When words are put together in a sentence, some are stressed, but many are not. Stressed words are usually the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that give meaning to the sentence – for example, the verb and noun in ‘going to the doctor’.
The other words are grammatical words, which join the sentence together, but don’t provide meaning. Many of these words are pronounced with the neutral vowel – /ə/ – which is the most common sound in English. When a word is pronounced with this vowel, it is called a weak form.
Listen to an example. The speaker says four grammatical words in isolation – ‘you’, ‘can’, ‘them’ and ‘from’ – then he says their weak forms, and finally puts them in the sentence “You can get them from the pharmacy”. Notice that the vowel is the same in all four weak forms.
Now listen to five sentences from the dialogue at the doctor’s and write one word in each gap. The missing words are pronounced as weak forms. Click ‘Hint’ for more information.