What is casual speech?
Casual speech is the way you talk with others who are close to you or in everyday informal situations like riding the bus, shopping at the store, chatting on the phone, and talking to your co-workers during work breaks. It is the language that is used on television shows and in the movies and often in the lyrics of songs. Casual speech is generally a way to sound friendly like when speaking to waiters, receptionists, and fellow students. It is a way that most native speakers speak. There are different words, phrases, and ways that you speak when you talk amongst your friends and family members, with people of your same age, and in these everyday casual situations. It is different from formal speech.
Most languages have casual and formal ways of speaking. If you think of your own native language, you might easily come up with several examples of casual speech that you often use. Most people speak more formal to people who are older than themselves and in a more formal setting like a job interview, court hearing, and at your place of employment with clients and your boss. Americans are sure to use formal English for these important situations.
Let’s look more closely at casual English so you can increase your awareness of this type of speech in the English language. You don’t necessarily need to change the way you speak English, but understanding how casual speech sounds will help when you are listening to English and in your overall ability to learn English.
Some basic examples of casual use of English:
Contractions: He’s late for work. What’s up? This’s a great idea! That’s not really the right one.
Other contractions include aren’t, can’t, could’ve, couldn’t, couldn’t’ve, didn’t, doesn’t, don’t, hadn’t, he’d, he’d’ve, he’ll, how’d, how’ll how’s, I’d I’d’ve, I’ll, I’m, I’ve, isn’t, it’d, it’d’ve, it’ll, it’s, let’s, ma’am, might’ve, mustn’t, needn’t, not’ve, o’cloc, shan’t, she’d, she’d’ve, she’ll, she’s, should’ve, shouldn’t’ve, there’d, there’d’ve, there’s, they’d, they’d’ve, they’ll, they’re, they’ve, wasn’t, we’d, we’d’ve, we’ll, we’re, we’ve, weren’t, what’ll, what’re, what’s, when’s, where’d, where’s, where’ve, who’ll, who’s, why’s, won’t, would’ve, wouldn’t, you’d, you’d’ve, you’ll, you’re, you’ve.
Slang: Bail – leaving in a hurry; Chillin’ – spending time with your friends; For real – speaking honestly and truthfully; juiced – to be very excited or eager to do something
Check out these lists of slang words from articles written previously for talktocanada.com:
Simplified grammar and words: One example is to drop the word “that” from clauses as in I believed he could do it instead of I believed that he could do it.
There are also words that become simplified and acceptable in the English language like round for around; specially for especially; and words that are shortened that sound more casual and take less time to say: cell (cellular); prof (professor); phys ed (physical education); polis sci (political science); burger (hamburger); biz (business); caps (capital letters); celebs (celebrities); deli (delicatessen); exam (examination); gator (alligator); hippo (hippopotamus); info (information); intro (introduction); lab (laboratory); limo (limousine); mayo (mayonnaise); max (maximum); perm (permanent); photo (photograph); ref (referee); reps (representatives); rhino (rhinoceros); sax (saxophone); stats (statistics); temp (temperature); thru (through); tux (tuxedo); ump (umpire); vet (veterinarian), etc.
Filler sounds, words, and phrases: ahh, uhh, uhhm, mm, you know, like, basically, actually, literally, I think that, You know what I’m trying to say, etc.
If you listen carefully to casual English, you will hear lots of these. Fillers help the speaker gain time to think of what next to say in conversation. Often distracting if someone uses any number of fillers repeatedly, they do have a purpose and are commonly used by many English speakers, especially by children and young teens. However in oral presentations, the repeated use of fillers may become distracting to the audience and take away from the speaker’s message.
Some specific examples of casual English:
To becomes d’ – For example, when Americans speak quickly, the “t” in the word “to” in between two vowel sounds becomes more like a “d” sound (i.e., go to school), you would hear something more like go d’ school. Likewise, when the previous word ends in an “n” and “to” is between the “n” and a vowel sound (i.e., she will plan to go to the movies this Saturday), the “t” becomes more like a “d” sound. You would hear she will plan d’ go to the movies this Saturday.
And becomes ‘n – For example, when using the conjunction “and” you would hear more of an “’n” sound like Jae Cho and Mari Lee Yoo are my co-workers at the car company in Seoul becomes Jae Cho n’ Mari Lee Yoo are my co-workers at the car company in Seoul.
Don’t becomes dunno – For example, the word “don’t” is said as “dunno” like I don’t know where the company meeting for the marketing department will be held next month becomes I dunno where the company meeting for the marketing department will be held next month.
Let me becomes lemme – For example, “let me” changes to “lemme” like Let the boss know of that great idea for advertising becomes Let the boss know of that great idea for advertising!
That becomes thet – For example, when using the word “that” quickly in a sentence, you often hear “thet” instead as in Mr. Johnson is the director thet I recently hired to head up the IT department at the insurance company.
Want to becomes wunnu – For example, the sentence The company president will want to hire new employees after the New Year as the company expansion will be completed at the end of January is said as The company president will wunnu hire new employees after the New Year as the company expansion will be completed at the end of January.
Have to becomes haftu – For example, the sentence They have to sell so many of the new products by this Friday to be guaranteed a hefty raise is said as They haftu sell so many of the new products by this Friday to be guaranteed a hefty raise.
Going to becomes gunnu – For example, the sentence The second interview for the sales position is going to be quite lengthy – maybe 4 or 5 hours in all is said as The second interview for the sales position is gunnu be quite lengthy – maybe 4 or 5 hours in all.
Of becomes uv or u’ – For example, the sentence The students studied the vocabulary words of the English lesson on helping verbs that the teacher taught is said as The students studied the vocabulary words uv the English lesson on helping verbs that the teacher taught. And I need a new pair of reading glasses to see when I read the evening paper at home is said as I need a new pair u’ reading glasses when I read the evening paper at home.
Final T +Y can sound like ch – For example, the sentence What about your appointment at human resources today? What did you find out about health benefits and the age of retirement? is said as Wu’duboud’our appointment at human resources today? Wu’du find out about health benefits and the age of retirement?
Final D + Y can sound like j – For example, the sentence Did you complete your annual review for the head of the department? I think it is due this Wednesday is said as Di’joo complete your annual review for the head of the department? I think it is due this Wednesday.
You sounds like yu – For example, the sentence What do you want to take for a staff development course this year? I can’t decide between a technology course or a business course is said as Wu’du’yu want to take for a staff development course this year? I can’t decide between a technology course or a business course.
For becomes fr – For example, the sentence This package is for the new client from Australia; he needs it ASAP becomes This package is fr the new client from Australia; he needs it ASAP.
The H sound in Have is removed – For example, the sentence I have to get my accounting report finished by noon today so it can be proofread is said as I’ave to get my accounting report finished by noon today so it can be proofread And in this sentence example, I wasn’t prepared for his questions from yesterday’s power point presentation, but I did my best is said as I wasn’t prepared for’iz questions from yesterday’s power point presentation, but I did my best.
Words that end in “t” followed by a word that begins with “t” are slurred together into one word – For example, the sentence It’s my first time to travel abroad; I am so excited to be going to Italy is said as It’s my firs’time to travel abroad; I am so excited to be going to Italy.
“E” becomes an “i” sound in some words– For example, The secretary is planning to get several phone calls regarding the upcoming merger is said as The secretary is planning to git several phone calls regarding the upcoming merger. And It hasn’t been decided yet who will go with them to the telemarketing conference is said as It hasn’t been decided yet who will go withem to the telemarketing conference.
Several 3 syllable words sound like 2 syllables dropping the middle syllable – For example, library becomes li’bry, bottoning becomes bot’ning, lightening becomes light’ning.
You might have heard other examples of casual speech in the English language. Please write to me in the space below and share these. Or you might have a favorite casual sound, word, or phrase in your native language that you could pass along to me. That would be great, too. Tell me when you use it and why it’s your favorite. And remember, if I can help you with your English language goals and to become more confident with English, just ask… use formal or casual English… whatever works for you is fine with me. I will be sure to listen. You bet’cha! (You bet you are right!)