of common contractions there. Now let’s practise using these contractions a little more naturally by practising together in a little dialogue so it’s a conversation between two people, you and me.

I’m gonna start and you’ll see your part of the conversation pop up on screen. You get to say it out loud. And once we get through it, we’ll swap places and you’ll get to practise the lines that I said and vice versa. Are you ready?

Aren’t you late?
But weren’t you meant to pick up dinner on the way?
Don’t worry.
Kate’s bringing dessert and the Johnsons aren’t coming anyway.
Why don’t you just pick up a pizza on the way?
No I’m not late.
What? I didn’t know that I haven’t got time to organise dinner!
That’s right! They’re away for the weekend.
Good idea! I’ve got just enough time if I leave now.

Well that’s it for this lesson, let me know down in the comments if you want me to make another lesson like this, all about modal verb contractions or contractions with will.

They can be a little tricky as well. There are many contractions to learn but you don’t need to feel intimidated by them, just show up to practise with me and you’ll get familiar with the way that they sound and you’ll start to hear them more, you’ll recognise them as native speakers are speaking. I hope you have a marvellous week ahead.

Thank you for being here with me today. If you enjoyed this lesson make sure you like the video and you subscribe to mmmEnglish for more English lessons to help you practise and improve your English speaking skills. Speaking of more lessons, I’ve got a couple for you right here.

See you in there!

Links mentioned in the video

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