Lesson Summary 

Can you say… “You would”, Would not have” and “may have”, naturally? When speaking, native English speakers will often use contractions to speak more quickly! One of the fastest ways to start sounding more natural when you speak English is to use contractions! They will help you to increase the speed of your spoken English – Native English speakers use them all the time!

Join me today to practise how contractions are pronounced! That’s right… This is a pronunciation lesson… So, you’ll need to practise out loud with me!

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

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Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! So I’ve been talking about modal verbs over the last few weeks, about all of their different uses. Now, don’t worry if you missed out on them, the links are right here. But one way to make sure that you don’t miss out on any of my weekly English lessons here is to subscribe! Subscribe by clicking the red button down there.

You’ll get a message telling you as soon as there’s a new lesson here on the mmmEnglish channel, so you can keep studying with me and keep up-to-date with all of the new lessons.

Okay so we’ve been talking about modal verbs a lot and in this lesson I want to focus on the way that they sound when they’re spoken. So this is a pronunciation lesson. That means you have to be ready to join in! Say the words out loud with me. You must do this! Well, you must do it if you want to improve your pronunciation and I’m pretty sure that you do.

Let’s get our modal verbs up on the screen. We’ve got:

  • could
  • should
  • would
  • may
  • might
  • can
  • will
  • must
  • shall

For the record, I hardly ever use shall and amongst all of my native English speaking friends and family, I hardly ever hear it. It’s quite formal and perhaps even a little old-fashion now. It’s the kind of thing that I would hear my English grandma say but not my friends. So I’m actually just going to remove it from this lesson. I’m going to get in trouble for that! But I want to focus this pronunciation lesson on contractions and ‘shall’ is very rarely contracted anyway.

And one final disclaimer. You are practising with me and my Australian accent here, which is a reasonably standard one but there are differences between native English-speaking accents.

Okay enough of that, let’s just get started with these words, ‘could‘, ‘should‘ and ‘would‘. Now the first thing that you need to pay attention to here is that the ‘L’ in all of these three words is silent. Don’t try and pronounce that out. It’s actually easier than you think!

Would‘ is pronounced just like ‘wood‘ and ‘could‘ and ‘should‘ are also the same. Could, should, would.

So let’s look at all of the possible contractions for these modals. Now we learn in earlier lessons that any of these modal verbs can be used to talk about the past simply by adding ‘have‘ followed by the past participle verb.

So in spoken English ‘have‘ is often contracted or shortened. ‘Could have‘ is often said could’ve. So the ‘have‘ is shortened to just Now if you’re listening to native English speakers ‘ve. Now if you’re listening to native English speakers you might not even hear that sound. ‘Could have‘ can also sound like coulda.

You coulda brought the dog.
You could have brought the dog.

And the contracted pronunciation of ‘have‘ is the same for all of the modal verbs.

Should have’ becomes should’ve or shoulda.

We shoulda left earlier.
We should’ve left earlier.

Would have‘ becomes would’ve or woulda.

My dad would have known what to do.
My dad woulda what to do.

Might‘ and ‘have‘ become might’ve or mighta.

She mighta taken the keys.
She might have taken the keys.

May‘ and ‘have‘ = may’ve or even maya – if you’re listening to a native speaker.

I may have lost his address.
I maya lost his address.

Must‘ and ‘have‘ becomes must’ve or musta.

We musta left our tickets in the car!
We must have left our tickets in the car!

Remember, it’s okay to use these contractions in informal writing but in formal writing, exams, reports and letters, use the full word ‘have‘. And if you are ever unsure, just write ‘have‘, it’s not too formal.

Okay so when we use these modal verbs in a negative sentence, ‘not‘ is often contracted to the modal verb. They’re pushed together – that’s what a contraction is.

So ‘could‘ and ‘not‘ is contracted and it sounds like couldn’t. Shouldn’t, wouldn’t.

So the ‘not‘ sounds like at the end of the modal verb.

Okay let’s go through this in a little bit more detail.

We’ve got /’kʊd/ + /ənt/ = /’kʊd(ə)nt/

I couldn’t believe it! It was such a surprise!
I couldn’t believe it!

/’ʃʊd/ + /ənt/ = /’ʃʊd(ə)nt/

Shouldn’t we wait for Sam?
Shouldn’t we wait?

/’wʊd/ + /ənt/ = /’wʊd(ə)nt/ unless they really needed it.

They wouldn’t ask you for money unless they really needed it.
They wouldn’t ask you.

/’mʌɪt/ + /ənt/ = /’mʌɪt(ə)nt/
or /’mʌɪt(ə)nt/ depending on the accent.

You mightn’t believe me, but I’m telling the truth!
You mightn’t believe me!

/ˈmʌs/ + /ənt/ = /ˈmʌs(ə)nt/

Notice that the middle ‘T’ is not pronounced in the negative form. It’s mustn’t, not must-n’t.

You mustn’t wear those shoes in the house.
You mustn’t wear those shoes.

Now of course, there are a few irregular negatives which you already know.

‘Will not’ is won’t.
‘Can not’ is can’t.
‘Shall not’ is shan’t.
And ‘may‘ doesn’t even contract with ‘not’. You just need to say ‘may not’.

Okay so now are you ready for level 10 pronunciation training?

These contractions get a little bit more difficult when we start using negative modal verbs to refer to the past with ‘have‘. Then we have a structure that looks like this:

SUBJECT + MODAL + not + have + PAST PARTICIPLE VERB

And yes, all three words can be contracted together in spoken English. Okay get ready for this!

‘Could not have’ = couldn’tve

Although you’ll never see it written like this in English but you will hear it spoken like this, all the time, by native English speakers.

I could not have done that.

‘Should not have’ = shouldn’t’ve

The kids should not have been in the room.

‘Would not have’ = wouldn’tve

He would not have approved this plan.

‘Might not have’ = mightn’tve

She might not have heard you say that.

‘Must not have’ = mustn’t’ve

They must not have brought their son.

So that’s it for this pronunciation lesson. It was a lot to take in, wasn’t it? A lot of tongue twisting. But you really should go back and watch this lesson a few times and practise out loud with me. Practise with me! You can’t improve your pronunciation just by listening can you?

You need to imitate me, you need to copy me as I say all of the different contractions through this lesson and all of the example sentences. In fact, imitating a native English speaker is a really great way to practise and improve your pronunciation. It’s going to help you to sound more natural as you speak English because you can listen to the sounds that you should be making and imitate them straight after.

Now if you want to keep practising like this, by imitating me, then try one of my imitation lessons right here, or here – that one’s good as well.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week for another lesson here on mmmEnglish. Bye for now!

mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!