Say Contractions Naturally: How to Pronounce Contractions with Stress and Reductions


Because you study contractions early on in
your English learning journey, you often learn them as optional ways to combine pronouns
and helping verbs, or helping verbs and negatives. But they’re not really optional – they’re
basically required if you want to sound natural when speaking English. You have to understand how and why we use
contractions in normal speech. That’s what we’re going to discuss in today’s
video. Welcome back to the English with Kim YouTube
channel, where you’ll learn what to say, how to say it, and why it matters. If you’re interested in learning how to use
English rhythm and melody to sound more natural in English, be sure to hit subscribe. First things first, what do we mean by contractions? Contractions are when we shorten, or contract,
two or more words into one smaller form. When we form contractions, we drop sounds
in order to move through these words more quickly. The reason we use contractions is because
these words just aren’t as important as the other words in the sentence, so we de-emphasize
them. In other words, we make them less obvious. Some common contractions you may be familiar
with include “I’m,” “you’re,” “she’s,” “he’d,” “they’ll,” “we’ve,” “haven’t,” “isn’t,” “doesn’t,”
“shouldn’t,” and many others. The most common contractions combine a pronoun
with an auxiliary verb, a helping verb or a modal verb, or they combine and auxiliary
verb with a negative. You can also combine a noun, name, or question
word with a helping verb in order to form contractions, but we’re going to focus on
the basic types of contractions in this video. These common contractions are either affirmative
or negative, and it’s very important that you understand the distinction in order to
pronounce them correctly. As I mentioned a moment ago, these contractions
are basically required if you want to sound more like a native speaker. But for some reason even fluent non-native
speakers don’t always use them regularly. I have a theory that this has to do with the way
that they’re taught in beginning English classes. I think people get used to separating them into
two words when they’re reading sentences out loud. This bad habit persists even after years living
in an English speaking country. Whatever the reason, when you don’t use these
contractions in everyday speech, it can actually make your accent more obvious, because you’re
drawing attention to words that don’t really matter. Before we discuss how to say these contractions
naturally, I want to clarify that we are not talking about informal contractions like “gonna,”
“wanna,” and “dunno.” Informal contractions are optional and they
need to be said with correct sentence stress in order to sound natural. You can watch my video on how to pronounce
informal contractions like a native English speaker to understand exactly what I mean. We’ll take a moment to compare standard contractions
with informal contractions at the end of this video, so stay tuned. Now, let’s talk about how to pronounce contractions
like a native speaker. As I mentioned, contractions allow us to de-emphasize
words that aren’t really as important so that we can stress content words that convey the
meaning of the sentence. In other words, contractions are reductions,
which means the sounds should be less obvious. To complicate things, we usually stress affirmative
contractions differently than negative contractions. Let’s break this down. Affirmative contractions like “I’m,” “you’re,”
“she’s,” “he’d,” “we’ve,” “they’ll” are reduced. Affirmative contractions are quicker, quieter,
lower in pitch, and the vowel changes to a less distinct sound. That means we don’t pronounce “I’m” as “I’m,”
it sounds more like “im.” We don’t say “she’s,” we say “shiz.” We don’t say “he’ll,” we say “hill.” We don’t say “we’re,” we say “were.” We don’t say “they’d,” we say “thed.” We don’t say “you’re,” we say “yer.” In a complete sentence, this sounds more natural,
which is why I always encourage you not to practice contractions in isolation. Practice them in complete sentences. Let’s look at some examples. Pay attention to which syllables should be
stressed in each sentence. I’m so excited for the weekend. I’m so excited for the weekend. I’m so excited for the weekend. As you can hear, the contraction “I’m” disappears
in order to emphasize the key words of the sentence. I’m so excited for the weekend. I’m so excited for the weekend. Next: She’s my favorite actress. She’s my favorite actress. She’s my favorite actress. As you can hear, I’m de-emphasizing the contraction
“she’s” in order to emphasize the key words, “favorite” and “actress.” She’s my favorite actress. She’s my favorite actress. Next: he’ll be late to work. He’ll be late to work. He’ll be late to work. As you can hear, “he’ll” is less distinct. He’ll be late to work, he’ll be late to work. We’re waiting for the results. We’re waiting for the results. We’re waiting for the results. As you can hear, the contraction is reduced, while
we’re stressing the key words of the sentence. We’re waiting for the results. We’re waiting for the results. They’d like to go to the movies. They’d like to go to the movies. They’d like to go to the movies. Once again, we’re reducing the contraction in
order to emphasize the words that truly matter. They’d like to go to the movies. They’d like to go to the movies. You’re doing a great job. You’re doing a great job. You’re doing a great job. As you can hear, the contraction is less distinct
because we’re emphasizing the key words of the sentence. You’re doing a great job. You’re doing a great job. When we use affirmative contractions, we’re
stressing or emphasizing the words that truly matter, and taking attention away from the
contractions based on how we use our voice. Try writing your own sentences with affirmative
contractions and identify which words should be stressed. For more guidance on content words and function
words, be sure to check out my video on sentence stress in American English. Now let’s talk about negative contractions. Negative contractions include “aren’t,” “isn’t,”
“doesn’t,” “don’t,” “shouldn’t,” “won’t.” Even though negative contractions are reductions,
we usually stress them for clarity. Think about it. People are expecting to hear the affirmative
or positive form, so we emphasize the negative in order to make the meaning extra clear. After all, we usually stress negatives, so
contractions are no exception. Let’s look at some more examples. She isn’t coming to the party. She isn’t coming to the party. She isn’t coming to the party. As you can hear, I’m stressing the negative
contraction. She isn’t coming to the party. She isn’t coming to the party. My brother doesn’t like his job. My brother doesn’t like his job. My brother doesn’t like his job. Once again, I’m stressing the contraction
along with other key words in the sentence. My brother doesn’t like his job. My brother doesn’t like his job. We won’t have enough time for dinner. We won’t have enough time for dinner. We won’t have enough time for dinner. Once again, I’m stressing the contraction
in order to make the meaning extra clear. We won’t have enough time for dinner. We won’t have enough time for dinner. It wasn’t the right color. It wasn’t the right color. It wasn’t the right color. As you can hear, I’m stressing the negative
contraction along with other key words in the sentence. It wasn’t the right color. It wasn’t the right color. They couldn’t find what they were looking
for. They couldn’t find what they were looking
for. They couldn’t find what they were looking
for. As you can hear, I’m stressing the negative
in order to make my meaning extra clear. They couldn’t find what they were looking
for. They couldn’t find what they were looking
for. I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. As you can hear, I’m stressing the word “haven’t”
in order to make it extra clear that I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. I haven’t had time to finish the project yet. Can you hear the difference in how we stress
negative contractions versus reducing affirmative contractions? We stress negatives in order to make it easy
for the other person to follow what we’re saying. Now, try writing your own examples with negative
contractions, and practice stressing the negative contraction along with the other content words
of the sentence. Using contractions correctly will help you
create the natural rhythm of English, make your meaning extra clear, and of course sound
more like a native English speaker. Most importantly, you want to make sure you
are using contractions consistently. Just to review, we reduce affirmative contractions
and stress negative contractions. Contractions are normal and expected in spoken
English. They’re not lazy speech. When you don’t use them, it focuses attention
on the less important words in your sentence. For example, take the sentence, “You’re doing
a great job.” If you say “You are doing a great job,” you
are bringing extra attention to words that your listener is not expecting to hear emphasized. It can be a little bit confusing to hear, and it can
make your speech sound choppy or robotic. On top of that, if you stress the word “you”
or “are,” it can completely change the meaning of the sentence. For example, if you say “YOU are doing a great
job,” that means that you’re the person doing the great job as opposed to someone else. If you say “You ARE doing a great job,” it
sounds like you’re trying to reassure someone who doubts themself. When you say it normally, “You’re doing a
great job,” you bring attention to the compliment, which is your point. As you continue to work on your stress and
intonation, you want to pay attention to these details, because they’ll help you speak more
clearly and be more easily understood. Last but not least, let’s talk about informal
contractions. I’ve noticed a tendency for non native speakers
to overuse informal contractions, while not using standard contractions. If you pronounce words that are normally contracted
as two separate words, and then include an informal contraction, it can sound a little
strange. For example, consider this sentence: I do
not want to go. You shouldn’t say, “I do not wanna go.” It doesn’t sound natural. It sounds like you’re forcing the word “wanna”
into that sentence. When you don’t use the standard contraction,
you’re emphasizing words that should be reduced. Here’s how it should sound. I don’t wanna go. I don’t wanna go. I don’t wanna go. I would probably emphasize “don’t” more in
order to indicate my disinterest in going. Here’s another example. They are not going to join us. When you say “They are not gonna join us,”
it sounds a little off. You can say “They’re not gonna join us,” or
“They aren’t gonna join us.” Once again, you want to stress that negative. Remember, we use contractions and reductions
like informal contractions in order to draw attention away from the words that don’t matter,
and emphasize the words that truly do. If you want to sound more like a native English
speaker, you need to consistently use standard contractions and stress the key words of your
sentence. When you’ve got that right, informal contractions
will sound more natural, not forced. For more guidance on sentence stress and informal
contractions, be sure to check out my videos on these topics. I’ve included links to these videos in the
description. You can also get started with word and sentence
stress with my free Stress Starter Kit. Check out the link to that in the as well. Once again, I’m Kim from englishwithkim.com. I’m your guide to the essential communication
skills you need to sound more natural in English. If you like this video, please give it a thumbs
up and share it with a friend. Have a good one. Goodbye.

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