According to Wiktionary page on "on" word , the pronunciation of "on" is either /ɔn/ or /ɑn/ depending if you have the cot-cought merger or not. usually, if a word has a reduced form, it's stated explicitly.

Funny such an "unimportant" helper word is not reduced, especially when /ɔ/ requires you to drop you jaw and round you lips which make this vowel to be "harder" to pronounce.

Can "on" be reduced to just /ən/ ?
it's on the table -> [ɪts ən ðə teibəl]

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    For me, /hæmənraɪ/ would be either ham and rye or ham in rye. But maybe there are dialects where on is reducible. Sep 24, 2017 at 13:58
  • @PeterShor I guess it counts as an answer? If you're an American and that reduction sounds funny to you, than it's not a valid reduction...
    – David Haim
    Sep 24, 2017 at 14:15
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    It's not much of an answer, so i'm leaving it as a comment. Maybe somebody can find a more authoritative source. Sep 24, 2017 at 14:23
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    Another comment: even in some regions without the cot-caught merger, on can be /ɑn/. So if that's easier for you than pronouncing it /ɔn/, feel free to do so. Sep 24, 2017 at 14:57
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    @JimMacKenzie all languages develop, and economy of articulation is well established as one of the engines of language change (I prefer not to use the judgmental word "laziness").. I thought you were explaining why "on" doesn't get reduced by an appeal to this principle, and asked on what evidence you made the claim. You now seem to be saying that it was a wholly circular argument, justified by the phenomenon it was purporting to explain.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 7, 2018 at 14:06

3 Answers 3


If were are speaking of "reduction" on the purely phonetic level, it is probably not impossible that a speaker might use [ən] for on. Many kinds of simplifications are possible in fast speech.

But from a pedagogical perspective, I would never recommend that an English learner try to use /ən/ as a distinct, special "weak form" of on. I would recommend always aiming for /ɔn/ or /ɑn/ (in American English) or /ɒn/ (in British English).

Jack Windsor Lewis in "Weakform Words and Contractions for the Advanced EFL User" says that "only five prepositions [...] have stylistically distinctive weakforms": to, of, at, for, and from, and notes that

  1. Some students try to use weakforms of other monosyllabic prepositions than the five listed, eg of in and on, with [...] often unacceptable results. Very occasionally, in what are usually regarded as fairly markedly casual styles of speaking, mothertongue users of English do use weakforms of such words eg in Made in England /ˈmeɪd n̩ `ɪŋglənd/ I'm not in a / nɒt n̩ ə/ hurry or Cat on a hot tin roof /kat n̩ ə/ etc. These n's are by no means always syllabic if a vowel follows but they will be so if a consonant does eg when Lawrence Olivier as Lord Marchmain in the UK television Channel 4 dramatisation of Brideshead Revisited said sit in /n̩/ the open air.

Windsor Lewis's article seems to be focused on speakers who are aiming to acquire a British English accent (e.g. he mentions "/frɒm/" as a strongform of from, and "/fɒr/" as a weakform of for, neither of which is really relevant for an American English accent). For American English, I would say that n̩/ən is an acceptable weakform of the preposition in (as nloveladyallen's answer suggests), but not of on.


On cannot be reduced to /ən/ in GA. /ɪts ən ðə teɪbəl/ would be “it’s in the table.”

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    this answer does not contain any references, and as I wrote in the comments, on reduction can be the reduction of many words. so that is a weak explanation.
    – David Haim
    Oct 12, 2017 at 11:05
  • You can only reduce multiple words to one pronunciation if they are different Parts-Of-Speech; otherwise the ambiguity is dangerous.
    – AmI
    Nov 7, 2017 at 22:06
  • @Aml. English (like most language) has many words with multiple meanings, and possibilities of ambiguity in consequence. Why should reduced pronunciations be any different? Language is not generally something designed and worked out: it just gets used.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 7, 2018 at 14:08

You can reduce it if it is not a semantic focus in the sentence. The sound is a back vowel sound; if you reduce it, you will be producing a neutral (central, mid), pretty different from the front, high short i sound.

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