Strong & Weak Forms

In connected speech, many of the ‘small’ words we use very frequently tend to take on a different ‘shape’ from the one listed in the dictionary. All of these words belong to the category of function words, i.e. they are words that have little semantic content of their own, but tend to have more grammatical or referential function in relating content words or higher syntactic units to one another. Function words are essentially closed class words, such as pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliaries, etc. Below, you’ll find a table listing these words, together with their strong or dictionary form, as well as their potential weak forms. The following tables are based on Roach (2009), with slight modifications/additions.

In general, weak forms do tend not to occur in sentence-final position or in contrastive/emphatic use.


orthography strong form(s) weak form(s)
the ðiː ðɪ, ðə
a/an eɪ, an ə, ən
some sʌm səm, sm̩


orthography strong form(s) weak form(s)
his hɪz ɪz
him hɪm ɪm
her hɜː hə, ə, ɜː
you juː jʊ, jə
your joː
she ʃiː ʃɪ
he hiː ɪ
we wiː
them ðɛm ðəm, əm
us ʌs əs, s


orthography strong form(s) weak form(s)
than ðan ðən
at at ət
for foː
from fɹɒm fɹəm, fəm, fm̩
of ɒv əv, v
to tuː tə, tʊ
as az əz, z
there ðɛə ðə


orthography strong form(s) weak form(s)
and and ənd, ən, n̩d, n̩
but bʌt bət
that ðat ðət


orthography strong form(s) weak form(s)
can kan kən, kn̩
could kʊd kəd
have hav əv, v
has haz əz, z
had had əd, d
will wɪl l
shall ʃal ʃəl, ʃl, l
should ʃʊd ʃəd
must mʌst məs, məst
do duː də, d
does dʌz dəz, z
am am əm, m̩
are ɑː ə
was wɒz wəz
were wɜː
been biːn bɪn

Sources & Further Reading:

Roach, P. (2009). English Phonetics and Phonology: a Practical Course (4th ed.). Cambridge: CUP.