This lesson is Part 5 in the series on Pronouncing Verb Contractions in English:
- Part 1: Intro to Verb Contractions and their Pronunciations
- Part 2: Would + have = “would’ve”
- Part 3: Would + not + have = “wouldn’t have”
- Part 4: Could + have = “could’ve”
- Part 5: May + have = [meyəv]
- Part 6: Must + have = “must’ve”
- Part 7: Must + not = “mustn’t” | COMING SOON
- Part 8: I + will = “I’ll” [aiyəl] | COMING SOON
- Part 9: He/She/We + will | COMING SOON
- Part 10: It + will = “it’ll” [ɪdəl] | COMING SOON
- Part 11: They + will = “they’ll” | COMING SOON
Listen to the audio while reading the lesson:
May + have | Past Unsure Possibility
The verb “may” is used with “have” and the past participle of a main verb to express something that was possible in the past, but the speaker is unsure if that event actually occurred.
To form a sentence with “may” to talk about a past possibility:
may + have + past participle of main verb
- “I’m just not sure where he is–he may have gone home already.”
Here, the speaker guesses that the man has returned home, but she is not 100% certain.
Notice that I said *”may’ve” instead of “may have”.
(*Note: we do not write “may’ve”, even though we say it).
As the previous lessons on contracted verbs have already shown you, the music of English comes from the way native English speakers:
- stress their content words (meaning, they say them longer, louder, and higher in pitch); as well as
- 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]
May + have = *”may’ve” [meyəv]
Did you hear how much more relaxed the vowel sound in “have” is?
- *”may’ve” [meyəv]
Remember that because “have” now begins with a vowel sound, you should connect your speech and pronounce the [y] in “may” at the beginning of “‘ve” [əv] –> [yəv].
- *”may’ve” [meyəv]
[ey] vowel sound
To produce the [ey] vowel sound, remember to:
- pull your lips back into a smile position; and
- produce the [y] sound at the end of the [ey]
- “mey” [mey]
- *”may’ve” [meyəv]
Now, let’s put it all together and practice.
Listen and Repeat
- “She may have gone to see a movie.”
- “That phone call may have caused the crash.”
- “I apologize. I may have misspoken earlier.”
- “Do some more investigating–he may have lied to you!”
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