In everyday english, people like contracting words, for example, "used to" would be contracted as "usta".

When people pronounce a single "usta", it sounds like /juːstah/; when people pronounce a sentence, "usta" sounds like /juːstə/;

Did I hear correctly? Is there some rules for this?

  • It's down to the accent of the speaker and how lazy they are when speaking. No rules apply. "Usta" is not an English word. Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


This is purely anecdotal, and not even based on particularly careful observations of my own or others' speech (Australian English, for what it's worth). But I think that /juːsta/ is likely to be found in isolation, sentence-finally, or before other breaks, and /juːstə/ in other positions.

This is not dissimilar to pronunciaton of "to" itself as /tu/ versus /tə/.

With the "usta" contraction:

I used to swim. /aɪ juːstə swɪm/

Do you swim? I used to. /aɪ juːsta/


I used to swim. /aɪ juːst tə swɪm/

Do you swim? I used to. /aɪ juːst tu/

  • Your answer is very helpful. I guess I got the key, positions! Thank you! Btw, does Australian pronounce that as /aɪ juːstə swɪm/ or /aɪ juːstu swɪm/?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 3:52

/a/ is an open front vowel, meaning the mouth is open and the tongue is positioned in the front of the mouth. It's one of the cardinal vowels and according to Wikipedia, it's not directly intended to correspond to a vowel sound of a specific language but rather to serve as a fundamental reference point in the vowel chart.

It's often associated with the TRAP vowel in RP. You can't use this at the end of used to.

Used to is often pronounced by native speakers as [juːstə]—with a schwa, which is a mid central vowel.

When people pronounce a single "usta", it sounds like /juːstah/

/h/ in the coda (terminal) of English words is forbidden, so you can't have */-tah/.

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