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I have been taught that when alveolars follow each other one is dropped. My question is can we drop the /d/ in the contracted negative past of "to have"?. E.g:

I hadn't have to go.

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    "I hadn't have to go" doesn't sound grammatical to me. Did you find this sentence somewhere, or is it one you made up for this question? "I hadn't had to go" sounds much more correct to me.
    – stangdon
    Mar 10, 2016 at 22:19
  • This question is about the pronunciation of "hadn't". The example is grammatically incorrect, uncomfortable, and not understandable. The question needs to say "I hadn't xxxxxx". "xxxxx" is something other than "have to go". As stated in one of the answers, this is a logical error, and incorrect. So, change the example to "I hadn't found my way", or "I hadn't taken my keys", or something. UNLESS your question really has to do with the "have to go" clause.
    – Mark G B
    Mar 19, 2016 at 3:26

3 Answers 3

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The d-n consonant combination is mechanically difficult to produce, and there are regional variations in dealing with this. In some accents, notably those where speech is rapid, the d is shortened to a gluttal stop "ha'nt" or even omitted altogether "hant". In places where the pace of life (and speech) is a bit slower- Wales and the Marches, for example- the problem is eliminated by adding a schwa between the d and the n, so it is pronounced "hadant", with the d clearly enunciated. As in the Goldilocks story, the Received Pronunciation version is not too much, not too little, but just right.

The d is not dropped, but its position is changed and it is softened. The plosive of a regular d is made with the tongue on the gums, releasing air through the teeth. With the dn combination in hadn't, the tongue remains against the gums and the soft palate: the plosive occurs using the epiglottis, allowing air to pass through the nose.

I can't find a recording of hadn't, but here is one of didn't.

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Let's break it down:

I had not have to go.

Had and have have similar definitions; had is the past participial of have. Including both brings a logical error: the helping verbs have different tenses. As you mentioned, the sentence doesn't sound right, anyway.

As alluded to by JavaLatte, a correct way to rewrite the sentence would be

I did not have to go.

Where did simply places an emphasis on not without confusing the tense.

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In the case of "hadn't" - the sounds are not dropped. Sometimes, in common (but sloppy) usage one will hear a speaker drop the sounds. This would be like the rapid spoken usage of "dinnit" instead of "didn't it". Native speakers will sometimes use sloppiness like this.

TV and radio commentator usage attempts to not use accented or regional usage. This pronunciation is typically the most widely understood. You would find that usage would pronounce the "d", and the "n".

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  • Maybe you should review these words in the dictionary: aural, dialectic. When talking about pronunciation on its own, the word "accent" is more appropriate than "slang" or "dialect", which also include vocabulary and grammar. We all have an accent: "Received Pronunciation" is just the regional accent of South-East England. Many people consider that the accent of East Coast Scots to be the clearest of all: for this reason, many UK companies have telephone call centres in this area.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 19, 2016 at 7:32
  • @JavaLatte Point taken on aural and dialectic. I must have been having a case of brain gas. Fixed that. However, I will note that the usage I am thinking of for dropping the "d" was really more regional American usage, and would qualify as a dialect, rather than an accent. It has, in the past, been a regional (and subcultural) vocabulary issue. That use has been in decline for a long time now. However, I may be able to rewrite the answer to sidestep this issue.
    – Mark G B
    Mar 20, 2016 at 0:02

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