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Kenneth Beare

Gonna, Wanna, Gotta

By January 10, 2013

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As an English teacher, students often ask me what gonna, wanna and gotta mean. They mean:

gonna = going to
wanna = want to
gotta = got to -> slang for "have to do something"

I could say these words are not English, but the truth is they are used in American English idiomatic conversation everyday. These expressions are known as reductions. Reductions take a few words and compress them into a shorter slang expression. These expressions should be understood in spoken English, and if you live in the United States, they're certainly OK in conversation. However, they are not used in written English.


January 11, 2013 at 4:36 am
(1) Anh Van Nguyen says:

Dear Mr. Kenneth Beare:

Your article about “Gonna, Wanna, Gotta” is super (=excellent, wonderful).

I appreciate it very much
as it helps me to understand American English,
especially when I watch American movies.

I would be very thankful to you,
when you would keep on supplying us with such useful articles.

Best regards,
Anh Van Nguyen

January 14, 2013 at 7:08 am
(2) Ulil Abshor says:

Thanks for teaching english. Those are very useful for me.GBU

January 15, 2013 at 9:21 am
(3) Minerva Vargas says:

There is this song: “You Gotta Be” lyrics by Des’ree that uses this reduction.
So, what about literature and songs?
Is it OK to use these words, this written English, in these kind of texts?
Thanks for the article, short and clear. Vey useful!

January 15, 2013 at 10:01 am
(4) Pascal H says:

Thanks for these words,i love American English to die,howevver we should know that standard english is essential.

January 15, 2013 at 10:16 am
(5) FabDab says:

And what about “betcha”,
am I right if I think it’s the contraction of “I bet you”?
Thanks for your answer.

January 15, 2013 at 10:18 am
(6) juliepie628 says:

@Minerva: It is definitely OK to use these expressions in literature and songs. It’s what’s known as “poetic license.”

There’s a song by Paula Cole called “I Don’t Want to Wait” that has this lyric:

So open up your morning light
And say a little prayer for I

Now that’s taking poetic license to the extreme! :-D

January 15, 2013 at 10:20 am
(7) juliepie628 says:

You are correct, FabDab! :)

January 15, 2013 at 10:23 am
(8) Alex says:

Thank you Kenneth for your articles, they realy help me to understand beter the English Language.

January 15, 2013 at 11:09 am
(9) shida says:

thank you about your article.it is helpful for me

January 15, 2013 at 11:27 am
(10) dorita says:

It is very interesting as I am teacher of English too.
It is an easy way to explain and the sts are always thankful
Thxs a lot

January 15, 2013 at 11:34 am
(11) Roger says:

Wonderful!I do appreciate.It is not easy to understand when you first hear it!Thanks!

January 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm
(12) Miguel says:

Thanks for the informaton. It is very useful.

January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm
(13) Becky says:

For what it’s worth, it isn’t just a lazy American pronunciation. Our British counterparts also use these reductions. Listen to the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles for one clear example.

This is how a native English speaker pronounces English in order to speak fluidly….


January 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm
(14) misghina ghenzebu says:

thanks mr Kenneth for your great contribution

January 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm
(15) elena says:

finaly, i understood what mean this 3 words ….. thank you keneth

January 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm
(16) Faeze says:

Dear Mr. Kenneth, it was excellent. of course it was better to bring some examples.

January 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm
(17) Jerry says:

There are other similar, reductions that need to be mentioned: “ Coulda” and “shoulda” which are short for “could have” and “should have”.

January 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm
(18) karel Nkale says:

Hello, Sir! That’s just wonderful; thanks a lot!

January 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm
(19) Bambang says:

Your article about gonna, wanna and gotta are simple but very usefull for me.

January 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm
(20) Kim says:

Thank You for the nice and clear article. There are a few points I would like to make. First, I think You mixed the letters J and Y in Your transcriptions of reductions. Either the IPA version (J) or the near-English version (Y) should be used consistently.

Next, if my students says “I got to get up early,” I correct them. To me, the dropping of the “have” or “‘ve” is simply wrong (except in a song). In general, when I hear a student using a lot of reductions but with a weak command of vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, I feel very uncomfortable. It just seems to be out of whack. These students also tend to write essays loaded with “wannas” and “gonnas.”

One problem I have had is with students using free variation between contractions and the extended forms when reading texts. For example, a text might be “I’ve been working here for two years and I will probably stay for two more” might come out “I have been working here for two years and I’ll probably stay for two more.” This is simply not accurate reading. It also means the students are tempted to construct sentences like *”Yes, I’ll.” I don’t know if the problem is improper teaching or due to over-generalization as a normal part of language learning.

January 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm
(21) Rustam says:

Dear Kenneth,
Thank you very much. I have listened these words gonna, wanna before but gotta first time. I really appreciate your help.


January 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm
(22) Corina says:

God bless you for your help….. Corina Diaz


January 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm
(23) Darshi says:

Dear mr Kennth
Thank you very much for your support to improve English language

January 16, 2013 at 12:35 am
(24) faiz says:

useful and new words especially having knowledge of using that these are just spoken word and not be used in written english but sir i have read american novels they use such words in written forn too. thanks sending me such new word regards fiaz.

January 16, 2013 at 12:44 am
(25) Addahia says:

thanks a ton! dear teacher

Daily, i receive your emails at my office. Good to work & learn at same time. you are a great


January 16, 2013 at 2:12 am
(26) shingiro bertin says:

hi Keanne,
i would like to thank you because you removed a big burden that was tough for me to carry. my girlfriend in Miami always use this trio and i reply yes without understanding. but with your lesson i am happy, it will be easy to get through and along.

thank you,

Bertin aka Bright J

January 16, 2013 at 2:55 am
(27) Bandara says:

Actually I am also searching the meaning these words, thank you very much for giving the meaning of them, also you are doing a great job. I really appreciate your lessons.

Bandara Purane

January 16, 2013 at 3:13 am
(28) Ananda Abeysinghe says:

Dear Sir,
Thank you very much for the presentation of this most wanted lesson.I too was in a trouble state to understand those words
and now the matter is very cleared to me.Actually,you always helps
us to improve our knowledge in numerous ways.May you have a long life!
Ananda Abeysinghe-Sri Lanka.

January 16, 2013 at 4:44 am
(29) Indika Rupasinghe says:

Dear Sir, Thank you very much for your kindness. All your lessons are very useful. Wish you a long life with good health!!!!

January 16, 2013 at 5:40 am
(30) thouria says:

Hi Kenneth! thanks a lot for everything you’re doing .GREAT JOB!Really!

January 16, 2013 at 8:42 am
(31) Rumee says:

Dear sir,
this is excellent. but I want know about tag question. I want every small details.

January 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm
(32) Supriyadi says:

Dear Mr. Kenneth Beare:

Your article about “Gonna, Wanna, Gotta” is fabulous.

Thank you very much


January 17, 2013 at 1:48 am
(33) Eie Mrat says:

Thanks so much

January 17, 2013 at 4:34 am
(34) namal says:

Dear Mr Keneth,
Thank you very much for your lessons. I usually check & read your mails. It is useful to me, because english is not my native language. I always try to learn these second language. So your lessens help me to develop it.
thanks a lot. May you have a long life!


January 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm
(35) anila says:

DearMr .Kenneth,I find your ideas and knowldge poured through email are absolutely useful and applicable for teachers like me in Pakistan.Is there any facility or room for those who want to complete their masters degree in english language?Kindly reply.

January 17, 2013 at 6:14 pm
(36) Duska says:

Dear Mr, Kenneth,
Thank you for all your help so far. I have problem to use the passive voice. Could you please help me with your lessons.
Thanks in advance

January 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm
(37) basma says:

thanks so much about
ganna ,wanna ,gatta
so it’s important for our ,it’s daily language

January 18, 2013 at 5:36 am
(38) Antonio says:

Interesting explanations. However, I do remember hearing “gonna” in London, spoken by locals. I’m not really sure these reductions are exclusively American.

January 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm
(39) Khalid Gaafar says:

Many thanks Mr.Kenneth


January 19, 2013 at 3:44 am
(40) Shakyba Ahmed says:

Many thanks Mr.Kenneth.

thanks a lot. May you have a long life!

January 19, 2013 at 3:51 am
(41) Shakyba Ahmed says:

Many thanks Mr.Kenneth

Thank you very much for your lessons.May you have a long life!

Shakyba Ahmed///

January 20, 2013 at 4:22 am
(42) Asst. Prof. Mhuck Gayeta says:

Hello Mr. Kenneth Beare,

I would like to thank you personally for the English lessons you have had posted on this site. These articles were very helpful us teachers and other students following esl.about.com. As a matter of fact, the articles on newspaper reading helped me a lot writing my master’s thesis in 2007.

Please write more articles on teachers and students attitudes towards information and communication technology which is also necessary in teaching English as Second Language.

More power!!!


January 20, 2013 at 8:55 am
(43) HUSSAIN says:

Many thanks Mr.Kenneth.

thanks a lot. May you have a long life!

January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm
(44) maria says:

Dear Mr Kenneth,
Thank you very much. You really help me in teaching my children.

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 am
(45) gadgetsandgizmos.org says:

Hi, every time i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the dawn, since i
love to gain knowledge of more and more.

January 21, 2013 at 6:53 am
(46) Mohammed says:

Thanks for all your lessons.I know a lot from what you give us and i hope to bring us also use full topics.
yours Mohammed

January 23, 2013 at 4:05 am
(47) Abraham says:

thank you for helping.

January 31, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(48) Jahlan Ismail says:

Thanks very much for this article. One of the biggest problems which face the Arab learners is the use of slang expressions and idioms especially for those who never lived in an English-speaking country.

Thanks alot

February 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm
(49) Osvalda Mabjaia says:

Hello, Sir.

I’m a teacher of English in Mozambique, and you happen to help me with my English all the time, which makes it possible for me to help my students with theirs. I feel very ashamed of the explanations I used to give to my students regarding these matters of the gonnas and wannas…well, I simply used to tell them it’s Informal language, not knowing what more to add. Thanks a ton for your simple and clear article.


July 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm
(50) Gunawan Widiyanto says:

Thank you very much, Sir. It is very useful for me to broaden my horizon in English, because I am teaching English.

September 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm
(51) nhadoan says:

Thank you very much for your useful article.
I am also impressed by Anh Van Nguyen’s letter to you.

November 28, 2013 at 1:07 am
(52) Tesfaye says:

Thanks Mr. Beare! This is an addition to your exceptionally useful articles. I hope that you will continue in providing us with such articles when you understand how much it is useful for us. Many thanks one again!

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