Word Reductions of Conjunctions

Sep 6, 2020

Word Reductions of Conjunctions

9/6/2020

How do native speakers talk so fast? Here's the trick: word reductions! Native speakers will actually change the vowel in a word into a vowel that is easier to say, and this helps the word to be said faster! Word reductions happen often in American English - master these, and you'll sound more like a native speaker! Learn how to reduce the conjunctions "and", "or", "so", and "but" in this video!

(Video Transcript)

 

How do native speakers talk so fast? Here’s the trick - it’s called word reductions. In spoken English, when a word or syllable is unstressed, the vowel in that word or syllable can be reduced - the vowel actually changes to another vowel that is easier to pronounce. We call this a word reduction or a vowel reduction - those terms mean the same thing. This helps that word or syllable to come out faster, and this gives English its rhythm between long syllables and short syllables. Here’s how you make a short syllable.

 

What types of words are reduced in American English?

In normal English intonation, the words that are most commonly reduced are called function words. These words are usually unstressed when spoken in a sentence, so they don’t receive the full pronunciation. Function words are the words that carry the grammar in the sentence, and here are a few examples:

 

  • Articles : A, An, The
  • Conjunctions: and, but, so, or
  • Prepositions: on, off, under
  • Pronouns: I, you, him, her
  • Helping verbs: am, be, do, can

 

Now function words don’t always have to be reduced. It depends on what you are trying to convey in your message. For example, in this sentence, I want HIM to do it, not you - I stressed the function word him and gave it its full pronunciation because I wanted to emphasize that he should do it, not the other person. 

 

But in this sentence, Give it to him, I reduced the word him - I dropped the H sound completely, and I reduced the vowel to the schwa UH vowel. 

 

Conjunctions: and, but, so, or

I want to talk about how to reduce the conjunction words and, but, so, and or, and the examples that I’ll use are for typical English intonation patterns, not for when you want to add extra emphasis to the conjunction.

 

Conjunctions are a part of speech in English that connect words, phrases, or thought groups together. Let’s take a look at the conjunctions in these sentences. 

 

  • I went to the store and bought some milk. 
  • I ordered steak, but it wasn’t that good.
  • We needed money, so we went to the bank.
  • Do you want coffee or tea?

 

 

How to reduce the American English word and

Let’s look at the first sentence. I went to the store and bought some milk. The full pronunciation of and is and, using the AA as in bat vowel. And. But in a sentence, the word and can be reduced to an, uhn, or just the N sound, /n/. Listen again, and I’ll reduce the word and to just the N sound. I went to the store and bought some milk. Store and bought. Store and bought. Let’s listen to it on a loop.

 

 Now here it is without the reduction, and notice how the rhythm of the sentence is different. 

 

I went to the store and bought some milk. 

 

How to reduce the American English word but

Now the next sentence. I ordered steak, but it wasn’t that good. The full pronunciation of but is but, using the stressed UH, as in butter vowel. But in a sentence, the word but can be reduced to the unstressed schwa UH vowel, like in the word about. Uh, uh. Listen again, and I’ll reduce the word but to the unstressed schwa vowel. Also notice what happens to the T sound in but- it changes to the flap. 

 

I ordered steak, but it wasn’t that good. But it wasn’t. But it wasn’t. Let’s listen to that on a loop. 

 

Here it is again without the reduction or the flap, and notice how the rhythm of the sentence is different - I ordered the steak, but it wasn’t that good.

 

How to reduce the American English word so

Now the next sentence. We needed money, so we went to the bank. The full pronunciation of so is so, using the OH /oʊ/, as in no diphthong. So. Notice how much my lips move when I say the full diphthong. So. But in a sentence, the word so can be reduced to the monophthong /o/, which has much less lip rounding at the end, and it is said much faster than the full diphthong. So, so. Listen again, and I’ll reduce the word so to the monophthong /o/. 

 

We needed money, so we went to the bank. So we, so we. Let’s listen to that on a loop.

 

Here it is without the reduction, and notice how the rhythm of the sentence is different. We needed money, so we went to the bank.

 

How to reduce the American English word or

Now the last sentence. Do you want coffee or tea? The full pronunciation of or is or, using the OR R-colored vowel. But in a sentence, the word or can be reduced to the unstressed ER vowel, er. Listen again, and I’ll reduce the word or to the unstressed ER vowel. 

 

Do you want coffee or tea? Coffee or tea? Coffee or tea? Let’s listen to that on a loop.

 

Here it is without the reduction, and notice how the rhythm of the sentence is different - 

 

Do you want coffee or tea?



I hope this video helped you with word reductions of conjunctions! Thanks for watching, and let me know how I can help you to speak more like a native English speaker!