How to Pronounce Contractions: American English Pronunciation
September 7, 2019
I’ve had some requests to go
over the pronunciation of various contractions. So, let’s start with the ‘to be’ contractions,
as in I am, you are, we are. First, I’m. It’s one syllable, the ‘ai’ as in ‘buy’ diphthong
and the M consonant sound. I’m here, I’m here. You are, you’re: begins with the Y consonant
sound, then the schwa, and finally the R consonant sound. You’re, you’re. You’re here! You’re
welcome. He’s, she’s, and it’s. Now the apostrophe S for the word ‘is’ in these three contractions
is pronounced as a Z sound for he and she, and as an S sound for it’s. He’s, zzz, zzz,
Z sound, she’s, zzz, zzz, Z sound, it’s, sss, S sound. The apostrophe S in he’s, she’s,
and it’s, can also be shortening the word ‘has’, not just ‘is’. He has, he’s been here
before. She has, she’s, she’s been here before. It has, it’s, it’s been here for a while.
We’re begins with the W consonant sound. It then has the schwa/R sound combination, just
like the ‘er’ as in ‘her’ vowel sound: ww, er. So even though it would be written with
two different symbol sounds, it’s just the one rr, rr, rr sound. We’re, we’re, we’re
coming! They’re: pronounced just like these two words their/there. Th, the voiced TH sound,
th, the ‘eh’ as in ‘bed’, the-er, er. The schwa/R sound finishing off the word. They’re.
They’re. They’re here! Question words are often part of contractions as well. For example,
how is. How’s, how’s. The S is pronounced as a Z sound, how’s. How’s it going? Why’s,
why is. Why’s, again it is pronounced like a Z sound. It’s pronounced just like this
word wise. Why’s, why’s it there? What is, what’s. So the apostrophe S is pronounced
as an S, what’s. Now, make sure you get the T for ‘what’ in there. It’s a stop, what’s,
not just an S sound. What—ss. So do move the tongue up to the roof of the mouth to
make that stop for the T. What’s, what’s. What’s it doing there? The apostrophe S could
also be the word does. What does, what’s. What’s it mean? When. When is becomes when’s,
zz, zz. Here the apostrophe S is pronounced as a Z. When’s, when’s, when is, when’s it
over? The apostrophe S can also mean does. When does, when’s, again, pronounced as a
Z, when’s it end? When does it end, when’s it end? The have contractions. These are written
as apostrophe VE, and when the word before ends in a vowel or diphthong sound, it simply
adds the V consonant sound to the end of that syllable. I, I have, I’ve, I’ve, vvv. I’ve
been waiting. You have, you’ve, you’ve. Again, the word ‘you’ pronounced just the same, only
with, vv, a V sound at the end. You’ve. The Y consonant sound, ‘oo’ as in ‘boo’ vowel,
and the V consonant sound. You’ve, you’ve been waiting. We have, we’ve. The W consonant
sound, the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel, and the V consonant. It’s pronounced just like this
word, weave. We’ve, we’ve been waiting. They have, they’ve. They’ve. The voiced TH sound,
the ‘ay’ as in ‘say’ diphthong, they, they, vv. And the V sound. They’ve. They’ve been
waiting. The next set of words with the ‘have’ contraction all end in a consonant. So rather
than just adding a V sound, it actually adds another, unaccented syllable: the schwa sound
followed by the V sound. For example, could have, could’ve, could’ve, ve, ve. Separate,
extra syllable at the end. Could’ve. I wish I could’ve seen it. Should have, should’ve,
should’ve, ve, ve. I should’ve known. Would have, would’ve. Again, it’s the first syllable,
woul-dve, that is stressed and, -dve: low in pitch and volume. Would’ve. It would’ve
been nice. Might have. Now the T here is going to be pronounced as a flap T, so it will actually
sound like a D: might’ve, might’ve. Dve, dve, mai-dve, might’ve. I might’ve gone. The ‘will’
contractions. All of these contractions have a dark L that is added at the end. I’ve said
before, the dark L has a vowel-like sound that’s not written in IPA: uh, uh, uhl, before
the tongue moves up into the final position. So let’s take example I, I’ll, I–‘ll, uhl,
that dark L sound on the end. I will, I’ll. I’ll be there soon. You will, you’ll. You—uhl.
Dark L at the end. You’ll. You’ll need to come quickly. With the he will and she will
contractions, the ee vowel might relax a little into the ‘ih’ as in ‘sit’ vowel. He will,
he’ll, he’ll, he’ll be here soon. She will, she’ll, becomes more with the ih sound she’ll,
she’ll, she’ll be here soon. It will. It’ll. Notice the T here is pronounced as a flap
T, the D sound. It’ll. It’ll be ok. With the we will contraction you might find, again,
that the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel relaxes into the ‘ih’ as in ‘sit’ vowel. We will, we’ll,
we’ll. It sounds a lot like the word ‘will’. We’ll be there tomorrow. The will, they’ll.
They’ll. The TH, th, voiced sound, ‘ay’ as in ‘say’ diphthong, and the dark L sound.
Uhl, uhl, they’ll. They’ll be here soon. How will becomes how’ll, which sounds just like
this word howl. How will, how’ll, how’ll you get there? Where will becomes where’ll, where’ll,
where—‘ll. Where’ll you be? When will, when’ll. When’ll I see you again? What will. Again,
the T here will be pronounced as a D, it’s flapped. What’ll, what’ll. And you’ll notice
that the contraction adds a second unaccented syllable. What’ll. What’ll it be? The words
had and would can both be represented by the apostrophe D. In the word I’d, it’s simply
a D sound at the end of the ‘ai’ as in ‘buy’ diphthong. I’d. I’d go if I could. You would,
or you had, you’d, you’d. The Y consonant sound, the ‘oo’ as in ‘boo’, and the D sound.
You’d, all one syllable. You’d like it. She had, or would, and he had, or would, again,
the apostrophe D simply adds the D sound at the end of the syllable. She’d, he’d. She’d
been there before. He’d been there before. It. Now, when you add the apostrophe D here,
it’d, it’d, you change the T to a D sound, and the apostrophe D adds a syllable. It’s
going to be the schwa and the D sound. It’d, it’d. So that ‘s the ‘ih’ as in ‘sit’ sound,
ih, dud. The D – schwa – D sound. It’d, it’d, it’d be nice. The apostrophe D with the word
‘we’, again, is just simply the D sound at the end of that word, not adding a syllable.
We’d. We’d. It’s pronounced just like this word ‘weed’. We’d better get going. The D
with they, again, simply adds the D sound. They’d, they’d. They’d seen it twice before.
The apostrophe D on the word how again just adds the D sound. How’d, how’d, how’d. How’d
it go? The apostrophe D can also represent the word ‘did’ as in the following two examples.
Again with the word ‘where’, when you add the apostrophe D, you simply add the D sound
at the end. Where’d, where’d, where’d it go? Why did, why’d. Why’d. Again just adds a D
sound, and it’s pronounced just like this word ‘wide’. Why’d. Why’d you do it?