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Basic Emphasis Pattern: Structure Words,

Part 3

Reducing structure words even more:

The reduced can and the silent H

The reduced can

The word “can” can also be reduced to /kʰʌ:n/. The vowel in
can is reduced to schwa, but this does not happen in the word
can’t, in which it is pronounced as a diagraph: /kʰænt/.


 John can write very well.

/dʒa:n kʰʌ:n rayt ’vɛrɪ wɛ:ǝl/

 John can’t write very well.

/ dʒa:n kʰænt rayt ’vɛrɪ wɛ:ǝl /

Take turns with a partner reading the following sentences.
Student 1 reads either (a) or (b). Student 2 answers.

1. a. John can write very well. a. Yes, I agree.
b. John can’t write very well. b. That’s unfortunate.
2. a. Can you go tonight? a. Yes. I finished my work.
b. Can’t you go tonight? b. Unfortunately, no.
3. a. The audience can hear a. That’s good.
the speaker.
b. The audience can’t hear b. That’s terrible!
the speaker.
4. a. We can always eat a. Yes, I prefer that.
before class.
b. We can’t always eat before b. No, sometimes not.
5. a. Did you say they can a. Yes, it’s possible.
b. Did you say they can’t b. It’s impossible.
6. a. The Johnsons can afford a. Oh, good!
the trip.
b. The Johnsons can’t afford b. That’s too bad.
the trip.

The silent H
Pronouns are usually reduced so much that words like he,
him, her, hers, his, and them lose the beginning /h/-sound.
(In the case of them the /ϴ/-sound is also dropped.)

This rule only applies to these words in any position within the
sentences except at the beginning of them.


Written from Slow, full Fast, reduced

Is he? /ɪ:z hiy/ /’ɪ:ziy/
Give her /gɪ:v hʌr/ /’gɪ:vǝr/
Would he? /wʊ:d hiy/ /’wʊ:ɾiy/
Sell them. /sɛ:ǝl ðɛ:m/ /’sɛ:ǝlɛ:m/

As you may have noticed with these examples, linking is

especially important with the silent H.

Take turns with a partner reading the following sentences.
Student 1 reads either (a) or (b). Student 2 answers.

Student 1 Student 2
1. a. Did he go? a. No, he didn’t.
b. Did she go? b. No, she didn’t.
2. a. Is her work good? a. Yes, she does well.
b. Is his work good? b. Yes, he does well.
3. a. Give him a message. a. He isn’t here.
b. Give her a message. b. She isn’t here.
4. a. Did you take her pen? a. No, it’s mine.
b. Did you take your pen? b. No, I left it.
5. a. Is this his apartment? a. He lives across the street.
b. Is this Sue’s apartment? b. She lives across the street.
6. a. Is he busy? a. No, he isn’t.
b. Is she busy? b. No, she isn’t.
7. a. Can he read? a. Yes, quite well.
b. Can she read? b. Unfortunately, no.

Linking over the silent H
Practice the following dialogue.

Stage Manager Where’s our singer?

Assistant I think he’s practicing, sir.
Stage Manager But we need him on state now!
Assistant Well, you know how nervous he gets.
Stage Manager Did you tell him the concert’s about to
Assistant It sounds like he’s practicing just as fast as
he can.

Read the following limerick.

A Train Ride
A singer once went to Vancouver,
Thinking the move would improve her.
But the trip was so long,
And her voice grew son long,
At Toronto they had to remove her.