Colloquial contractions

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The following are colloquial and fast speech phenomena that result from consonant assimilation (blending) and vowel reduction.


1 Pronoun contractions

formal colloquial & fast speech    
you

your

them

ya /yə/

yer /yər/

‘em

what do whadda
what do you

what are you

whaddaya
what are you

what (do) you

whacha
verb + pronoun:            

-d + you

-d + your

-t + you(r)

would you → wouldja

would your → wouldjer

don’t you → don’tcha

let me

give me

bet you

got you

got your

lemme

gimme

betcha

gotcha

got yer /gɔtʃər/


'Bet you' = 'I suppose, believe; I reason, assume, posit'. 'Gotcha' also = 'okay, understood' ('got you' = 'got your meaning, understood') as well as its more literal senses (I have got / caught you'). Also, /h/ is often deleted in pronouns like he, him, her, e.g.:

  • get ‘er = get her
  • get ‘im = get him.

2 Gonna

The immediate future gonna evolved from going to in early modern English. From the literal physical meaning of going to + place, it developed a purpose meaning ('going in order to do something'), which then developed into an immediate future sense. It differs from the normal future in these ways:

  1. It is more colloquial or informal, e.g., I'm gonna go shopping is more informal than I'm going to go shopping, which in turn is more informal than I will go shopping.
  2. In the first person, it often has a sense of intention: I'm gonna go shopping can imply the speaker's intention to do so.
  3. Gonna denotes immediate future, e.g., something that the speaker expects will happen in the relatively near or immediate future, or that the speaker intends to do in the immediate future. Will could be in the less immediate or more remote future.

Note: Some English learners may mistakenly say I'm gonna to go, not realizing that this is awkward, since gonna is a contraction of going to.


3 Modal and auxiliary verb contractions

The perfect tense auxiliary have often contracts to /əv/ or ‘ve, sometimes written very informally as of, e.g., “I should of gone” = “I should’ve gone.” Pronouns with the perfect tense auxiliary have often contract together, e.g., “I’ve, you’ve, we’ve.” With modal verbs, have can contract even more like so:

formal colloquial & fast speech
should have (+ past participle)    

could have

would have

must have

may have

might have

shoulda (+ past participle)    

coulda

woulda

musta

maya

mighta

going to (+ verb)

want to

(have) got to

have to

has to

gonna (immediate future)

wanna

gotta

hafta

hasta

don’t know

can

dunno

/kən/


While can is often reduced to a very short /kən/ (something like “I c’n do it”), the negative can’t does not reduce, but keeps a full vowel and regular syllable length: /kænt/. This in fact is the best clue for distinguishing them when listening.

  • can /kæn/ → /kən/ (very short)
  • can’t /kænt/ (normal length, full vowel)


The verb ain’t was originally contracted from I am not centuries ago, but has become a general purpose negative verb in various dialects in the U.S and the U.K. – as a main verb or auxiliary, for first person (“I”) or any subject. The -ing ending of verbs often reduces to –in’ /ɪn/, as in doin’, goin’, swimmin’, etc.

  • I ain’t the one. You ain’t it. He ain’t it. (main verb)
  • We ain’t the ones. They ain’t the ones. (main verb}
  • I ain’t goin’. He ain’t gonna go. {semi-modal verb])
  • I ain’t gone yet. (negative for perfect / past tense)

4 Examples

1 What do you think? Whaddaya think?
2 What do you do after school? Whaddaya do after school?
3 What are you doing right now? Whaddaya doin’ right now?
4 I’m going to go see a Star Trek movie. I’m gonna go see a Star Trek movie.
5 Why are you going to see that? Why’re you gonna go see that?
6 Because I’m going to take my brother, and he likes those movies. ‘Cuz I’m gonna take my brother, an’ he likes those movies.
7 So what are you going to do? So whaddaya gonna do?
8 So what do you want to do? So whaddaya wanna do? / So whatcha wanna do?
9 I want to go to bed. I wanna go to bed.
10 My tooth is going to drive me crazy. It has to come out. My tooth’s gonna drive me crazy. It hasta come out.
11 Then you’ve got to make an appointment with a dentist. Then you (‘ve) gotta make an appointment with a dentist.
12 I’ve got to find one first. I don’t know any dentists. I (‘ve) gotta find one first. I dunno any dentists.
13 I have to go downtown. Come on, I’ll take you to a good dentist. I hafta go downtown. C’mon, I’ll take ya to a good dentist.
14 Good, because I also have to go downtown so I can go to the bank. Good, ‘cuz I also hafta go downtown so I c’n go to the bank.
15 Do you want to come with me? Do ya wanna come with me? / Wanna come with me?
16 Oh, no! We should have been at their house at a quarter of seven. [ = a quarter till seven] Oh, no! We shoulda been at their house at a quarter o’ seven.
17 Well, you could have gotten directions. That would have helped. Well, you coulda gotten directions. That woulda helped.
18 Yes, I must have been crazy to try to find their house out here. Yeah, I musta been crazy to try to find their house out here.
19 Wait. I think there may have been a gas station back there. Wait, I think there maya been a gas sation back there.
20 It might have been back a mile or so. It mighta been back a mile er so.
21 I don’t know. I think I would have seen it. I dunno. I think I woulda seen it.
22 You might have missed it while we were talking. Ya mighta missed it while we were talking.
23 You’re probably right. If I had seen it, we could have stopped and asked directions to their house. Yer prob’bly right. If I’d seen it, we coulda stopped an’ asked directions to their house.
24 What are you doing back here? Whatcha doin’ back here?
25 I’m doing what you told me to do. I’m doin’ whatcha told me to do.
26 What do you plan to do when you finish? Whatcha plan to do when ya finish?
27 Could you put in some regular gas? Couldja put in some regular gas?
28 Would you like me to check under the hood? Wouldja like me to check under the hood?
29 How much air should your tires have? How much air shouldjer tires have?
30 Did you say it’s leaking oil? Didja say it’s leakin’ oil?
31 What did you say? What didja say? Whadja say?
32 Did you say something? Didja say something? Dja say somethin’?
33 I bet you he’ll catch your cold. I betcha (h)e’ll catch yer cold.
34 You’re sick, aren’t you I betcha he’ll catch yer cold.
35 Don’t you know you should stay at home? Doncha know ya should stay at home?


4.1 Homophones

Note the following words that might sound just like contractions.


Contraction Homophone
I’ll

you’re

you’ll

he’ll

he’d

we’ll

we’ve

they’re

who’s

where’s

where’re (where are)

why’s (why is)

why’re (why are)

why’d (why would / did)        

why’ll (why will)

how’s

how’ll (how will)

aisle, isle

your

yule

heel, hill

heed

will, weal

weave

their, there

whose

wears

wearer

wise

wire

wide

while

house (verb /hauz/)        

howl