I Wanna Understand Gonna

    17 May, 2019

    Today on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Valens in Rwanda.


    "Please explain how to use ‘gonna.'" – Valens, Rwanda


    Dear Valens,

    You probably hear native English speakers on television and in movies using reduced forms of words all the time. Examples are the terms gonna, gotta, wanna, shoulda and oughta.

    In spoken English, we often put words together. In the process, we also leave out some letters and the vowel sounds change a little. So the expression "going to" becomes "gonna."

    Reduced forms are informal speech

    Here are a few examples of reduced forms in formal and informal speech:

    Formal: What are you going to do tonight? Do you want to see a movie?

    Informal: Whatcha gonna do tonight? Wanna see a movie?

    Formal: Sorry, but I've got to do my homework. You ought to do yours, too.

    Informal: Sorry, but I gotta do my homework. You oughta do yours, too.

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    Note that the informal examples are how many people normally speak. It would sound very formal and, as a result, strange to pronounce every sound of every word. This shortening of sounds happens in many languages.

    Use reduced forms in speech, not in writing

    In English, you may not see the short forms in writing because writers are usually more careful to spell each word. But when a writer wants to show how a person is really speaking, these short forms can appear in books and, more commonly, in popular culture.

    Compare these examples from popular movies. The first is the reduced form of "Get out of there!"

    1. (phone rings. Tom Cruise answers) Cruise: Hello. Voice: Get outta there! They know. Get out!
    2. Woman: Get outta there.
    3. Man: Don't talk to him. Get outta there!

    Here are examples of "It's going to blow." [explode]

    1. Ironman: Got a nuke comin' in. It's gonna blow in less than a minute.
    2. Boy: But wait, but the plane - it's gonna blow up, it's gonna blow up!

    Sometimes, people have little time to tell others about their exact problem, so they use reduced form words. But people in everyday life also use reduced forms to seem friendly.

    It's fine to use terms like these when you are speaking with friends. It's better not to use them in English class or a formal situation, like an office.

    Remember that you should not write the reduced forms, except in informal communication to friends or family.

    That's Ask a Teacher for this week. So I've gotta get outta here.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    See the end of this article for a practice activity you can try.

    Dr. Jill Robbins on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    voweln. a speech sound made with your mouth open and your tongue in the middle of your mouth not touching your teeth, lips, or other parts of the mouth

    formal adj. (of language) suitable for serious or official speech and writing

    informal adj. (of language) relaxed in tone or not suited for serious or official speech and writing

    pronounce v. to make the sound of (a word or letter) with your voice

    spell v. to say, write, or print the letters of (a word or name)

    nuke - n. (informal) a nuclear weapon

    blow v. (informal) to explode; to damage or destroy (something) with an explosion

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    Practice Activity

    Say each sentence aloud. Use the reduced forms.

    Sentence Reduced form
    I'm going to leave tomorrow. gonna
    He's got to stop smoking soon. gotta
    Do you want to meet my brother? wanna
    They ought to bring a lunch. oughta
    What are you doing here? whatcha
    I will be out of town this weekend. outta

    For the last sentence, did you change "I will" to "I'll?" You get extra points for using another reduced form, then!