Reduced Pronunciation: Gonna

What are you gonna do on New Year’s Eve?

Though speaking quickly in another language can seem overwhelming at first, learning common language reductions (such as whacha, wanna, or gonna) can give students confidence in their speaking and listening abilities. My students always enjoy practicing reduced pronunciation—we’d have a lot of laughs together even when they’d get tongue-tied. Two things help learners feel more confident when practicing reduced pronunciation: guided practice with lots of modeling and handy tips to help them, and plenty of encouragement along the way. Remind students that even though reductions may sound like a whole other language at first, practicing reduced pronunciation means they’ll be able to better decipher quick, natural speaking when listening to native speakers, and they’ll sound more natural when speaking, too.

Sprout’s Spotlight lesson this week is Haul Video: Future Reading, which focused on be going to. This future phrase is commonly used at this time of year when people are making and discussing New Year’s resolutions. Teach your learners how to pronounce going to as gonna, and encourage them to use it whenever they’re discussing future plans


In English, it is common to use be going to + verb instead of will + verb for expressing the simple future. (See Teaching the Simple Future: 3 Forms for more teaching tips and information.) When English speakers are speaking at a normal rate of speech, it is common to reduce going to to gonna. The main reason for this is that be going to isn’t conveying much important information—the main verb that follows is the important information in the sentence. Model the following sentences for your students (or play the audio clip below) and have students repeat them using the same stress patterns and speed. I often used the expression “Race to the Verb!” with my students to help them remember to say everything before the main verb quite quickly, and then to slow down and stress the main verb.

  •  I’m gonna practice English every day. (Remind students that they will see it written as “I’m going to practice…” because gonna is only used in spoken English.)
  • Are you gonna go out tonight?
  • He’s gonna do his homework.
  • She’s gonna buy a new dress.
  • We’re gonna play our new video game.
  • Are they gonna go to Disneyland next year?


1. Remember that gonna is only used in speaking. We should never write gonna (with the possible exception of texting between friends).

2. Point out that not all instances of going to can be reduced to gonna! It is only possible when the future phrase be going to is followed by a verb. The present progressive of go followed by the preposition of direction to can look similar to the future phrase be going to, but it is not the same and can’t be reduced. Tell students that no verb = no gonna (we can’t say gonna if it isn’t followed by a verb). Note the following examples:

  •  I’m going to call my friend later. (gonna = correct / followed by a verb / we can say I’m gonna call)
  • I’m going to the store later. (gonna = incorrect / not followed by a verb / we can’t say I’m gonna the store)

Extra Practice


Tanya Trusler

Tanya is a freelance editor and writer with an extensive background as an ESL teacher. She edits lesson plans, creates new materials, and writes weekly blog posts for ESL-Library and Sprout English. Her company is Editing to a T. Follow her on Twitter (@tanyatrusler) and Google Plus.

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