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  1. #1
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    do not know or don't know

    I often wonder how native speakers of English pronounce words when reading literature: with or without contractions. For example, if "I do not know" is written, do you read it as it is, or do you shorten it to "I don't know"?

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    I read it as it is written, either aloud or in my head.

  3. #3
    bubbha is offline Senior Member
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I read it as it is written, either aloud or in my head.
    I do the same. To me, it doesn't make any sense to change it.
    NOT A TEACHER. Translator and editor, and I hold a TESOL certificate. Native speaker of American English (West Coast)

  4. #4
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by bubbha View Post
    To me, it doesn't make any sense to change it.
    I don't know where I got this impression from, but, for a long time until today, I believed that full phrases such as "do not", "cannot", "will not" are only used in formal writing, not in spoken language. Hence my initial question and now my confusion. Do you often use full phrases in speech? If so, in which situations are they mostly used?

  5. #5
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    There's a difference between what we say and what we read. In real life, I wouldn't say "I cannot come to the party" or "I will not eat that" (I'd use "can't" and "won't") but that's not what you asked us about. If the words on the page/screen are "cannot" or "will not" (or similar), then that is exactly how we read them.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  6. #6
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneD View Post
    I don't know where I got this impression from, but, for a long time until today, I believed that full phrases such as "do not", "cannot", "will not" are only used in formal writing, not in spoken language. Hence my initial question and now my confusion. Do you often use full phrases in speech? If so, in which situations are they mostly used?
    We use the contractions nearly all the time in speech. We may not use them when we want to give special emphasis to the negative or make what we're saying completely unambiguous. In particular, can't sounds very similar to can, so we may say something like I can not pick you up tonight. Sorry!
    I am not a teacher.

  7. #7
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    There's a difference between what we say and what we read. In real life, I wouldn't say "I cannot come to the party" or "I will not eat that" (I'd use "can't" and "won't")
    Oh, that's a relief. Seriously. A moment ago I was ready to search for some book explaining the problem which, as it turned out, doesn't exist.

  8. #8
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by bubbha View Post
    To me, it doesn't make any sense to change it.
    I began to change it not a long time ago. Unconsciously, at first, then deliberately. Why? Maybe because in Russian we don't have two different ways of expression (written and spoken) as you do in English, I thought that you naturally should unconsciously shorten them as I began to do. And also maybe because I'm learning English mostly by means of reading, I thought it might not be a bad idea to pronounce phrases in a bit more "natural" way. Now, when I know how you read such phrases, it's not easy to get used to the thought that both ways are natural to you.

  9. #9
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    We may not use them when we want to give special emphasis to the negative
    I didn't know this.
    Is there any risk, when speaking without contractions, of sounding too formal or even patronizing towards the interlocutor?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    or make what we're saying completely unambiguous. In particular, can't sounds very similar to can, so we may say something like I can not pick you up tonight. Sorry!
    Yes, it's always been a question for me how you, in the US, cope with "can't". That's an interesting way to avoid ambiguity, but how do you know when the person who is talking to you is giving an emphasis and when just trying to say unambiguously? Or is it not important?
    Last edited by GeneD; 10-Aug-2017 at 14:13. Reason: errors

  10. #10
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: do not know or don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneD View Post
    Is there any risk, when speaking without contractions, of sounding too formal or even patronizing towards the interlocutor?
    It would sound odd for a native English speaker to habitually avoid contractions - in fact, writers sometimes make this a quirk in a character's personality as a way to make the character stand out. It wouldn't sound patronizing though. From a non-native speaker it would just sound like something the speaker has not yet mastered.

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneD View Post
    Yes, it's always been a question for me how you, in the US, cope with "can't". That's an interesting way to avoid ambiguity, but how do you know when the person who is talking to you is giving an emphasis and when just trying to say unambiguously? Or is it not important?
    Avoiding a contraction to provide emphasis is rare. I would generally understand it as avoiding ambiguity - but that's also not very common.

    Can't ends with a glottal stop in spoken American English. In southern dialects the vowel is often lengthened so that can't rhymes with "ain't". Can is usually not stressed and shortened to k'n. It becomes very easy to tell them apart; I don't think I k'n remember thinking "I can't tell what he's trying to say!" (I used bold face to represent a strongly-stressed syllable. In speech I would probably take about the same amount of time on the one syllable in "can't" as on the four in "can remember".)
    I am not a teacher.

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