Wanna Speak and Write English Well?
You’re Gonna Need This
by Owen Fourie
“Girls just wanna have fun,” sang Cyndi Lauper in the 1980s. “When you gonna live your life right?” is another line in this famous song.
We have to allow for poetic license because to sing, “Girls just want to have fun,” and “when are you going to live your life right?” simply will not fit the lyrics. It would sound strange.
Wanna and gonna
Wanna and gonna have been around for a long time and are commonly heard in informal speech. They are found in written work too.
American novelist, short story writer, poet, and journalist Stephen Crane (1871–1900) used wanna as a colloquialism in his novella Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893).
American writer John Steinbeck (1902–1968) used wanna and gonna in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
In informal speech and in the mouths of characters in creative writing, wanna and gonna have etched their place. This is where they must remain, in close company with other words of their kind. They are called reduced forms.
Here is a table of some of these reduced forms with the original forms and examples:
Table of Reduced Forms
Example of usage
|dunno||I dunno what you mean.||do not know||I do not know what you mean.|
|gimme||Gimme that gun!||give me||Give me that gun!|
|gonna||He’s gonna do it.||going to||He’s going to do it.|
|gotta||I gotta do this.||got to||I have got to do this. (Better: I have to do this.)|
|hafta||I hafta do this.||have to||I have to do this.|
|kinda||I feel kinda sick.||kind of||I feel kind of sick. (Better: I feel sick.)|
|lemme||Lemme take your pulse.||let me||Let me take your pulse.|
|oughta||You oughta take a nap.||ought to||You ought to take a nap.|
|sorta||I’m sorta tired.||sort of||I’m sort of tired. (Better: I am tired.)|
|wanna||I wanna sleep.||want to||I want to sleep.|
|wanna||Wanna blanket?||want a||Do you want a blanket?|
|wannabe||She’s a wannabe movie star.||would-be (want to be)||She’s a would-be movie star.|
|whaddaya||Whaddaya know! She won an Oscar.||what do you||What do you know! She won an Oscar.|
Remember that these reduced forms must not be used in formal speech and in formal writing. Always call into question any usage that sounds like a reduction and refer to a dictionary to be sure to use the proper term in your essays.
Be sure to do this if you wanna—oops!—want to speak and write well and get good grades in English.
Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are there reduced forms that puzzle you? Ask here for clarification.
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