Relaxed speech is simply the way that native speakers usually speak. James calls it “lazy” in the video below, but I don’t agree. A better word is “efficient.” It’s faster and easier to speak this way in your native language. Everyone speaks this way in their native language. It’s completely natural. If you watch movies, TV shows (Jimmy Kimmel Live), and even speeches by people like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama, you’ll hear them using relaxed speech. If you want to understand native English speakers when they talk, learning the patterns of reductions will help you do it.
Here are 10 sentences that use some common forms of relaxed speech. They are written without the reductions.
- What do you want to eat for lunch?
- What is something you have to do today?
- Where do you want to go this summer?
- What are you going to do after class?
- What would you do if you had lots of money?
- What is something you should have done but didn’t?
- He has got to do his homework.
- She has to call her mother.
- I sort of want to go to the movies.
- She is feeling kind of sick.
Now, practice listening to the relaxed forms
We don’t usually write reduced forms, so the spelling can vary depending on the writer. Just to help you see what is happening, here is how the reduced forms might be written:
- Whaddaya wanna eat f’r lunch?
- What’s somethin’ ya hafta do d’day? (some speakers say “do t’day”)
- Wheredaya wanna go this summer?
- Whaddaya gonna do after class?
- What wouldja do if ya had lotsa money?
- What’s somethin’ ya shoulda done but didn’t?
- He’s gotta do ‘is homework.
- She hasta call’er mother.
- I sorta wanna godduhtha movies.
- She’s feelin’ kinda sick.
Spoken English Reduction Guide: This guide includes a PDF of 25+ common reductions, 30 sample sentences, and audio to help you practice both listening and natural rhythm and pronunciation.
Here is one of my favorite engVid teachers explaining gonna, hafta, wanna, sorta and more!
If you’d like to hear more about relaxed speech, check out the video below.
Note for teachers: This works as a complete listening and speaking lesson plan by combining the dictation above with a discussion (in pairs or groups of 3) of the first 6 questions (plus follow-up questions). If you have extra time, you can end with an exit ticket where you ask each student one of the 6 questions before they leave. This gives them additional practice hearing the natural spoken forms.
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