I saw a scene in a TV show where someone asks: What does he do? Here it is: https://youtu.be/lDMOw8c38wU

For me, the letter "h" in "he" sounds silent and the whole question phonetically sounds like [wʌ dʌz i du]. I hear stress only on "What" and "do". I want to know if my observation is correct. I think that in most common situations we use the same stress pattern, like in the context above (in the video). The stress on "he" is only needed when we want to differentiate between more people. Right?

2 Answers 2


In the question, "he" is emphasized, as though the questioner were more interested in him than in what he does. That same question could be asked with the emphasis on "do".

What does HE do?

What does he DO?

The final dental of "what" blends with the initial dental of "does" and so those words can elide; the final sibilant of "does" carries breath, and so elision with "he" is possible, with a negligible expulsion of breath on the "h".


Stress will often indicate the subject of interest. For example:

What does he do? — to indicate that the action itself is important.

What does he do? — often used to indicate that until now you thought “he” did one thing, and it turns out he does something else and you don't know what.

What does he do? — to indicate that you're interested in this particular person's action (perhaps we are talking about a situation in which you usually do something, but you see that “he” gets a better result out of this type of situation, so you're curious about what “he” specifically does). As a commonly occurring variation: “What are you doing about it?” usually means “It doesn't matter what can be done, should be done, or other people do, it's important what you, in particular, do or want to do with it.”

What does he do? — the common way to ask questions, which doesn’t imply any particularly important detail.

The missing “h” you mention is an accent, a habit of pronouncing sounds. English accent varies a great deal across the various English-speaking territories. Inside the U.S., you would be able to tell a person from Louisiana apart from a person from Boston by just hearing them speak. Omission of “h” at the beginning of a word is very common.

  • Thank you, so in the video I posted the stress is on "do". Right? The woman in the video uses the common way to ask the question. Am I right? Apr 13, 2015 at 22:46

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