Connected speech in English Conversations.

This week we are going to look at  two phrases that are very common in English

What do you want to do?       

Do you want to…? 

These are two basic and very common phrases.    I am sure you all understand what they mean.      But when you hear these phrases in normal conversational speed English they will often sound very different to the way you might expect them to sound.

Listen to this sound file and write down what I am saying.

What do you want to do tonight?   Do you want to go out?  Do you want to go for a meal?  What do you want to eat?   Or,  do you want to go to the cinema or do you want to go for a drink?  Let me know….give us a ring.

Did you hear all the words in that sound file?

Leave me a comment and tell me which words you could and could not hear.    Did you notice how the sound of the words changed as I spoke them quickly?  I joined up the words and did not pronounce all the t  and d sounds.

Let’s look at why this happens.

What do you want to do ?   is a very common expression.     These words are often spoken together – we know what word is next in the sentence so we say them very quickly and connect the words together.

Try this yourself – say this phrase out loud.

What do you want to do tonight? 

Say the words out loud saying each word clearly.    Can you feel how your tongue and your lips have to move a lot?   To move from the end consonants to the first consonants is a lot of work for our lips and tongue muscles.    It is hard to pronounce all the t  and d sounds at the beginning and ends of the words.  We only talk like this when we are emphasising something, it makes us sound angry when we speak like this.  In normal speech native speakers connect the words together, we move our mouths quickly from one sound to another, and  the t  and d sounds disappear.

Listen to this next sound file.   I start off saying the words very slowly and gradually say them quicker.  I repeat the phrase getting faster and then say it slowly again.  When I  emphasise the t  and d ‘s my voice sounds angry to my native speaker ears.

In this sound file, I  gradually say the phrase quicker and quicker until it sounds very different.


What do you want to do tonight?

When I say the phrase very slowly you can hear me pronounce the  sound at the end of the words.    This is very unnatural speech.  I would never talk like this in a normal conversation unless I was very angry!   It takes more work to pronounce all the sounds so we don’t talk like this in everyday conversations.  When we do say things slowly and pronounce the T’s it is for emphasis.   It is not normal speech.

Now try this yourself.

Say   What do you want to do tonight?   slowly and pronounce all the sounds, make sure you can hear the   t and d at the beginning and end of words.     Now say it faster and faster.    Does it change to sound like  this ?

what do you want to do tonight?wha-cha wanna do tonigh ?

You do not need to speak in this fast way,  but you do need to be able to recognise the sound of the phrases when native speakers do this.

What do you think about this exercise?   Is it helpful?

Let me know in the comments and I will be back next week with another one for you to practice with.    If you want to read more about contractions like want to changing to wanna read this.

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5 thoughts on “Connected speech in English Conversations.

  1. Jean-marc

    what do tonight do you go go for a meal what wan go a cinema wan go for a drink let me now give us a ring

    I like that ,it is interresting but also frustrating not to arriveto hear there

    1. Helen Cunningham Post author

      Great – you are hearing all the main content words and so are understanding the gist of the message. All the words you can’t hear are the unstressed weak words. I have a special feature on these weak words that will be released soon.

  2. Marco

    For a not native English spoken it’s very hard to mimic a native speaker pronounce your same statement so fast as you did , but I find really useful try to catch the gist of what you said , in the way you did , even though it is not easy at least at first listening.

    1. Helen Cunningham Post author

      I am glad you are finding listening to this fast natural English useful. You don’t need to mimic this speed in your own speech. I give “real” speed exercises as this is the speed at which you need to listen to English in real life.

      If you listen a few times, it will train your ears to find the words when they are spoken quickly and blended together.


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