Shoulda, woulda, coulda! Not only is this an idiom in American English, but each of these ‘words’ individually appear frequently in American English. The ‘a’ at the end is a reduction of ‘have’. Learn how to pronounce these words, and study some sample phrases.
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Have you ever heard someone say shoulda?
>> Oh yeah, I shoulda done that.
What’s it mean? In this American English pronunciation video, you’re going to learn about shoulda, woulda, coulda.
‘Shoulda’ is a reduction of ‘should have’. I made a video years ago about dropping the H in words like ‘have’ – we do it all the time in spoken American English. But in ‘shoulda’, we’re going a lot further than just dropping the H. We’re reducing the AA vowel to the schwa, and we’re dropping the V sound. All we’re left with is the schwa, uh, uh. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Note that the L is silent in these words, and they all have the UH vowel, as in ‘book’, where the lips flare a little and there’s some tension in the back of the tongue as it lifts a bit. Uh, should, uh, would, uh, could. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Let’s look at some sentences.
I shoulda been there.
You coulda been hurt!
I shoulda seen it coming.
I woulda been there.
We coulda tried harder.
I woulda thought so.
Sometimes I pronounce these words like this, all the way reduced, and sometimes I make a light V sound, vv, vv, vv. There’s no reason why I do it one way or another, I just know that I do, and you’ll probably hear it both ways.
Now, you don’t want to try to write them this way, but speaking? Yes, do it. These reductions sound like natural American English.
Shoulda, woulda coulda. Shoulda, woulda, coulda: these three words together is a phrase we use sometimes to say ‘oh well’.
>> Man, I wish I had bought Apple stock ten years ago.
>> Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Let’s learn the negative too:
Should-not-have. Americans will say this: shouldn-uh. Drop the word ‘not’ and just make an N sound. So it’s going to sound like two or three syllables, depending on how fast you transition from D to N: shouldn’t-uh. Right after ‘should’, hold out an N: shouldnnnnn. The tongue position for D and N is almost the same. Shouldnnnnnnnnnn-uh. Then just release the tongue to make the schwa. Shouldn-uh, shouldn-uh. This is the same for couldn’t have, couldna, and wouldn’t have, wouldna.
Let’s look at some example sentences:
Shouldn’t have, shouldna.
I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.
It shouldn’t have started already.
Couldn’t have, couldna.
You couldn’t have known.
We couldn’t have made it anyway.
Wouldn’t have, wouldna.
I wouldn’t have said that.
It wouldn’t have mattered.
I hope you’ll now be more comfortable identifying these phrases when you hear them, and reducing them yourself in conversation.
If there’s a word or phrase you’d like help pronouncing, please put it in the comments below. Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list by clicking here or in the description below to keep up with all my latest videos – it’s free.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.