Words that can be surprisingly difficult to hear

Some words can be difficult to hear if the vowel in them has been reduced to a “schwa” (the final vowel in the word “better”).

The following words are often spoken in full, but they are often spoken with a schwa sound instead!

  • to (and the “to” in “into” and “onto”)
  • am (e.g. after the word “what”, in a question)
  • for, from, are, was, than, that, have, had, can, shall, must, some, as, will, would, should, could, when, us, them, but, does, do
  • “and” – when the vowel is reduced, the [d] is not pronounced.
  • “you” – reduction with this word is considered non-standard.
  • “there” when used with “is” or “are” for the concept of existence, e.g., “Are there any cakes?”
  • “where” (Reduction is rarer with this word.)
  • The word “our” can be reduced to the sound of the word “are” (when “are” is pronounced fully).