Many function words with H are reduced in conversational English by dropping the H: had, have, has, for example. Learn how these words should sound, and how to link them into the sentence so they sound perfect.
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In this video, I’m going to talk more about linking and reduction. I have done an ‘Intro to Linking’ video — if you haven’t seen that already, you might want to check it out. Today we’re going to talk about the situation with the letter H beginning a word. Let’s look at the following sentence as an example: I’ll tell her we’re leaving. I’ll tell her we’re leaving. I’ll tell her we’re leaving. I’ll tell her we’re leaving. Could you tell a difference in the two different ways I pronounced this? I’ll tell her … er … I didn’t pronounce the H in ‘her’. I’ll tell her we’re leaving. I reduced the word ‘her’ by leaving out the H. Perhaps you’ve noticed this. Native speakers do it quite a lot.
Now, if you drop the H, you have to be certain that you link it to the word before. Tell her, tell her, it’s almost like it becomes one word. Teh-ler, tell her. How do you think I’m going to pronounce this phrase? I’m going to drop the H, reducing the word ‘he’. And because I’m going to do that, I want to make sure that I really link things. So I’m actually going to almost think of the Z sound as beginning a word ‘zi’. Wuh-zi there? Was he there? Was he there? Try saying that all very smooth and linked. Was he there? Was he there?
Before we go further, let’s talk quickly about punctuation. A period, a comma, a colon, a semicolon, a dash: these things will all signify a stop, a break, a pause. So, we don’t want to link sounds over that kind of punctuation. Let’s take a look at an example sentence. At first he never came; he now comes regularly. Notice there was that pause there where the semicolon is. And because of that I didn’t link, and I didn’t drop the H in ‘he’ the second time. At first he never came: I do drop that H, reducing the word and linking. At first he, at first he, at first he never came; he now comes regularly.
So we’ve looked at ‘he’ and ‘her’, what are some other possibilities? If we’re going to reduce a word, it has to be an unstressed word. So let’s review which words we’ll stress, and which ones will be unstressed. Content words are stressed. These are nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, in general. Function words will be unstressed. These are words that don’t have a meaning on their own, like ‘with’ or ‘if’. These are prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and helping verbs.
So, common function words beginning with H: has, have, had. These are helping verbs. Example: What have you done? What have you done? Notice that the H is dropped in ‘have’, and the vowel is actually reduced from aa to the schwa: uv, uv, uv. That is how we’re pronouncing the word ‘have’ in the sentence. What have, what have, what have you done? And do note that it’s linked to everything around it. What have you, what have you, what have you done?
Another example: my friend has seen it twice. The word ‘has’ is pronounced without the H and the vowel sound is reduced to the schwa. My friend has, has, has, my friend has seen it twice. Also, again, it is linked to everything around it. My friend has seen it twice. Now, I want to point out that in ‘What have you done?’, ‘have’ is the helping verb for ‘done’. And in ‘My friend has seen it twice’, ‘has’ is the helping verb for ‘seen’.
Now if these words were the only verb in the sentence, the main verb in the sentence, they wouldn’t be reduced. Because then they would be the verb, not a helping verb. For example, I have two. Now, I may say ‘have’ very quickly, but I’m probably not going to drop the H, and I’m not going to reduce the vowel. I have two. Because it is the only verb in the sentence. Therefore, it is not a helping verb. It is the main verb. I have two.
How do you think I will pronounce ‘her’ here? If you guessed er, you’re right. I saw her sister in Chicago. I saw — er — sister, saw her sister, saw her sister. I saw her sister in Chicago.
And here, how will I pronounce ‘his’? Iz, iz, I will drop that H. What was his name again? What was, iz, name again? What was his name again? What was his name again? And how will I pronounce ‘him’? I will drop that H. ‘Im, ‘im. I told him no. I told — im — no. I told him no. I told him no. How will I pronounce ‘his’? I’m going to drop the H. Do you remember John? This is his sister. This is — is — sister. This is his sister.
RECAP: Function words are usually unstressed, and often unstressed words are reduced (reduced: a sound is dropped or is changed to another vowel, like AA changing to UH). Reduced words that begin with H are often pronounced: 1) with no H sound 2) linked to the word before Example: Was he there? Words that begin with H that often reduced and link this way: hi, her, his, him; have, had has (when they are helping verbs and not the main verb).
As you listen to native speakers, keep this in mind. Try to identify it and then imitate it. And when you feel comfortable, bring it into your everyday speech. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.