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Colloquial Contractions in American English, Part I

The topic above looks a bit complicated, but it's actually quite easy. "Colloquial" means "casual" as opposed to "formal," and a "contraction" is just the shortening of words. So let's talk about some of the ways that words are shortened in casual speech in American English. 

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In American English, the colloquial contractions you'll hear most often are:

"kinda" [kind of], "wanna" [want to], and "gonna" [going to].

Captions 8-9, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions

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These words are just casually spoken contractions of "kind of," "want to," and "going to."

 

I just kinda stay away from all that. It's not part of my life.

Caption 77, Ask Jimmy Carter - Interview with Cameron Diaz

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You do wanna keep your resume to one page.

Caption 4, Job Hunting - 4 Resume Do's & Don'ts

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You also do wanna highlight the results, the experiences.

Caption 16, Job Hunting - 4 Resume Do's & Don'ts

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What are you gonna [going to] do with it when you grow up?

Caption 8, A Charlie Brown Christmas - Snowflakes

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You definitely do not want to use these kinds of informal words in formal writing, for instance when applying for a job! 

 

There's another similar contraction that you will commonly hear among native speakers of American English: 

 

I'll talk to ya later, Mick. I gotta go.

Caption 32, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon - Goofy's Grandma

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I mean, you show up and your hair's gotta be in place and the lipstick has to be right.

Caption 43, Nicole Kidman - Batman Forever

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The conjunction "gotta" derives from "got to" or "have got to," in the sense of "have to" or "must". A more formal version of the sentences above would be "I have to go" or "I must go," and "Your hair has to be in place" or "Your hair must be in place."

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Further Learning
Watch this video on Yabla English to learn about more contractions, and search the videos on Yabla English for more real world examples of these colloquial contractions used in a real world context.

The Phrase "Used To"

The phrase "used to" is a great one to know in English, as it has three different functions. 

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1. First of all, "used to" is the participle of the verb "to use" combined with the preposition "to." Note that in this case the "s" in "use" is pronounced more or less like a "z." The sentences below are about something being utilized for a particular purpose:

 

Java isn't the same thing as JavaScript, which is a simple technology used to create web pages.

Captions 6-7, Business English - About Java

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"Kinda," for example, combines "kind" and "of," but the word "kinda" is most often used as a casual synonym for "rather," and is used to modify an adjective or an adverb.

Captions 16-18, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions

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2. The phrase “used to” can mean “accustomed to.” In this case, "used" is pronounced with a soft "s" rather than a "z" sound. To "get used to" something is to gain experience or become comfortable with it to the extent that you expect it: 

 

Now I know that you're used to seeing me in warmer climates.

Caption 1, British Gas - Top Tips on Preparing Your Home for Cold Weather

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I remember Madonna saying the colored contacts she wore for “Evita” were pretty uncomfortable and hard to get used to, for example.

Captions 45-46, Bohemian Rhapsody - Six Facts about the True Story

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3. When we talk about habitual actions in the past in English, i.e. something you did on a regular basis, we often use the construction “used to” + infinitive. Here, the "s" in "used" is also pronounced with an "s" sound.

 

It's a lot more interesting and enticing than it used to be.

Caption 35, Alaska Revealed - Tidal Bores, Icebergs and Avalanches

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...and I used to go there every Saturday and go to the market.

Caption 32, Creative Space - An Artist's Studio

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Further Learning
You can discover many instances of "used to" on Yabla English and get used to using this phrase yourself! As you can see, it is used to discuss not only practical uses, but also life experiences in the past and present. When you watch the videos, make sure you pay special attention to the difference in the pronunciation of the "s."

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