Top 10 Reductions of the Word "Have"

Nov 15, 2021

Top 10 Reductions of the Word "Have"

11/15/2021

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(Video Transcript)

 

Hi, I’m Julie with San Diego Voice and Accent, and I hope you’re ready to improve the rhythm of your spoken English. Today, you’ll learn the top 10 reductions that native speakers use with the word have.  

 

Content words vs. function words

In spoken English, only the important words are pronounced with the full pronunciation. These words are usually the content words of the sentence - the main nouns, main verbs, and adjectives, for example. These words are typically stressed in the sentence, which means they are said with more volume and at a slightly higher pitch than the other words in the sentence.

 

The words that are less important are usually the function words. These words carry the grammar of the sentence - the articles, conjunctions, and prepositions, for example. These words are typically unstressed in the sentence, and oftentimes they are also reduced. This means they don’t receive the full pronunciation. Maybe the vowel is reduced to a different vowel that is faster to say, like the schwa, or a consonant is omitted. 

 

One very common reduction in spoken English occurs with the word have. Oftentimes, the H consonant is omitted from this word and the vowel is reduced, especially when the word have is unstressed. And sometimes, the final V consonant is omitted as well.

 

In this video, you’ll practice the top 10 most common reductions using the word have



How to reduce could have

First, let’s look at the phrase could have. Here’s the full IPA transcription. Notice that the word have is transcribed with the H consonant, the AA vowel, and the V consonant.  

 

Native speakers typically use a few reductions here. First, the initial H consonant in have is dropped. Then the AA vowel in have is reduced to the schwa, uh. This sounds like could’ve

 

Could've.

 

I could've gone with you.

 

But then one more reduction can happen. The final V consonant in ‘ve can also be dropped. This sounds like coulda.

 

Coulda

 

I coulda gone with you.

 

Both reductions are common - could've with the final V consonant, and coulda, without the final V consonant. But notice the H consonant in have is omitted in both examples.

 

How to reduce should have

Now let’s look at a similar phrase, should have. The same rules apply to this phrase. The initial H consonant in have is dropped. Then the AA vowel in have is reduced to the schwa, uh. This sounds like should've.

 

Should've

 

I should’ve gone with you.

 

And one more reduction can happen, the final V in ‘ve can also be dropped. This sounds like shoulda.

 

Shoulda

 

I shoulda gone with you.

 

How to reduce would have

The same rules apply to the phrase would have. This can be pronounced like would’ve

 

Would’ve

 

I would’ve gone with you.

 

Or woulda.

 

Woulda

 

I woulda gone with you.

 

How to reduce might have

The same rules also apply to the phrase might have. This can be pronounced like might’ve.

 

Might’ve

 

I might’ve gone with you.

 

Or mighta.

 

Mighta

 

I mighta gone with you.

 

In these four phrases, should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, and might’ve, notice how the D and the T consonants turned into the flap. A native speaker doesn’t say could’ve, using a full D consonant, or might’ve using a True T consonant. Instead, the flap is used.

 

How to reduce must have

The next phrase we’ll look at is must have. Now, the same rules apply to this phrase as well - the initial H in have is dropped. Then the AA vowel in have is reduced to the schwa, uh. This sounds like must’ve.

 

Must’ve

 

I must’ve gone with you.

 

Then another reduction can occur. The final V in ‘ve can be dropped, which sounds like musta.

 

Musta

 

I musta gone with you.

 

However, in this phrase, the final T in must remains a True T sound - it doesn’t turn into the flap.

 

Next, we’ll discuss these same five phrases, but in their negative forms. We’ll start with couldn’t have

 

Reduction #1 of couldn't have

There are at least five ways that this phrase can be reduced. I’m going to teach you all five reductions, starting with the most common reduction - the one that native speakers typically use the most, and it’s probably the most challenging pronunciation of all five. It sounds like this: couldn't've.

 

Couldn’t’ve 

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

Here’s how to pronounce it: First, the initial H consonant in have is dropped. Then, the AA vowel in have is reduced to the schwa, uh. Now, here’s where things become tricky. You use nasal plosion on the D consonant. That means, the tongue tip comes up to the alveolar ridge for the D consonant, then it stays there as you lower the soft palate to pronounce the N consonant. And once the soft palate is lowered, a burst of air comes out of the nose, hence the term “nasal plosion”. 

 

Here’s what the nasal plosion sounds like:

 

Could’n

 

Could’n

 

Could’n

 

The next thing you do is omit the T consonant because this phrase follows the rules of the nasal flap. The rules state that when N and T occur next to each other and between vowels and the second vowel is in an unstressed syllable, the T sound can be dropped. 

 

**Let me explain the rules of the nasal flap a bit more clearly.  You can see in the IPA transcription that the NT combination is between a D consonant and a schwa vowel, not two vowels, and in order to use a nasal flap, the NT combination needs to be between two vowels. So why does this word follow the rules of the nasal flap? Since the tongue makes only one contact with the alveolar ridge for the D and N consonants as it produces nasal plosion on the D consonant, the mouth behaves as if the D and N are the same sound. Since the D consonant is the one that receives the nasal plosion, it becomes more like the nasal N consonant. So in this case, if the D and the N are considered by the mouth to be more like one N consonant, then the NT combination is between two vowels - the UH vowel and the schwa. Now back to the video.**

 

This is common in words like internet and Santa Claus. And it happens in couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

I know that this pronunciation is challenging - it involves a contraction, an H reduction, a vowel reduction, nasal plosion, and the nasal flap. But this is the way that I pronounce it most of the time, and many native speakers do as well.

 

Reduction #2 of couldn't have

The second way this phrase can be pronounced is couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

Here’s how to pronounce it: First, the initial H consonant in have is dropped. Then, the AA vowel in have is reduced to the schwa, uh. You still use nasal plosion on the D consonant, but you pronounce the T as the True T. 

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Reduction #3 of couldn't have

The third way this phrase can be pronounced is couldn’t’ve.

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

Here’s how to pronounce it: You drop the H and reduce the vowel in have, just like you did before. Then you pronounce the D consonant - no nasal plosion occurs. But you omit the T consonant, which means you use a nasal flap. 

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Reduction #4 of couldn't have

And the fourth way this phrase can be pronounced is couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

This pronunciation might be easiest, but it’s probably the least common. Here’s how you pronounce it: You drop the H and reduce the vowel in have, just like you did before. Then you pronounce the D consonant - no nasal plosion in this pronunciation either. And you pronounce the T like the True T.

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve



Reduction #5 of couldn't have

And the fifth way this phrase can be pronounced is couldn’t’ve.

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

I probably use this pronunciation and the first pronunciation the most often. Here’s how you pronounce it: You drop the H and reduce the vowel in have, just like you did before. Then something strange happens. The D consonant turns into a glottal stop, and you omit the T consonant, which means you use a nasal flap.

 

Confusing, I know, but here’s what it sounds like again.

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

Couldn’t’ve

 

I couldn’t’ve gone with you.

 

Let’s listen to all 5 reductions in a row. 

 

Alright - we’ve covered a lot of reductions so far! But stick with me - we’re almost finished.

 

How to reduce shouldn't have and wouldn't have

The phrases shouldn’t have and wouldn’t have follow the same rules as couldn’t have, so I won’t go into the details again. You can always review this video and substitute shouldn’t and wouldn’t in place of couldn’t.

 

The final two phrases we’ll cover are mustn’t have and might not have

 

How to reduce mustn't have

First, mustn’t have. This phrase is not commonly used in American English, but you might hear it somewhere.

 

Right away, you might have noticed that I didn’t pronounce the first T in mustn’t. That’s correct - if you look at the IPA, you’ll see that there are four consonants in a row. When this happens in spoken English, one of the consonants is almost always omitted - remember the Rule of Three? - and in this case, it’s the first T sound. 

 

Now, to reduce this phrase even more, you can pronounce it in one of two ways. Here’s the first way: Mustn’t’ve.

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

I mustn’t’ve gone with you. 

 

Here’s how you pronounce it: First, you drop the H in have and reduce the vowel to the schwa. Then, you also drop the second T sound because this phrase follows the rules of the nasal flap: 

 

**I need to pause the video again and explain how the nasal flap applies to this word. The rules of the nasal flap state that when the N and T consonants are next to each other and between vowels, and the second vowel is in an unstressed syllable, then the T sound can be dropped. If you look at the IPA transcription, you can clearly see that the NT combination, and the T is represented by a glottal stop here, is between an S consonant and a schwa vowel, not two vowels. So why does this word follow the rules of the nasal flap? Well, it’s a little complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain. The N consonant functions as a syllabic N consonant, which means there isn’t a vowel in this syllable. The N consonant sort of absorbed the vowel, and the vowel would have been the schwa, uh, vowel. If I say this word slowly, you might hear a schwa sound in the second syllable - mus-uhnt-ve - but most native speakers pronounce the second syllable very quickly and without that schwa vowel. The mouth, however, behaves as if the schwa vowel is still there, in which case, the NT combination is between two schwa vowels. Now back to the video.***

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

Mustn’t’ve



And here’s the second pronunciation: mustn’t’ve.

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

I mustn’t’ve gone with you. 

 

Here’s how you pronounce it: You drop the H in have and reduce the vowel to the schwa, just like you did before. But then you pronounce the second T like a True T.

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

Mustn’t’ve

 

How to reduce might not have

The last phrase we’ll discuss today is might not have, and there are two ways that native speakers might reduce this phrase. Here’s the first one: might not’ve.

 

Might not’ve

 

I might not’ve gone with you.

 

Here’s how you pronounce it: You drop the H in have and reduce the vowel to the schwa. Then the T in might turns into either an unreleased T or a glottal stop - I prefer to use a glottal stop. And the T in not turns into the flap. Here’s what that sounds like:

 

Might not’ve

 

Might not’ve

 

And here’s the second pronunciation: Might nodda

 

Might nodda

 

I might nodda gone with you.

 

Here’s how you pronounce it: You use the same pronunciation as might not’ve, but you also drop the final V in ‘ve, which sounds like:

 

Might nodda

 

Might nodda

 

Wow, OK, that was a lot of reductions using the word have. But take your time - review this video as many times as you need to, and practice one reduction at a time. I promise, if you are able to master these reductions, your speech will sound much more natural and smooth.

 

Thanks for watching, and if you want any help with your pronunciation, join my Conversation Club. We have live meetings every week, and I can give you some feedback. The link to join is below. Have a great day!