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How to pronounce “has to”, “have to” and “had to” in connected speech

We use “has to”, “have to” and “had to” all the time when we speak, but did you know that something interesting happens to them in connected speech? Find out how in this episode.


Podcast intro:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 370. And today we are going to talk about how to pronounce the phrases ‘have to’, ‘has to’, and ‘had to’.

Hey, hey, everyone. Thank you so much for being here and tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. Today we have a quick pronunciation lesson for you, and it’s more about connected speech and reductions than it is about pronunciation, but you know it all goes together.

And today, as you could already figure out, we’re going to talk about the three phrases – have to, has to, and had to, because these are phrases we use all the time. And sometimes we are not even aware how it’s actually pronounced in connected speech, when people use it frequently in a conversation. So I want you to know it, and this is why I recorded this episode. All right, so let’s go ahead and listen to today’s episode.

Video transcript:

How to pronounce ‘have to’, ‘has to’, and ‘had to’, using connected speech in American English. Hi everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today, we are going to talk about the phrase ‘have to’, or ‘has to’, or ‘had to’, when talking about the past. We use this phrase when we want to express necessity or obligation. “It has to happen”. But we can also use it when we are sure that something is true or that it will happen. “She has to be there”.

Now, today I specifically want to talk about how to connect this phrase together, and what happens to the sounds of this word when it’s connected. But first, if you’re new to my channel, then hi, my name is Hadar, I’m a non native speaker of English, and I am here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom.

I have a ton of resources, free resources for you to learn with me, so go check out my website at hadarshemesh.com. You can also follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway. Or just subscribe to my channel and get notifications when a new video comes up every week. Alright, so back to today’s topic.

Here’s the thing about English. When we have very common phrases that are used frequently or when there are parts of the sentence that are a little less important than other parts, we tend to reduce those parts and connect them together. Now, I’ve talked a lot about connected speech, and I’m going to link to all those videos in the description below, but connected speech allows you to group a thought together, and as a result, you deliver your message more clearly, so it’s actually an important part of speaking English with clarity.

And when there are parts in the sentence that are a little less important than other parts, we tend to connect them and reduce them. And that is going to be the case with these phrases that I talk about today. Let’s start with the phrase ‘have to’. The ‘to’ is a function word, and it’s connected to the word ‘have’. When we connect two words together, we basically glue them as if it’s one word: have-to. However, the ‘to’, when it’s unstressed, is reduced to a schwa, so this is how it’s going to sound: have-tuh.

“We have to make this plane”. “You have to remember to let me call my father”. “We have to go on”.

However, there is something interesting that happens in English when there are two sounds together – a voiced consonant and a voiceless consonant. A voiced consonant is a consonant that is produced with the vibration of the vocal cords. And a voiceless consonant is a consonant that is produced just with air.

So the V is voiced, and the T is voiceless. It’s actually really hard to pronounce a voiced consonant and then a voiceless consonant together within the same syllable – [hæv.tə]. So the voiceless consonant kind of says to the voiced consonant, “Listen, don’t work too hard”. And the voiced consonant, the V in this case, becomes voiceless, so it’s actually easier to pronounce.

So instead of saying [hæv.tə], can you guess what sound it turns into? an F. So, when we say it together and when we connect it, we don’t say [hæv.tə], we say [hæf.tə]. Try it: hafta, hafta. So we want to treat this entire phrase not as two separate words, but as one: hafta, hafta. “I hafta go there”. “I hafta pay my bills”. “We hafta plan better”. “They hafta be home”.

Now, ‘has to’ follows the same rules. ‘has’ – there is a Z sound at the end, even though it’s spelled with an S, it’s a Z. And then we have [tu], [hæz.tu]. But we want to reduce it – [hæz.tə]. But now, the T, the voiceless consonant, affects the voiced consonant, so what do we get? [hæs.tə].

“He has to make a choice”. “He has to pay you half in advance”. “Listening to what he has to say”.

‘It hasta be right’. ‘She hasta be there’. ‘He hasta find his cat’. hasta, hasta, hasta.

The last one is ‘had to’. ‘Had to’, when we talk about the past: [hæd.tu] – [hæd.tə] – [hæt.tə].

“So, we had to come”. “Finally, he had to try”. “Had to bring in the reinforcements”.

The D turns into a T sound, because that’s the voiceless version of the D – ‘hata’. “It hata be right”. “I hata go to the library”. “They hata tell him he was wrong”. ‘hata’.

Okay, good. So to wrap it up, ‘have to’ is pronounced as ‘hafta’. ‘Has to’- ‘hasta’, ‘had to’ – ‘hata’. hafta – hasta – hata.

Now say each phrase 10 times out loud just to get used to it, and then try to use it in a sentence yourself. So this is a great vocabulary practice, grammar practice, and of course, pronunciation practice.

That’s it. If you liked this video, consider liking, sharing, and subscribing to my channel. And definitely come check out my website at hadarshemesh.com for more resources for you to speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom.

Thank you so much for being here. And remember, don’t be afraid of making mistakes or not getting it right. The most important thing is that you share your voice, you speak up, and you say what you want so you get what you need.

Have a beautiful day, and I’ll see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
370. How to pronounce “has to”, “have to” and “had to” in connected speech

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2 Responses

  1. please give your preciouse 15 minutes to me to get interview and it will be beneficial for me to learn english and get english speaking confidence.
    First it must free for experience and then afterwards i will pay if you wish.

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