WEAK AND STRONG FORMS

There are a number of words in English (almost all of which belong to the
category called FUNCTION or GRAMMATICAL WORDS) which can be pronounced in two
two different ways - a strong and a weak form.
Students who wish to acquire a high level of oral performance must be
aware of their existence, since failure to produce them will affect English
quite considerably and even to misunderstandings.
English-speaking people find the strong forms unnatural and learners of
English can misunderstand English speakers, who will surely use weak forms.

1. WHAT ARE WEAK AND STRONG FORMS?

Weak forms and strong forms are an important part of English
pronunciation. The same word can have very different pronunciation depend-
ing on what it does in the sentence.
The grammatical words are strong when they are produced in citation(in
isolation or alone) and in instances of contrastive stressing. However, when
they occur in sentences and there is no contrastive stressing, they are weak.

Compare: i.a) What are you looking for? (The word FOR is strong)

b) I work for a company in the city.( FOR here is weak)

ii.a) She is our sister. (OUR is weak )

b) Our sister is very talented.(Here, OUR is strong for
emphasis.)

iii. a)You're not Spanish, are you? In fact, I am. ( AM is strong)

b) I am studying English.( weak form)

iv. a) Did you find the puppy? I found a puppy.
( a is strong- meaning: not the one you were referring to)

b) Frances has a new puppy. (a here is weak)

There are some rules to learn. The strong form will be used when:

a) they occur at the end of a sentence, as in:

"Mangoes are what I'm fond of." (of is strong)

b) a weak-form word is being contrasted with another word, as in:

" The flowers are from him, not to him."( from ...to )

c) a weak-form word is given stress for the purpose of emphasis,as in:
"You must marry that young girl!" (must)

d) a weak-form word is being "cited" or "quoted", as in:
"You shouldn't put 'and' at the end of a sentence."

In general, weak forms are much more common than strong forms. In
fact, weak forms are the normal pronunciations. They occur on small, less
important words (like prepositions and articles) that link the operative,
key content words of a sentence together). They are very often pronounced
with a 'schwa' and so, sometimes a bit difficult to hear properly.

2.STRESSED OR NOT?

Most of these words are prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, articles and auxiliary verbs. Such words are not usually stressed because they are generally found together with other more important words which carry the stress.
So the unstressed (weak) pronunciation is the normal one. This usually has the vowel / schwa/ or no vowel; a few weak forms are pronounced with/ I/. However, these words can be stressed(strong) when they are emphasized, or when there is no other word to carry the stress. In these cases, the 'strong' pronunciation is used. This has the vowel that corresponds to the spelling.

Compare: ~~I must go now. ( must - unstressed)
~~ He really MUST stop smoking.( stressed for emphasis)

~~ Paul was late. It was raining. ( was - unstressed)
~~ Yes, it WAS.( was -stressed at the end of the sentence; there's
no other word to be stressed)

~~Where have you been?
~~You might have told me. (HAVE - unstressed)
~~We've fine weather today. What do you HAVE?( non-auxiliary V.)

Connected negatives always have a strong pronunciation:
can't mustn't wasn't

3. List of Words with WEAK and STRONG FORMS:

i. Articles and Adjectival Words: a, an, the, some, his, her

ii. Pronouns: he, hi, her, us,them, there

iii.Conjunctions: and, as, but, than, that

iv. Prepositions: at, for, from, of, to

v. Auxiliary and Modal Verbs: am, is, are, was, were

have has, had

do, does

shall, will

can, must, would
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