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Many times in fast speech, i've heard people say the prep "to" like only with a sound /ə/ (maybe with a little flap t as in 'better'). For example: i'm trying to help. I'm not trying to get mad at....Or, Power to sing. In the sentence, i'm trying to help, it sounds like /am trai ə help/. Is that really what they do? I ask this because i feel like it's smoother and easier for me to pronounce "to" with only a schwa sound when speak fast. I just wanna make sure it's proper.

PS: for instance, in this utube video https://youtu.be/tVja6oEUYlo, min 1:16. 'He helps people and corporations learn how to make better decisions'. That "to" is pronounced /ə/ or /də/ ?. it's fast, so i can't be sure,but I think it's /ə/

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    “... wanna make sure it's proper”? :) – Mari-Lou A Nov 18 '16 at 12:49
  • @mari it's common so i can use with confidence ^^ – domino Nov 19 '16 at 7:31
  • I hope you know that ur, u, i (but I would always capitalize it) wanna, and gonna may be fine in texts, YouTube comments and IMs but they are never "proper" in formal writing. :) – Mari-Lou A Nov 19 '16 at 7:51
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In fast, informal, speech, yes, we often reduce to to a kind of ə, particularly in constructions like "going to", "want to", or anything "-ing to". This is probably because enunciating the "-g t-" combination of sounds is a little slow and awkward. In practice, "to" is often pronounced more like "tə" than like "toooo".

In the video you linked to, I do hear the t of "to". It's not particularly emphasized, but it is there. Because t is a stop consonant, it's hard to emphasize it strongly, particularly when it comes next to a word boundary.

Also, I can't imagine anybody dropping the n sound from "trying" as in /am trai ə help/. This may be because while you know that the word "to" has to be "to" because of its position in the sentence, regardless of exactly how it sounds, if you say "trai" for "trying", it sounds like you're just saying "try", which would be grammatically incorrect in "I'm try to help".

  • ur right. After i've read ur answer. i listened to the video again, with volume cranked up. I do hear the flap t in that 'to'. Normally, i turn volume to just enough to hear( i live with other people, don't want them to pay attention). That's why i missed it. And in your opinion, it should be /am trai-na help/, right? I trust u, 'cause ur a native speaker, i'm not. Thanks – domino Nov 19 '16 at 7:42
  • Yes, /am trai-na help/ would be right. – stangdon Nov 19 '16 at 12:44
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Yes, but only in certain constructions. Specifically "Going to" and "Trying to" are often rendered as "gonna" and "tryna". Some linguists regard these two as new English words. It doesn't happen, as far as I know, even with similar constructions such as "wanting to" or "planning to".

Edit: but as J Sibeneichler point out, it does happen with "want to".

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Perhaps what you heard was "am /traɪnə/ help". You sometimes see this contraction of trying to written as tryna or trynna. The same phenomenon is found in wanna (want to) and gonna (going to).

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