Some phrases sound the same, even though they are written differently and have different meanings, because of the pronunciation habits of Americans.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to talk about homophone phrases.
Today I’m going to talk about how reductions can make homophone phrases. A homophone is a pair or set of words that have different meanings and often different spellings, but sound the same, like flour / flower.
For example, three sentence fragments: got a / got to / I’ve got to. They’ll all sound the same when we reduce them in a sentence. I got a new car, I got a new car, got a, got, a I got a new car. Or, I got to test drive it, I got to test drive it, got to, got to, I got to test drive it. Or, I have got to go. I’ve got to go, got to, got to. I’ve got to go. When students realize this, there is sometimes a bit of panic: how will people know which one I’m saying. I want to put you at ease: you never need to worry about that. The context will always make it clear.
Another example: ‘had her’ and ‘hatter’ — I’m sure you know the Mad Hatter is a character in Alice in Wonderland. One thing I try to stress with my students: when we’re doing a reduction, like dropping the H in the word ‘her’, we don’t want it to sound like a separate word. We want it to sound like an extra syllable, part of a bigger word. So ‘had her’, had’er, had’er, two words, should sound just like ‘hatter’, ‘hatter’, one word. Had her, hatter.
I had her bring it to me at work.
The Mad Hatter is a fun character.
Think about this any time you’re working with the reduction of her, or dropping the H on any other H reduction. It should sound like an extra syllable tacked on to the end of the word before.
Let’s look at some more examples of these homophone phrases:
let her / led her / letter — I let her leave work early, let her, let her. I led her the wrong way, led her, led her. I didn’t get the letter, letter, letter.
but her / butter — I invited her, but her mother said no, but her, but her. When I bake, I usually use butter instead of margarine, butter, butter.
gave him / gave them — Now here we’re dealing with two different words that sound the same when they reduce. Both HIM and THEM reduce to the schwa-M sound. So ‘gave him’ sounds just like ‘gave them’. I gave him a new shirt, gave him, gave him. I gave them my old TV, gave them, gave them. Again, you don’t need to worry that they sound the same. Based on context, people will know what you’re talking about.
So there it is, just another interesting part of American English pronunciation.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.