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Wanna Improve Your Fluency? Use Reductions!

Image representing students learning how to use reductions

 

What’s the biggest difference between a native speaker and an advanced level speaker of English? Often, the advanced level student uses better grammar when they speak.

Of course, no one wants to make embarrassing mistakes, or to make it more difficult for the other person to understand them. You shouldn’t be lazy about mastering the rules. Plus, in an exam, you should try to be as accurate as you possibly can.

But in real life? Well, in real life, if you expect other people to speak correctly all the time, with perfect use of grammar, it will actually make it harder for you to understand them.

One of the most common ways that the English language changes in everyday speech is through reductions. This is when we roll two or more words into each other, so that it sounds like one word., Some vowels or consonants are lost along the way, which can make it difficult to understand if you’re not used to hearing slang or casual speech.

Four of the most common examples of this are:

Gonna

This is short for “Going to”, for example “I’m gonna do my homework later” or “She’s gonna try and get the 7pm train”.

Be careful with this one though. English speakers typically use “gonna” to mean going to do something, not to go somewhere. So “I’m gonna go to the shop” makes sense, but “I’m gonna the shop” isn’t used as much, so people might not understand what you mean.

Wanna

This means “want to”. For example, “I don’t wanna go out tonight” or “Do you wanna coffee?”

This is an extremely common reduction in many English-speaking countries and many people don’t even realise they are doing it. In fact, it’s so common that you are likely to hear it in more serious or professional settings too. Just remember that, while it’s very normal to hear it spoken in this way, you would never write “wanna” in a formal context. Always write “want to”, even if you then say it aloud as “wanna”.

Kinda

This is short for “kind of”, which means the same as “sort of” or “similar to”. Again, this is very commonly used. You will hear people describe something as “kinda” or “kinda like…”, for example, “Lemons are kinda like limes” or “I thought he was kinda rude”. People often use it to soften an opinion or to try and make sure they sound polite when saying something that makes them uncomfortable. For example, “I kinda thought his first album was better”, or “I kinda felt like she wants us to leave”.

Gotta

This is a little more difficult, because it can be short for either “have got a/an”, which means the same as “have a/an”, or “got to”, which means the same as “have to” or “must”.

Of course, in spoken English it’s hard to tell the difference between “got a” and “gotta”. For example, “She’s got a really nice car” sounds more or less the same as “She’s gotta really nice car”, so you only really need to know this in case you see it written down!

However, when people use slang, and very often in pop music, people drop the “have” part of the sentence when they use “gotta” and turn it into the present tense. For example, you’ve probably heard Kanye West’s song Gold Digger, which starts with “I gotta woman, way over town” (and means: “I have got a woman on the other side of town”).

In everyday speech, you’re more likely to hear “gotta” used to mean “got to”. For example, you might say “I’ve gotta go,” meaning “I have to leave”. Or “I gotta finish this work by 5pm”.

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