Study the ARE reduction. There are many reductions in conversational American English. It’s important to know what they are to improve listening comprehension, but also to use the reductions in speech yourself. They are a key part to sounding natural.
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I’ve gotten a few questions recently about the word ‘are’. Specifically someone recently asked if they were hearing correctly “What you doing?” instead of “What are you doing?” That is not grammatically correct, and a native speaker would not say “What you doing?” However, a native speaker may reduce the word ‘are’ so much that a non-native speaker would have problems hearing it. The word ‘are’ can be reduced simply to the schwa/R sound, er, er, er. So in this sentence, What are you doing?, you may very well hear whater, whater, whater you doing? Whater you doing? With the er very low in pitch and very fast. What are you doing? What are, what are, it sounds like the word ‘butter’. Butter, what are, what are you doing?Now that you know what you’re listening for, see if you can hear it in this sentence: What are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing?The word ‘are’ is often shortened in writing as well, as a contraction with ‘you’, ‘we’, or ‘they’. They’re, for example. But it doesn’t have to be written as a contraction for it to be pronounced with this short ‘er’ sound.Let’s look at a few more sentences where the word ‘are’ can be reduced. My cousins are coming tomorrow. My cousins are, my cousins are, My cousins are coming tomorrow. My cousins are coming tomorrow. The cookies are good. The cookies are, are, the cookies are good. Where are the girls? Now here the word before ends in the schwa/R sound, er, where er the girls? I would explain it as a re-emphasizing of the er sound: Where er the girls? But in fast speech, it actually all blends together. Where are the girls? Where are the girls? So it sounds like the word R is being dropped. Where are the girls?
And someone else asked about the word ‘are’ and the word ‘were’ – about them sounding the same when they’re both reduced. The word ‘were’ will always have that W sound at the beginning, so there is a difference in the pronunciation of these words. Let’s look at an example sentence. The kids are there. The kids er, er, er, just the R sound, the kids are there. The kids were there. The kids ww, ww, were, were, the kids were there. The second one has that W sound in it. The kids are there, the kids were there. The kids are there, the kids were there. Can you hear the difference?
Now that you know this concept of the reduced word ‘are’, try it out in your speech. And listen for it when you’re listening to native speakers. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.