Home / English Lessons / Pronunciation of Contracted Verbs: Must + have = “must’ve” [mʌstəv] | Part 6 | English Pronunciation Lesson

Pronunciation of Contracted Verbs: Must + have = “must’ve” [mʌstəv] | Part 6 | English Pronunciation Lesson

This lesson is Part 6  in the series on Pronouncing Verb Contractions in English:

Listen to the audio while reading the lesson:

…or watch the video: 

Must + have | Past Certainty

The verb “must” is used with “have” and the past participle of a main verb to express something that the speaker believes absolutely happened in the past. To form a sentence with “must” to talk about a past certainty:

must + have + past participle of main verb


  • “I must have left my phone at the movie theater — I can’t find it anywhere!”

Here, the last place the speaker saw her phone was at the movie theater, and since she can’t find it anywhere else, she concludes that the only possible option left is that the phone is still at the movie theater. Notice that I said “must’ve” instead of “must have”. As the previous lessons on contracted verbs have already shown you, the music of English comes from the way native English speakers:

  1. stress their content words (meaning, they say them longer, louder, and higher in pitch); as well as
  2. de-stress their function words (meaning they say them quicker and more relaxed).

Function words in English are those that form the grammar and structure of a sentence and do not carry much content. These include auxiliary verbs, which accompany a main verb and add some grammatical meaning to the sentence. Because “have” is an auxiliary verb, we tend to de-stress it and contract it, then attach it to the verb preceding it. So, to contract “have”, simply:

  • delete the first consonant sound [h];
  • de-stress and relax the vowel sound ([æ] –> [ə]);  and
  • connect it to the verb before it.

“Have” –> [əv]

Must + have = “must’ve”  [mʌstəv]

Did you hear how much more relaxed the vowel sound in “have” is?

  • “must’ve”  [mʌstəv]

Remember that because “have” now begins with a vowel sound, you should connect your speech and pronounce the [t] in “must” at the beginning of “‘ve” [əv] –> [təv].

  • “must’ve”  [mʌstəv]

[ʌ] vowel sound

To produce the [ʌ] vowel sound in “must”, remember to:

  1. keep your lips in a relaxed position; and
  2. open your mouth just a little bit.
    • “must” [mʌst]
    • “must’ve”  [mʌstəv]

Now, let’s put it all together and practice.

Listen and Repeat

  • “He must have thought you didn’t like him, if he didn’t ask you out.”
  • “That conversation must have upset her; she hasn’t left her office all day!”
  • “They must’ve forgotten that we were going to meet today.” (<–notice that I said “gonna” instead of “going to”).
  • “The dog must have eaten the food on the table, because it’s gone!”

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