99: Three-word informal contractions

'How did you' can be reduced to 'howdja;' 'where did you' to 'wheredja;' and 'what did you' to 'whadja,' but those reductions can cost listener comprehension.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy and this is our 99th episode.

I want to warn you, today's lesson is rather complex. I recommend listening to episodes 94 and 97 before listening to this one.

Today I'm going to talk some more about informal contractions. Episode 97 was about how the words used to became useta, and episode 94 was about how could you became couldja and would you became wouldja. I explained that those reduced forms are called informal contractions and that there is nothing wrong with using them in your own speech.

It is your own choice for how perfectly you want to articulate your speech, and it should depend somewhat on your own current level of pronunciation. If native English speakers already understand you pretty well, you can use more informal speech patterns. If native speakers are still asking you to repeat yourself frequently, then you might choose to keep your speech closer to how the dictionary shows you to pronounce words. If your audience includes other non-native speakers, then you would also probably choose to speak more formally.

The benefit of speaking informally is that you will sound more fluent to native speakers and your listeners will assume that you have a better command of English. Remember, you never want your informality to cost comprehension by your listeners. Therefore, I teach the following three-word informal contractions with caution.

Listen to the following three-word contractions, first uncontracted, then as a contraction.

how did you: howdja
where did you: wheredja
what did you: whadja

Let's begin by looking at the first two words of those contractions:

how did
where did
what did

Those words could easily contract even if they weren't followed by the word you. Listen to them as contractions:

how did: how'd
where did: where'd
what did: wha'd

In those contractions, the word did is shortened to just the d sound. I'll say them again:


Here they are in sentences:

How'd she do that?
Where'd she put my keys?
Wha'd she do to my car?

All of those sentences had the pronoun she following the contraction (how'd she, where'd she, wha'd she). If I use the pronoun you instead of she, then another level of assimilation occurs. Yes, this is the same assimilation I talked about back in episode 94. When the d sound is followed by the y sound, the two sounds combine into a single j sound. In addition to the assimilation, the word you is reduced to yu because it is a function word.

Listen to our new, three word contractions:

how did you: howdja
where did you: wheredja
what did you: whadja

I'll put those contractions into sentence:

Howdja do that?
Wheredja put my keys?
Whadja do to my car?

I'll say those sentences again, and I want you to repeat after me:

Howdja do that?
Wheredja put my keys?
Whadja do to my car?

If you want to see these contractions written, I created a new Pronuncian lesson for informal contractions. That lesson includes the more frequently used informal contractions, and these and other three-word contractions. I'll link to that lesson from the transcripts for this lesson. You can find the transcripts for this episode at www.pronuncian.com/podcast.

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