Relaxed pronunciation

Relaxed pronunciation (also called condensed pronunciation or word slurs) is a phenomenon that happens when the syllables of common words are slurred together. It is almost always present in normal speech, in all natural languages but not in some constructed languages, such as Loglan or Lojban, which are designed so that all words are parsable.

Some shortened forms of words and phrases, such as contractions or weak forms can be considered to derive from relaxed pronunciations, but a phrase with a relaxed pronunciation is not the same as a contraction. In English, where contractions are common, they are considered part of the standard language and accordingly used in many contexts (except in very formal speech or in formal/legal writing); however, relaxed pronunciation is markedly informal in register. This is also sometimes reflected in writing: contractions have a standard written form, but relaxed pronunciations may not, outside of eye dialect.

Certain relaxed pronunciations occur only in specific grammatical contexts, the exact understanding of which can be complicated. See trace (linguistics) for some further info.


The following sections contain common words said with relaxed pronunciation in American English, along with pronunciations given in IPA, and a common written indication of this pronunciation where applicable:

Of, have, and to

The words of, to, and have all tend to elide to nothing more than a schwa [ə] in many common situations. This sometimes leads to spelling confusion, such as writing "I could of..." instead of "I could have..." or "I could've".

  • could have: [ˈkʊɾə], coulda or [ˈkʊɾəv], could uhv.
  • must have: [ˈmʌstə], musta or [ˈmʌstəv], must uhv.
  • should have: [ˈʃʊɾə], shoulda or [ˈʃʊɾəv], should uhv.
  • would have: [ˈwʊɾə], woulda or [ˈwʊɾəv], would uhv.
  • it would: when contracted, it's pronounced [ˈɪɾəd], iduhd, but this often collapses to [ˈɪd], ihd.
  • it would / it would have: [ˈɪɾə], itta.
  • a lot of: [əˈlɑɾə], a lotta.
  • kind of: [ˈkaɪɾ̃ə], kinda.
  • out of: [ˈaʊɾə], outta.
  • sort of: [ˈsɔɹɾə], sorta.
  • going to: [ˈɡʌnə], gonna.
  • got to: [ˈɡɑɾə], gotta.
  • have to: [ˈhæftə], hafta.
  • want to: [ˈwɑɾ̃ə], wanna.
  • ought to : [ˈɔɾə], oughta.

"Would" can also be contracted ("I'd have done things differently."), which usually yields [ɾə] ("I would have..." can be pronounced [aɪɾə]). The [v] in "have" and "of" is usually retained before a vowel sound (e.g. in "I could have asked...").


"You" tends to elide to [jə] (often written "ya"). Softening of the preceding consonant also may occur: (/t/ + /jə/ = [tʃə], /d/ + /jə/ = [dʒə], /s/ + /jə/ = [ʃə], and /z/ + /jə/ = [ʒə]). This can also happen with other words that begin with [j] (e.g. "your", "yet", "year"). In some dialects, such as Australian English, this is not a relaxed pronunciation but compulsory: got you [ˈɡɔtʃjʉː] (never *[ˈɡɔtjʉː]).

  • did you: [ˈdɪdʒə], didja
  • do you: [ˈdʒə], d'ya
  • don't you: [ˈdoʊntʃə], doncha
  • got you: [ˈɡɒtʃə], gotcha
  • get you / get your: [ˈɡɛtʃə], getcha
  • would you: [ˈwʊdʒə], wouldja


  • -ing forms of verbs and sometimes gerunds tend to be pronounced with an [ɪ̈n] at the end instead of the expected [iŋ] or [ɪŋ]. E.g. talking: [ˈtʰɑkɪ̈n], tahkin. If followed by a [t], this can in turn blend with it to form [ɾ̃]. E.g. talking to Bob: [ˈtʰɑkɪ̈ɾ̃̃ə ˈbɑb], tahkinna Bob
  • "I will" gets contracted to "I'll" [aɪjəl], which in turn gets reduced to "all" [ɑl] in relaxed pronunciation. E.g. I'll do it: [ˈɑl ˈduɪʔ(t)], all do it
  • "he" tends to elide to just [i] after consonants, sometimes after vowel sounds as well. E.g. is he: [ˈɪzi], izee; all he: [ˈɑli], ahlee
  • "his", "him", and "her" tend to elide in most environments to [ɪ̈z], [ɪ̈m], and [ɚ], respectively. E.g. meet his: [ˈmiɾɪ̈z], meetiz; tell him: [ˈtʰɛlɪ̈m], tellim; show her [ˈʃoʊɚ], show-er
  • "them" tends to elide to [əm] after consonants. E.g. ask them: [ˈæskəm], ask'em. (Historically, this is a remnant of the Middle English pronoun hem.)
  • about: [ˈbaʊt], bout
  • already: [ɑˈɹɛɾi], ahready
  • all right: [ɑˈɹʌit], ahright
  • all right: [ɑˈʌit], aight
  • come here: [ˈkʌmi(ə)ɹ], cuhmeer
  • don't know: [ɾəˈnoʊ], [dəˈnoʊ] if not preceded by a vowel sound, dunno
  • fixing to: "finna"
  • give me: [ˈɡɪmi], gimme
  • I'm going to: [ˈaɪmə], "I'mma" or [ˈɑmənə], "Ah-muhnuh"
  • is it: [zɪt], ’zit
  • isn't it: [ˈɪnɪt], innit
  • let me: [ˈlɛmi], lemme
  • let's: [ts], E.g. let's go: [tsˈɡoʊ]
  • library: [ˈlaɪbɹi], [ˈlaɪˌbɛɹi]
  • probably: [ˈpɹɑli], [ˈpɹɑbli], prolly, probly
  • suppose: [spoʊz] s'pose. E.g. I suppose so: [ai spoʊz soʊ]
  • trying to: [ˈtɹaɪɾ̃ə] "tryna"
  • want to: [ˈwɑɾ̃ə], wanna
  • what is that: [ˌwʌˈsæt], wussat
  • what is up: [wəˈsʌp], wassup
  • what is up: [sʌp], ’sup
  • what are you: [ˈwʌtʃə], whatcha
  • what have you: [ˈwʌtʃə], whatcha. E.g. What have you been up to? : [wʌtʃə bɪn ʌp tu]
  • what do you/what are you: [ˈwʌɾəjə], whaddaya
  • you all: [jɑl], y’all


  • weenie = Ik weet het niet ("I don't know")
  • lama = Laat maar (zitten) ("Nevermind")

Examples of the Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands include:

  • der = haar ("her")
  • ie = hij ("he"), often used in phrases such as dattie for dat hij ("that he")
  • amme = aan mijn ("on / to my"), for example in ammezolen for aan mijn zolen ("not on your life")

Often, especially in Belgian Dutch, the -t at the end of the word is omitted.

  • nie = niet
  • da = dat For example, kweet da nie = Ik weet dat niet ("I don't know that")
  • wasda = wat is dat ("What is that")


  • Ich ("I") → ch/(sch) Ich weiß ("I know") → Schweiß (would translate, literally, to "sweat". A common source of some well-known jokes)
  • Du ("you", singular) → de/d - Weißt du ("do you know") → Weißte
  • Wir ("we") → mer - Können wir ... ("can we") => Kö(n)mmer ..., Kennen wir! ("we know") → Ke(n)mmer!
  • Das ("this/the") → (d)s - Das Pferd dort ("The horse over there") → 's Pferd dort
  • es ("it") → s - Es regnet ("It's raining") → 's regnet
  • Ist ("is") → is/s - ist es möglich ("is it possible") → isses möglich
  • denn ("then, actually, anyway") → (d)n - Was ist denn los? ("What's up") → Was'n los?
  • so ein(e) ("such a") → so'n(e), von so einem ("of such a") → von so'm
  • vielleicht ("maybe") → v'leisch (same pronunciation as Fleisch, "meat", also a source of jokes)

A wide range of possible pronunciations can be found in the negatory 'nicht ("not") depending on the dialect region.

See also Synalepha


The most notable example in Russian language is the greeting здравствуйте ([ˈzdrastvujtʲɪ]), which is colloquially pronounced [ˈzdrastʲɪ]. Other examples include:

  • сейчас [sʲɪjˈtɕas] → щас [ɕːas] or ща [ɕːa] ('now')
  • сегодня [sʲɪˈvodʲnʲə] → сёдня [ˈsʲɵdʲnʲə] ('today')
  • что [ʂto] → чё [tɕɵ] ('what'; originally a contraction of Genitive чего [tɕiˈvo], but can be used instead of Nominative too)
  • когда [kɐˈɡda] → када [kɐˈda] ('when')
  • тысяча [ˈtɨsʲɪtɕa] → тыща [ˈtɨɕːa] ('thousand')
  • шестьдесят [ʂɨzʲdʲɪˈsʲat] → шисят [ʂɨˈsʲat] ('sixty')

Contracted forms are usually found only in colloquial contexts, but they can occur in poetry.

For example, look at the verse from the Russian translation of Avesta (Mihr Yasht, verse 129):

На колеснице Митры,
Чьи пастбища просторны,
Стрел тыща златоустых

"On a side of the chariot of Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, stand a thousand ... arrows, with a golden mouth."

This contrasts with contracted forms found in colloquial speech in that it is used to keep the original rhythm. The previous verse (verse 128) has a literary form:

На колеснице Митры,
Чьи пастбища Просторны,
Из жил оленьих тысяча
Отборных тетивы

"On a side of the chariot of Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, stand a thousand bows well-made, with a string of cowgut".


The phrase tu as (you have) is frequently elided to t'as and tu es (you are) to t'es. The same with je suis (I am) to j'suis or ch'uis (very informal, or regional), and je [ne] sais pas (I don't know) to j'sais pas or ch'ais pas (very informal, or regional). The expression, "Qu'est-ce que..." is little used in colloquial speech for forming the interrogative, but when it is, in very informal use, it is shortened:

"Qu'est-ce que tu veux ?" becomes... "Qu'est-c'tu veux ?"

"Qu'est-ce que tu as dit?" becomes... "Qu'est-c't'as dit?"

A more complex sentence, such as "il ne savait peut-être plus ce qu'il faisait" ("Perhaps he knew no more what he was doing"), can become "i n'savait p'têt plus c'qui v'zait" [in savεp tεt plys kiv zε], or even further relaxed, "i sa'ait têt' pu c'qui v'zait" [i saεp tεt pys kiv zε].[1]


Forms of the verb estar ("to be") are often shortened by dropping the first syllable (as if the verb were *tar).

  • Estoy aquíToy aquí.
  • Acá está.Acá ta. ("Here it is", joking tone or baby-talk)
  • ParaPa'.

Often, d will turn into its approximant, the Voiced dental fricative, which is "softer"; and when placed between two vowels it might disappear in relaxed pronunciation.

As such, the d in the final -ado of past participles can disappear: Estoy cansado ("I am tired") is heard as Toy cansao; this is also applied to the final -ido, as in Me he perdido ("I got lost"), which is heard as *Me perdío. This phenomenon is often perceived as uncultured, and can lead to hypercorrections like *bacalado instead of bacalao ("cod").

Hiatus between two words will often lead to these merging, with del being the grammatically correct form of de el. If the merged word is small enough, it might be omitted entirely:

  • Me he perdidoMe perdío

Some dialects like Andalusian Spanish lose the syllable-final s. Since it is important as a mark of plurals, it is substituted with vowel opening.



= está ([it/she/he] is)
tamém = também (also)
ma = uma (a/one)
'vambora = vamos embora (let's go)
'bora = vamos embora (let's go)
pra, pa = para (to)
= você (you)
home = homem (man)
= vou (I will) (In Portugal 'ô' is the standard pronunciation of 'ou')
portuga, tuga = português (both for the Portuguese people and language)
para + o = pro -further contraction-> po.
para + a = pra -> pa.
para + os = pros -> pos.
para + as = pras -> pas.
num = não (no/don't. It is just used in the beginning or middle of a sentence).
né? = não é? (it is equivalente to the tag questions).
d'uma = de uma (of a).

In some dialects, que (that) is reduced to the "q" sound:

que + a = q'a
que + o = q'o
que + ela = q'ela (that she)
que + ele = q'ele (that he)
que + é = q'é (that is)
que + foi = q'foi (that was), etc...

In Portugal, the mute 'e' and the final unstressed vowels are often elided:

perigo = prigo (danger)
mete água = met água (put water)
muito mais = muit mais (much more)
fala inglês = fal inglês (speaks english) (if the following word starts with a consonant, the final 'a' cannot be elided)


Japanese can undergo some vowel deletion or consonant mutation in relaxed speech. While these are common occurrences in the formation of some regular words, typically after the syllables ku or tsu, as in 学校 gakkō (学 gaku + 校 ) "school" or 出発 shuppatsu (出 shutsu + 発 hatsu) "departure", in rapid speech, these changes can appear in words that did not have them before, such as suizokkan for suizokukan 水族館 "aquarium." Additionally, the syllables ra, ri, ru, re and ro sometimes become simply n or when they occur before another syllable beginning with n or d, and disappear entirely before syllabic n. This can happen within a word or between words, such as 分かんない wakannai "I dunno" for 分からない wakaranai "I don't know" or もう来てんだよ mō kite n da yo "they're already here" for もう来ているんだよ mō kite iru n da yo.

Relaxed pronunciation also makes use of several contractions.



  • Ne haber? (What's up?)→ N'aber?
  • Ne oluyor? (What's going on?) → N'oluyor?
  • Ne yapıyorsun? (What are you doing?) → N'apıyorsun?
    • This can further be reduced → N'apıyon

In all of these cases, the pronounced length of the initial vowel is slightly extended, though in the case of "napıyon" the terminal vowel maintains its initial length or, if anything, is shortened.


In Hindustani, it is common to elide the sound /h/ ˂ہ˃/<ह> in normal speech. For example, آپ کہاں جا رہے ہیں/आप कहाँ जा रहे हैं āp kahā̃ jā rahe hãi will be pronounced آپ کاں جا رے ایں/आप काँ जा रे ऐं āp kā̃ jā re ãi.

See also


  1. Die Symptyx im spontanen französischen Redefluss , Les Editions du Troubadour, accessed December 14, 2013.
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