Do you find that your English sounds too formal compared to your peers? It can be tough to transition from learning proper English on paper to sounding like a native when you speak out loud.
But don’t worry! Throughout this article, you will learn all about casual contractions, words, and phrases to use when engaging in informal English conversation.
Here’s a sneak peek:
Fluent English speakers love to squish words together and shorten words. It may make us sound dumb, but we can’t help but let shortened words glide from our mouths when engaging in conversation.
Example: Imma swim in the pool on my vacay.
Formal translation: I am going to swim in the pool on my vacation.
Disclaimer: I tend to over-shorten words, so it’s okay to not use words like vacay (vacation) or wat bot (water bottle) when in an English conversation. People don’t understand me half of the time—I like to think of myself as an innovative word-inventor, a modern-day Shakespeare (I’m not).
On the other hand, most fluent English speakers like to blend words, like I’m going to becomes I’m gonna or Imma. Before we get into these, let’s take a look at regular contractions—it’ll help prep you for the cacophony of upcoming informal contractions!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Fluent English Speakers Love to Use Contractions
It’s totally normal to use contractions in both a formal or informal conversation setting! For example, if you are in a business interview, it’s okay to say:
I’d love to work for you instead of I would love to work for you. You can use either-or, of course.
However, when writing a formal letter, it’s best to avoid contractions. (You can learn more about writing a formal letter in English by following this link!)
It’s different in informal settings!
You can use either-or, of course, but if you want to elevate your overall fluency, it helps to use contractions when engaging in an English conversation. What are some examples of contractions? Let’s take a look.
- I am--->I’m
- Are not---> Aren’t
- Cannot---> Can’t
- Do not--->Don’t
- I would--->I’d
- Should not--->Shouldn’t
- Could not--->Couldn’t
- She would--->She’d
- He would not--->He wouldn’t
- Has not--->Hasn’t
- Had not--->Hadn’t
- Have not--->Haven’t
- Might not--->Mightn’t
- I will--->I’ll
- He will not--->He won’t
- Is not--->Isn’t
- She is--->She’s
- He has--->He’s
- That is--->That's
- That has--->That’s
- They are--->They’re
- What will--->What’ll
- Were not--->Weren’t
- Let us--->Let’s
It’s a lengthy list, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at the basic rules:
Instead of saying had or would add an apostrophe and d. For example, He wanted to kiss her, but she’d (she had) already left or she’d (she would) go if she wasn’t sick.
Instead of saying not add an n, apostrophe, and t. For example, she hasn’t (has not) finished her homework yet or I wouldn’t (would not) dare run across the road with my eyes closed. Exception: Will not! For example, he won’t (he will not) sing for his aunt at the next family gathering!
Instead of saying have add an apostrophe and ve. For example, I’ve (I have) eaten already or we’ve (we have) eaten already.
Instead of saying has or is add an apostrophe and s. For example, she’s (she is) going home or there’s (there has) been a mistake. You can also replace us, and add an apostrophe and s. For example, let’s (let us) go.
There are more...
Rules! Fun, right? Okay, learning rules may not be the most amusing thing in the world, but it’s (check out that contraction) worth it. I promise.
While it’s beneficial to use contractions when you’re (another contraction—should I stop pointing out the contractions I use?) speaking, there are also some exceptions! What are they?
- When you want to emphasize your sentence or make a point. For example, I canNOT stand to be around Fred anymore. He IS so annoying.
- When you use short answers. For example:
Question: Is Sarah coming over tonight?
Answer: She is!
It would sound weird to answer the question with: She’s.
Learn informal contractions
Okay, now we’re (another contraction) on to the fun part: informal contractions!
What you’re about to learn may differ from proper English pronunciation, but I can assure you that the following lesson details proper, but casual, relaxed, natural, informal English pronunciation.
Don’t forget to use these informal contractions in informal settings. No one will take you seriously if you show up to a business meeting muttering things like:
Imma knock y’all off your feet with this marketing prezzie! Get ready folks!
Translation: I’m going to knock you all of your feet with this marketing presentation. Get ready folks!
(Please don’t say either version in a business meeting.)
Okay. Moving on. Let’s take a look at some informal contractions!
- I’m going to ---> I’m gonna or Imma (Imma--some, but not many, spell it I’ma)
- I don’t know--->I dunno
- I shouldn’t--->I shoulda
- I couldn’t--->I coulda
- I wouldn’t---> I woulda
- I had to--->I hadda
- I have to---> I hafta
- She has to---> She hasta
- I want to--->I wanna
- I have to go--->I gotta go
- I need to--->I needa
- What’re you doing---?What-chu doing (or what-cha)
Remember when Kanye West stepped on stage and interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs? Well, he used an informal contraction. Can you spot the regular and informal contraction?
Kanye: “Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”
Which informal contraction did he use? I’ma (Imma)
Which regular contraction did he use? I’m
Translation: Yo, Taylor, I am really happy for you, I am going to let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!
Want another example? Try and pinpoint who sounds more fluent in the following conversation:
Kelsey: Hey, Tanya! How are ya? What-cha doing today?
Tanya: Hello, Kelsey. I am fine. How are you?
Kelsey: I’m good! Imma play soccer after school today. Wanna come?
Tanya: I do not think I can play soccer after school.
Kelsey: No problem! Do you think you can play the day after tomorrow? I can’t play tomorrow ‘cause I gotta go to the dentist. Gross.
Tanya: I cannot play soccer the day after tomorrow either. I have not studied for the exam on Friday. Let us plan for two Saturdays from now?
Kelsey: Okay! I’ll mark it on my calendar! I hafta study for the exam, too. Maybe we can study together?
Tanya: I am going to study with Mark, so you cannot come. I am so sorry.
Kelsey: That’s okay! Enjoy your cute date with Mark! I gotta go play soccer now. See ya!
Tanya: See you again.
Yikes. It looks like Tanya just doesn’t want to hang out with Kelsey. Anyways, who sounds more fluent? Kelsey.
Fluent English Speakers Don’t Use These Sayings (Often)
Tanya also used some sayings that fluent speakers don’t use very often. Can you figure out which sayings stuck out? If not, no problem. Continue reading to find out the answers.
1. I am fine
Some fluent English speakers may respond to How are you? with I am fine. But most native speakers in North America respond with I’m good. Sometimes I’m fine insinuates that you are not doing well.
In fact, most only respond to How are you? with I’m fine if they want to let you know that they aren’t doing well, but they don’t want to talk about it. It can be taken as a passive-aggressive response. However, it may not be the same in every country or region.
It’s up to you test the waters to see how people respond to How are you?
2. See you again
People may use see you again in books, songs, or poems (it pairs nicely with the word friend). But it’s rarely used in an English conversation. Here are some other ways to say goodbye:
- See ya
- I gotta go
- See you soon
- Have a good one
To Sum It Up…
There you have it! Some tips and tricks that can help you sound fluent! What do you think? Will you try these out in your next English conversation? Just remember to only use the informal contractions in an informal, casual setting.
Want to learn more English pronunciation and grammar rules? Consider reading about the four must-know grammar rules for any English speaker!