Faint words are spoken differently


By Chris Nkwocha and Abigail Onyemefie

Some English words—pronouns, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and articles known as function or grammatical words have two pronunciations—the loud forms and the faint forms. The loud forms are used mainly when the words are said in isolation, that is, not in company of other words; when they stand alone. For instance, if you asked to list conjunctions, you may list them as follows: and, or, but, also, and on. Here the conjunctions are standing alone and must be given full or loud pronunciation.

How to Use Faint Forms

The faint forms are generally used in rapid speech, that is, in normal everyday conversation. In normal conversation, faint forms are (1) completely unstressed. (2) The vowels in them are either reduced to /ə/ or they completely disappear. When this happens, we are left with the consonants only: and becomes nd or n; for becomes f; from becomes frm. And this poses some pronunciation difficulty to many non-native speakers of English—the pronunciation of a cluster of consonants without vowels.

Examples of Faint Forms in Use

Now take note of the following expressions and see how they are expressed in the careful and loud form and in the rapid and faint form.

We have come for the money.

1) Careful and loud form:   /wi: hæv kᴧm fɔ: ðɪ ʹmᴧni/: We have come for the money. Six utterances.

2) Rapid and faint form:   /wi:v    kᴧmfə ðə ʹmᴧni/: We have come for the money. Three utterances.

In the first expression, the speaker carefully said each word like a talking machine—a robot. So each word is clearly said in their loud forms. In the second sentence, the speaker rapidly said the words and this resulted in using the faint forms of have, for, the. he also connected come, for, the, and said them as one word. So we heard comeforthe.

Let’s note that rapid speech is not the same as fast speech. One can be fast in speaking and yet not using the faint forms of words and not even connecting words.

Again, in the second expression, the words have, for, and the are in their faint forms, which are used in normal English conversation. The loud forms are used only when the words are stressed or emphasized.

Loud and Faint Forms in English

Now, let’s see how the following words are pronounced in their loud and faint forms, and also take some examples of their usage in rapid and connected speech. 

     WORD           LOUD FORM           FAINT FORM          RAPID SPEECH

  1. And             /ænd/                           /ən, nd, ənd, n/        Black /ən/ white
  2. A                  /eɪ/                              /ə/                                He bought /ə/  doll.
  3. AM             /æm/                            /əm, m/                      I /m/ tired.
  4. Has             /hæz/                           /həz, əz, z/                 The place /əz/ changed.
  5. Are              /a/                                /ə/                               The girls /ə/ here.
  6. For              /fɔ:/                             /fə/                               Come /fə/ tea. Come fər a meal.
  7. His             /hɪz/                            /ɪz/                                 I like /ɪz/ tie.
  8. Have          /hæv/                          /həv, əv, v/                   The boys /əv/ gone. I’ve broken it.
  9. Is                /ɪz/                              /s,z/                                Where’z John?
  10. Some         /sᴧm/                          /səm/                             I need /səm/ tea.



Now try your hands on this short quiz and see if you understood the lesson.

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