4 Keys to Understand Americans Who Talk Fast

By 15 January 2018 Video lessons 26 Comments
understand Americans


Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and today, I have a fun topic for you: real American English, the things your American friends and colleagues say to each other.
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Not the proper correct English of school books, but the real stuff, so you don’t feel so lost in conversations with a group of Americans.

Let’s go!

Get your American Accent Survival Kit

If you like today’s topic, you’ll love my American Accent Survival Kit. It’s a free lesson plus exercises to instantly understand 12 everyday expressions Americans say fast, like /whuh TZAH’?/ and /whudjuh DO wih thi’/ Click here to get that practical kit for free. And now, are you ready for some real English?


Key 1:  Fast-talking Americans pronounce “What do you” differently.

When we Americans are talking to each other, it sounds fast to you because we don’t articulate every word. I think everybody does this in their native language, but since you’re learning English, it sounds fast to you, like there’s no break in between the words.

So you read “What do you” but you hear either /whuhduhya/ , or /whutcha/Read the sentences here, and listen to the way they sound in spoken English, in the video.

What do you want to do tonight?
What do you think we can do?
What do you for a living? (That means “What’s your job?” What do you do for a living?)
What do you want for dinner?

Listen next time you hear Americans speak, whether it’s in real life or on TV. You’ll hear /whuduhya/ and /whutcha/!

Key 2: We don’t always use auxiliary verbs in our speech

You want some help with that?

Mike coming with us?

You had lunch yet?

Did you notice that in all of those examples, the auxiliary verbs “are” and “do” were missing. To be grammatically correct, you would say:

“Do you want some help?”

“Is Mike coming with us?”

“Have you had lunch yet?”

But when we make questions, sometimes we just cut off the auxiliary verbs “do”, “be”, and “have”. Here are a few more examples of correct questions, and what you’ll hear in the real world.

Do you have a problem? =  You have a problem?

Are they leaving tomorrow? =  They leaving tomorrow?

Have you eaten yet? =  You eaten yet?

Or, as we say in the south, where I’m from /djee’ yet/ Ahaha, yep. That unidentifiable sound, /djee’ yet/ means “Did you eat yet?”

Haha… good luck.

understand American English

Key 3: Present perfect simple: It’s optional

If you’re like 98%… no 100% of my students, you have major difficulties knowing when to use the past simple, like “Did you see Mark?” and when to use the present perfect simple, like “Have you seen Mark?” If you want some revision on those two tenses, I did an episode on it way back, that you can watch.

But here’s a secret to make your life easier: in American English we often just use the past simple. You probably learned that with the adverbs just, yet, and already, present perfect simple is the correct tense.

But guess what?

Americans say things like: “I just finished this project” instead of “I have just finished this project., or “We didn’t buy the house yet” instead of “We haven’t bought the house yet”, and “I already saw him twice today.” instead of “I’ve already seen him twice today.”

And the same is true with questions:  “Did you just finish?”, instead of “Have you just finished?”, “Did you buy the house yet?” instead of “Have you bought the house yet?” and “Did you see Mark already?” instead of “Have you seen Mark already?”

Of course there are exceptions. It IS English, but don’t be surprised when you hear this “wrong” structure. And good news, if you just can’t decide which tense is correct, use the past simple. It’ll be ok, I promise.

Key 4: /t/ sounds like /d/…or disappears

Random example: This little city’s pretty! Lit-tle. Ci-ty. Pre-tty. NmmMmm. That’s /luhdduhl/, /sihddee/, and /pruhdee/.

When a /t/ sound comes in between vowels sounds, it sounds more like a /d/. This little phenomenon even has its own name: the flap T. And it also happens at the end of words like “thought of”, which sounds like /thawduh/

So if you hear an American friend say /ah thawduh lidduhl sum’pin/  /ah thawduh lidduhl sum’pin/  that’s “I thought of a little something.”

This /d/ sound is also in numbers, like /thurdee/ and  /fordee/, or thity and forty.  /thurdee/ and  /fordee/. But other times the /t/ sound disappears, like in /twuhnnee/ /twuhnnee/, which is… you guessed it: twenty.

Be sure to watch the episode so you can hear how these expressions sound in real spoken English:

Now, what about you?

What other interesting things have you heard in American English?

Maybe something Americans said, that you thought was wrong. Or just something you thought was strange. Tell us about it in the comments, and let’s continue the conversation there!

Alright you guys, thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next week!

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