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What are the most common words in American English,
and how exactly do you pronounce them?
Today, you're getting the next video in the 100 most common words in English series,
this is video 6.
In this series, we're studying the real pronunciation.
This is likely different from what you learned in English class.
You see, in American English, we have all sorts of words that are unstressed or even reduced:
that means we change the pronunciation.
The set of the 100 most common words in American English contains many, many words that reduce.
If you haven't already seen video 1 and the other videos in this series, I suggest you start there.
These videos build one on top of the next, so click here to watch video one.
00:00:55,700 --> 00:00:58,820
Number 51: the word WHEN.

This word definitely reduces.
Fully pronounced, it's the W sound,
the EH as in BED vowel, and the N consonant.
You may be thinking, I've heard this word pronounced differently.
You may have heard it pronounce hhwen.
Hhh— when.
WH- words can be pronounced with a “hh”
sound before the W.
It's not necessary, and it's not my preference.
I think, just keep it simple, just use a clean W sound.
But in a sentence, this word can be unstressed and said more quickly.
Then you could write the vowel with the schwa or the IH as in SIT vowel in IPA.
becomes: when,
said very quickly.
If you don't know what IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet is,
I have a playlist of videos that goes over that.
Click here or in the description.
Let's look at some example sentences.
When are you going to stop by?
when are you—
I said that very quickly, unstressed.
When, when,
when are you going to stop by?
Another sentence:
It was better when we were kids.
When, when, when, when,
when we were, when we were,
Unstressed. Said very quickly.
It was better when we were kids.
You see, we don't want every word in American English to be fully pronounced,
Some of the understandability of English depends on the contrast
of stressed and unstressed syllables, clear and less clear.
Let's look at number 52, the word 'make'.
Now, this is a stressed word.
We have two categories of words in American English:
Content Words and Function Words.
Content words are nouns, verbs, like this verb 'make',
adjectives, and adverbs, and content words are what are generally stressed in a sentence.
M consonant, AY diphthong,
and the K sound,
is usually stressed in a sentence.
It has an up-down shape.
That's the stressed shape of intonation.
That's different from:
when, when, when,
which was flatter in pitch and lower.
shape of stress,
more clear.
I'll make you one.
Make. Make.
It would make things easier.
Make. Make.
Number 53.
Here, we have a beautiful reduction.
It's the word 'can'.
If 'can' is a main verb, then it's not reduced.
Who can help tomorrow?
I can.
Also, it doesn't reduce if it's a noun:
a can of soup.
But most of the time, 'can' is a helping verb, not a main verb,
and that means it reduces.
We change a sound.
Let's go back to the example:
Who can help tomorrow?
I can.
In the question:
Who can help tomorrow?
'Help' is the main verb.
'Can' is the helping verb.
Did you hear how I pronounced it?
Who can help tomorrow?
Who can help?
It's no longer 'can', but 'kn'.
Who can—
Who can help?
Short, flat, no vowel.
We write it in IPA with the schwa.
Kn, kn, kn.
Try that.
who can help?
I can see you.
the main verb, 'can' the helping verb.
Kn, kn.
I can, I can see you.
That's quite a reduction.
Very common.
Number 54: The word 'like'.
This word can be used lots of different ways, so it can be an adverb,
a noun, or an adjective, which would mean it's stressed,
or it can be a preposition or conjunction,
which means it will be a function word and is unstressed.
However, even when it's unstressed,
this word does not reduce.
Let's look at an example where it's stressed.
I don't like it.
I don't like it.
Here, it's stressed.
Like. Like.
Up-down shape of stress.
But what about this sentence?
He acted like nothing happened.
He acted like—
like, like, lower in pitch, much faster.
He acted like nothing happened.
He acted like nothing happened.
None of the sounds change so it doesn't reduce,
but it's pretty different from the stressed version.
Like, like, like.
One more example, and this is a really common use of the word.
We use this when we're telling a story,
something that happened to us,
and we're talking about what someone said or someone's reaction.
For example:
Yesterday I saw Jim walking home from school,
and I was like,
“Do you need a ride?”
And he was like, “No, I'm just going to walk.”
I was like,
he was like,
she was like,
you were like,
like, like, like, like, like.
All of these are examples of 'like' unstressed.
Number 55: Time.
Now this word, a noun, an adjective, a verb, is always a content word.
That means it will likely be stressed.
This is only the 6th word in this list so far that is always stressed.
We're on number 55.
That's crazy.
So if you thought every word you spoke needed to be clear and fully pronounced,
I hope this series is helping to change your mind.
This word is pronounced with the True T, because it's stressed,
and it has the AI as in BUY diphthong, and don't forget that M.
Lips have to come together.
There is no case where the lips don't come together for the M.
Time, time.
Crisp, clear True T, teeth come together for it:
ttt— time,
up-down shape of stress.
Let's look at a sentence.
What time is it?
A noun.
Or, you do sit ups for a minute, and I'll time you.
Time, time.
There, it's a verb, still stressed, same pronunciation.
Number 56: No.
Another word, the seventh word, that will generally always be stressed.
There is not a case where it would usually reduce or be unstressed.
No. No.
Up-down shape:
And please don't ever forget the lip rounding that goes into this diphthong:
I have no idea.
He voted 'no' on the sugar tax.
No, no.
That was a simple one, wasn't it?
What about 57?
57 is interesting.
The word 'just'.
It's either an adjective or an adverb,
and those are both content words, so it will generally be stressed.
And for the most part, we don't reduce stressed words.
They're important.
We only reduce and say quickly the words that are a little less important, the function words.
This word is interesting because it has a T,
and T has its own set of funny rules.
If you've seen many of my videos, you know them.
I talk about the T pronunciations a lot.
If the T comes between two consonants,
we often drop that T.
Well, that's a reduction.
Let me show you what I mean.
When the word 'just' is followed by a word that starts with a consonant,
there is a good chance that a native speaker will drop the T,
and just say: jus.
Jus' instead of 'just'.
I just thought, why not?
Just, just, just thought.
Just thought—
The ST ending is followed by TH,
the T comes between two consonants,
we drop it:
jus' thought, just' thought.
I just missed the bus.
I just missed—
just missed the bus—
S-T-M, drop the T.
Jus' missed, jus' missed, I just missed the bus.
Now, if 'just' is followed by a word that begins with a vowel or diphthong, don't drop the T.
Just make it a light, True T.
For example,
it's just Alex.
Just Alex— just, tt, tt, just Alex.
It's just Alex.
Number 58, another word that reduces.
This one is a function word: him.
And just like number 9, “have”,
number 16, “he”,
number 23, “his”,
number 29, “her”,
we often drop the H and link this to the word before.
For example, I gave him another one.
Gave 'im, gave 'im, gave 'im.
A very common reduction.
We do this with these function words that begin with an H.
Simply schwa-M.
Gave 'im.
Gave 'im.
Another example:
We want him to succeed.
Want him, want him.
Wait, what's happening to the T in 'want'?
I'm dropping the H,
so it doesn't come between two consonants.
Well, we'll find out soon,
because that's number 93 on the list of the 100 most common words in English.
59: Know.
You're thinking, wait, we already did that.
That was number 56.
Yes, but, different word.
'No' and 'know' are homophones.
That's right. That means they sound exactly the same,
even though they are two different words and they're spelled differently.
A verb. Usually stressed in a sentence.
N consonant, OH diphthong:
However, with really common phrases, we often make some reductions,
like how 'going to' becomes 'gonna'.
And with the really common phrase “I don't know”,
we make a reduction.
I dunno, I dunno, I dunno.
And, this can sound like the last sound is not OH:
I dunno, I dunno, I dunno, I dunno, o, o, o, o, o, o.
It's more like a quick 'uh' there.
Certainly not: know, oh, oh, with a full and stressed OH diphthong.
I don't know.
Number 60,
the last word for this video, the word “take”.
Usually a verb, sometimes a noun, it's a content word.
And generally, it's going to be stressed in a sentence.
Just like 'time',
it's a one-syllable stressed word that begins with a True T,
tt, AY, then the AY diphthong, and the K sound.
Can you take me there?
Take, take, take.
Or, I need to take it back.
Longer, up-down shape, more time, a stressed syllable.
so, we've gotten through our first 60 words in the 100 most common words in English list.
So far, there were only seven where I could say,
never do we reduce any part of this word in any case.
I expect as we keep going that we'll get more content words, but let's see!
Let's keep going down this list of the 100 most common words in English,
studying the pronunciation, and I don't mean the full official pronunciation,
I mean how the word is actually used in a sentence in American English.
Look for the next installment in this series, coming soon.
That's it, and thanks so much for using Rachel's English.
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