weak and strong forms

  • Some words in English have two pronunciations: one when they are
    stressed ,and one when they are not. Compare:
      I got up at /at/six o’clock.
      What are you looking at? /’aet/

    Most of these words_are prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, articles and auxiliary verbs. They are not usually stressed, so the unstressed (‘weak’) pronunciation is the usual one. This usually has the vowel /a/ or no vowel. The ‘strong’ pronunciation has the ‘written’ vowel. Compare:

      I was late. /w(a)z/
      It was raining /w(a)z/
      Yes, I was. /wdz/
      I must go now. /m(a)s/
      I really’must stop smoking. /rriASt/
      Where have you been? /(a)v/
      You might have told me. /(a)v/
      What did you have for breakfast? /haev/
      (Have is not an auxiliary verb in this sentence.)
      Contracted negatives always have a strong pronunciation.
      can’t /ka:nt/ mustn’t /’mAsnt/ wasn’t /’wDznt/
  • The most important words which have weak and strong forms are:
      Weak form Strong form
      a /a/ /ei/(unusual)
      am /(8)m/ /sem/
      an /an/ /sen/ (unusual)
      and /(a)n(d)/ /send/
      are /8(r)/ /a:(r)/
      as /az/ /sez/
      at /at/ /set/
      be /bi/ /bi:/
      been /bin/ /bi:n/
      but /bat/ /bAt/
      can /k(a)n/ /ksen/
      could /kad/ /kud/
      do /da/ /du:/
      does /daz/ /dAZ/
      for /fa(r)/ /fo:(r)/
      from /fram/ /from/
      had /(h)ad/ /hsed/
      has /(h)az,z,s/ /hsez/
      have /(h)av/ /hsev/
      he /(h)i/ /hi:/
      her /(h)a(r)/ /h3:/
      him /im/ /him/
      his /iz/ /hiz/
      is /z.s/ /iz/
      must /m(a)s/ /mASt/
      not /nt/ /not/
      of /av/ Iml
      our /a:(r)/ /aua(r)/
      Saint /s(a)nt/ /seint/
      shall /J(a)l/ /fsel/
      she /J./ /Ji:/
      should /J(a)d/ /Jud/
      sir /sa(r)/ /S3:(r)/
      some /s(a)m/ /SAm/
      than /6(a)n/ /6 sen/
      that (conj.) /6(a)t/ /6set/
      the /da; 61/ Ib’vJ
      them /d(a)m/ Ibeml
      there /6a(r)/ /6ea(r)/
      to /ta/ /tu:/
      us /as/ /as/
      was /w(a)z/ /WDZ/
      we /wi/ /wi:/
      were /wa(r)/ /W3:(r)/
      who /hu/ /hu:/
      would /wad; ad/ /wud/
      will / /wil/
      you /ju/ /ju:/
      your /ja(r)/ /jo:(r)/