If you’re ready to move beyond fluency to perfect English you’re in the right place! In this video you’ll learn the most important words in the English language, getting detailed analysis on each word’s use and pronunciation.
This is the 4th in a series of 10 videos on the top 100 most-used English words! This video makes sure you know the precise way to say and use the 31st through 40th most commonly used words in English.
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Today you’re getting video 4 in the 100 most common words in English list. We’re going over the real pronunciation, not the full pronunciation, not the pronunciation you might have been taught, but the pronunciation that Americans actually use in spoken English. If you didn’t see video one, click here to watch it now. It is important to understand what we’re doing here studying reductions.
We start this video with number 31, and yes, it’s a great reduction. The word OR. You might have learned that the pronunciation of this word is ‘or’, like it would rhyme with ‘more’ or the number ‘four’. But ‘more’ and ‘four’ are content words. That means they will often be stressed in a sentence, given more time. ‘Or’ is a function word. That means it’s not stressed in the sentence. It’s not one of the most important words, and it’s said very quickly. Remember, English is a stress-timed language. That means all syllables are not equal in length. We have long syllables and short syllables, and speaking with that contrast is really important in sounding natural in American English.
So ‘or’ isn’t pronounced ‘or’ in conversation, that’s too long, it’s too clear. We need it to be shorter. It’s actually ‘or’, said very quickly, low in pitch. It can also be reduced. Then it’s pronounced ‘or’, the vowel reduces to the schwa. You don’t have to try to make the schwa, it gets absorbed by the R sound. Just make an R. Rr– Let’s put it in a sentence: Would you like white or brown rice? White or brow?
Would you like white or brown rice? White or brown? white-rrr rr– rr– rr– rr–
Just an R sound linking these two words. I’m leaving Monday or Tuesday. Monday-rr. Monday-rr. Rr– rr–
Monday or Tuesday. Just an extra R sound between. Great rhythmic contrast.
If you’re just jumping into the series, you may be thinking, how important are reductions, how frequent are reductions? Out of the 31 most common words in English that we’ve studied so far, only one is always stressed. Thirty are usually unstressed or reduced. So there’s your answer.
Most common words: What’s 32? The indefinite article ‘an’. An. Unstressed, it reduces to the schwa, an– an– we actually already covered that one when we learned about the indefinite article ‘a’ or ‘a’back in video one of this series.
33: Will. If this is the only verb in the sentence — I will. He will. – then it’s stressed. But most of the time it’s not the only verb, it’s used to indicate something in the future.
I like fishing. That’s right now, present.
I’ll like fishing when I learn more about it. This is the future. The word ‘will’ is usually written and spoken in a contraction. I’ll like fishing when I learn more about it (in the future). “I will” becomes “I’ll”, but I reduced it. I’ll– I’ll–
I’ll like fishing— just like the word “all”, said very quickly. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll.
I’ll like fishing when I learn more about it. What other WILL contractions might you hear? You’ll, we’ll pronounce this more like ‘yull’. He’ll, in a sentence, this will sound more like ‘hill’ or ‘hull’.
He’ll be coming by at three. He’ll.
She will. She’ll. This can be reduced: she’ll or shull.
She’ll have the report ready soon. She’ll. “It will” becomes “it’ll”, with a Flap T. This is just like the word “little” without the L. These are both tough words, and I have a video on the word ‘little’ which might make this contraction easier to pronounce. I’ll put a link here and in the description below.
This schwa-L ending, the contraction of WILL, can go at the end of any third person singular noun: “the dog” becomes “the dog’ll”: The dog’ll need to be walked soon. “Tuesday” becomes “Tuesday’ll”. Tuesday’ll be better. “John will” becomes “John’ll”. John’ll be here soon.
Note: in writing, these might show up as a misspelling, as not a word. But this is how we speak. This contraction, this reduction of will. If it’s a pronoun, like “she’ll”, then it’s not considered a misspelling. But this is a case where how we speak English is different from how we write it. It’s common to reduce, and say: John’ll.
John’ll be here at three” rather than “John will be there at three.”
We will, “We’ll”.
You might here this as: we’ll or wull. Two different reductions. We’ll be late. We’ll be late.
“They will”, “they’ll”, will often reduce and sound like “thull”. They’ll be hungry when they get here.
Third person plural, again, if you write this as a contraction, it will show up as a misspelling, but speaking this way is very common. “The kids will” becomes “The kids’ll”. The kids’ll be tired. The kids’ll be tired. A dark L at the end of the word.
Wow. There was a lot to talk about with the word “will” because of the way it contracts and reduces with so many different words!
Number 34: My. A possessive pronoun. This is my boyfriend. My shirt’s too big. We don’t reduce it, we don’t change or drop one of the sounds, but it is unstressed. This is the word’s most common use.
But, it can be used another way. It can be used as an expression or an interjection to show surprise: Oh my! Maybe it’s even showing a little disapproval. My! In these cases, it would be stressed, it would be longer, it would have the up-down shape of stress.
Number 35 in the 100 Most Common Words in English list: one. It’s a little word, but it has a lot of different uses. As a noun or an adjective, it will probably be stressed. For example: We’re looking for one teacher to join our team. One.
But it can also be used as a pronoun, and in that case you might hear it reduced. Instead of “one”, it will be ‘un’. I need a new phone, this one’s going to die. This un— this un— this un— This one’s going to die.
This one’s going to last longer, but that one’s cheaper.
That un—this un– Did you notice the pronunciation?
This un—that un—nn—nn—nn–
The apostrophe S is for the contraction IS. This ‘uns’, that ‘uns’.
Now, you don’t have to pronounce this way, you can say “this one’s, that one’s”. But you’ll definitely hear Americans occasionally reduce the word to ‘un’.
Number 36. The word ‘all’. This one, I would say, is usually going to be stressed and a little longer. It’s most commonly used as an adjective, or a noun, or an adverb. Did you eat all the cake? We’ve been having all sorts of problems. So here we are, number 36. The 36th most common words in English, and this is only the second word that doesn’t have a reduction, or isn’t unstressed in some cases. Wow. The other one was “say” back at number 28. What does this mean?
Many of the most common words in English are words that are unstressed or reduced. If you ignore these, you can never sound natural, because they are everywhere. And chances are, when you learned the words, you did not learn the reductions, and you did not learn how to make them unstressed. So we’re trying to fix that now.
Let’s keep going, number 37. The word “would”. I’m actually going to also work on 67 at the same time, the word “could”. And I’ll throw in as a bonus, a word that’s not on the list, the word “should”.
Actually, as with many of the reductions on this list, I’ve made a video that goes over these pronunciations. Should I just put it in here? Would you like to see it?
Should. Would. It is a good one, it’s useful! Let’s watch!
These words all rhyme. The pronunciation is simpler than it looks. The L is silent. So they all have their beginning consonant, the OO as in Book vowel, and the D sound. Should. Would. Could. They rhyme with ‘good’, ‘hood’, and ‘wood’. Yes, ‘would’ and ‘wood’ are pronounced the same. They’re homophones. So this is the pronunciation of these words in full.
But as you know, Americans like to reduce less important words in a sentence to make the important words stand out more and these are three words that can be reduced.
As with many reductions, we change the vowel to the schwa and speed up the word. Should. Should. Would. Would. Could. Could.
You’ll hear Americans go further though and drop the D. I noticed I did this when I was doing a Ben Franklin exercise on some of my own speech.
Should we get dinner?
Should we get dinner? One of the things I noticed is I’m dropping the D sound. Shou we— shou we–
Should. Should. Just the SH sound and the schwa. The lips are flared and the teeth are together. Sshhh—the tongue tip is pointing up to the roof of the mouth but it’s not touching it. Sshhhuuu—shhu—Then, for the schwa, everything relaxes and you go into the next sound: shuh– shuh– shuh we– Should we call her? Should we. Should we.
I should go. Should go. Should go. I should go.
Now, if the next sound is a vowel or a diphthong, I wouldn’t drop the D. It would be too unclear to go from the schwa into another vowel. So for: Should I? Should I? For example, I make a really quick flap of the tongue for the D. Should I. Should I. Should I say that? Should I try it? Should I call him?
If dropping the D seems like too extreme of a reduction for you, you certainly don’t have to do it. Just keep ‘should’ unstressed, really quick: should, should, should.
Now, let’s look at ‘could’. The K sound is made when the back part of the tongue comes up and touches the soft palate in the back. K, k, k, k.
Could we try later?
Could we? Could we?
Again, just dropping the D. K sound, schwa, next word. Could we? Could we?
Saying it with a D when the next word begins with a vowel or a diphthong.
Could I? Could I come back later? Could I? So just a nice, short, could.
Finally, would. For the W sound, the lips are in a tight circle, and the back part of the tongue lifts. Ww—ww—wuh–
Would we want to do that? Would we? Would we? Would we want to do that? Or with a really quick D sound.
Where would I go? Would I– Would I– Would I–
So you can reduce these words by changing the vowel to the schwa. You can reduce them further by dropping the D, unless the next sound is a vowel or a diphthong.
Number 38. Actually, we’re going to do 38 and 39 at the same because they’re homophones!
What are homophones? Words that are spelled differently and have different meanings but that are pronounced exactly the same. 38 is ‘there’ and 39 is ‘they’re’. If homophones seem confusing to you, you’re not the only one. I actually have a very long video that goes over many homophones in American English, you can click here to see it, or check the video description.
There, they’re. Fully pronounced, we have “there”. But, both of these can reduce. The word ‘there’ can be used lots of different ways, and a common way is the phrase “there is” or “there are”. `
These phrases will often be in contraction, “there’s” and the “there’re”. But these contractions can reduce when we say them. Then it becomes “thurs” and “thur”.
There’s a good reason why I can’t tell you. There’s a good reason– There’s, there’s, there’s.
It has the schwa rather than the EH vowel. It’s said more quickly.
The contraction “there are” gets even less clear, it’s really just one syllable “thur”. R reduces, and we lose it. It has the same sounds as the reduced “there”, so it blends in. There’re lots of reason why I can’t tell you. There’re lots. There’re. There’re. There’re lots of reasons.
What about the contraction “they are”, “they’re”? Yes, that also reduces. It might not be pronounced “they’re”, but instead, “thur”, with the schwa. They’re in the kitchen. Thur, thur. They’re in the kitchen.
And the last word for this video, number 40, “what”. This word can reduce. Fully pronounced, it’s “what”, and the T is a Flap T if the next word begins with a vowel or diphthong: what are you going to do? What are, what are. Rrrr— Flap. The T is a Stop T if the next word begins with a consonant: What were you thinking? What were, what were. Stop T.
But, if the next word begins with a D, then we can reduce the word ‘what’ by dropping the T. Make the vowel a schwa. So the word ‘what’ becomes a very quick “wuh, wuh”. “What did” and “what do” are common word combinations where we do this.
What do you think? What do, what do, what do. The word ‘what’ is simply ‘wuh’. What did you say? What did, what did, what did. Again, the word ‘what’ is simply ‘wuh’, wuh.
So there they are, words 31-40, we had a lot of reductions in there. Let’s keep going down this list of the 100 most common words in English to study the pronunciation, and I don’t mean the full, official pronunciation, I mean how the word is actually used in a sentence in American English. Look for the next installment in this series, coming soon.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.