16: Reduced Pronouns: 'he, him, her,' and 'them'

Learn how and why to NOT say the first sound of the words 'he, him, her,' and 'them.'


Hi everyone. Welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American Pronunciation podcast. This is podcast number 16. If you are just joining us, my name is Mandy.

I decided to stay on a topic related to rhythm today, since that is what we've been studying since episode number 12. In fact, today's podcast about reduced pronouns has a lot of similarity to podcast 12, which was about common contractions.

If you don't remember the grammatical term, a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. It is a word like he or she or they. We use them all the time. While there are no surprises with the pronunciation of most pronouns, there are four in particular that have unusual pronunciation issues: he, him, her, and them.

These four pronouns, when they are not the first word of a sentence or clause, become very similar to a contraction. With the words he, him, and her, we will omit the h sound at the beginning of a word and link the remainder of the word to the word before it using the linking rules we learned in the last two podcasts. Here's an example.

If I reduce the pronoun and link the words watch + him, I get watch 'im. I take off the h sound of the word him, Then I link the ch sound at the end of the word watch to the first sound of the word him because it now begins with a vowel sound. Listen carefully again. Watch 'im. Watch 'im.

Listen to an example with the word he, and I'll add an informal contraction also, just for fun.

Does 'e wanna come along?

Did you hear it? Does 'e. I removed the h sound of the word he, then linked the final z sound of the word does to the long e sound of the reduced pronoun, he. I get does 'e.

Here is an example with the word her: I like 'er a lot. So, I took off the h sound of the word her and linked the remainder of the word to the word like. I ended up with like 'er.

Finally, we have the word them. Most students hate the word them because it begins with a voiced th sound and it is hard to say. Episode 1 was all about voiced and unvoiced th sounds. If you've forgotten about them, go back and listen again for a little review. I have good news for all of you, though. You can remove the voiced th sound from the word them when it does not begin a sentence. You must link the remainder of the word with whatever was before it. Then you don't have to say that voiced th at all!

Here's an example:


Give 'em a sample.


Listen again:


Give 'em a sample.


Now, the reduced pronoun of him 'im and the reduced pronoun of them 'em sound quite similar. But your listener should know which one you mean by the context.

All of the example so far were easy to link, because I chose words that ended in a consonant sound. If the word before the reduced pronoun ends in a vowel sound, though, you need to follow the rules for linking vowels. We studied this last week in Episode 15.

Let's listen to some examples of using a reduced pronoun after a word that ends in a vowel sound.

show + them becomes show 'em, with an distinct w sound between the words.
carry + her becomes carry 'er, with a y sound added between the words.

The only way reducing pronouns works is by linking the reduced pronoun to the word before it. There are two times that we do not reduce pronouns. The first time is when it is the first word of a sentence. The second time is if we are emphasizing the word for some reason.

As an example, if I weren't emphasizing the word he in this sentence, it would sound like this:

I thought 'e was picking me up.

But if I was emphasizing the fact that I thought it was him that was going to pick me up, I would say:

I thought he was picking me up.

It may seem very hard to notice, but a native speaker and listener would immediately perceive the difference. Most Americans don't expect a person who doesn't have English as a first language to do this, but you will sound more fluent if you can.

That's all for today. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn. The transcripts for this week's show are online at www.pronuncian.com. You can email comments or suggestions to me at podcast@p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.com.

Thanks for listening everyone.