I used to think "go away" is pronounced as two separate words - go and away. However when I listen to nursery rhymes with the so-called native pronunciation, I hear more of "GO-WA-WAY", with a wa sound connecting the two words.

What is the correct pronunciation of "go away"?

  • It's physically difficult to transition sharply between the relevant "o" sound and the relevant "a" sound, without a "w" in between. And if there is particular emphasis (as there often is on "go away!"), then it will sound like three syllables as "gow-wa-way". The correct pronunciation is the "native" one you are hearing. – Steve Oct 5 '20 at 10:19
  • This recent question about a glottal stop between an initial vowel may be of help: english.stackexchange.com/q/547942/3306 . – rajah9 Oct 5 '20 at 11:07
  • Sometimes native speakers will break "go away" into it's component words very deliberately but it is done to express a very firm instruction, or even annoyance. A typical example would be someone trying to get a persistent street trader to leave them alone. After they've said "I'm not interested" and the trader still tries to sell them something such a person might say "Go" (slight pause) "away" which can sound quite aggressive. Under normal circumstances, however "go away" tends to be run together as you say for the reasons put forward by @Steve in his comment. – BoldBen Oct 5 '20 at 11:26
  • 2
    I'm sure if you bugged 100 people until they told you to "Go away" you'd get a dozen different pronunciations. – Hot Licks Oct 5 '20 at 11:57
  • "correct" as in what? – marcellothearcane Oct 7 '20 at 5:46

I agree with the OP. It happens a lot in connected speech.
Whenever a word ends in /ʊ/, /u/ or a diphthong that ends in /ʊ/, /aʊ/, /əʊ/, /oʊ/ etc., native English speakers often end that word with a /w/. It mostly happens when one word ends with either of the above vowels and the next word starts with a vowel.

go away -> [ɡəʊ][w][əweɪ]
go on -> [ɡəʊ][w][ɒn]
now and.. -> [naʊ][w][ənd] etc.

Whenever a word ends with a front vowel /i/, /ɪ/ or a diphthong that ends in /ɪ/ /aɪ/, /ɔɪ/ etc., native speakers are more likely to end it with a /j/ (the 'y' sound as in yes).

I agree -> [aɪ][j][əɡriː]
See it -> [siː][j][ɪt] etc.

There's also an intrusive R. When one word ends with /ɔ/ (and some other vowels like /ə/, /ɪə/ and /ɑː/) and another word starts with a vowel, there's often an intrusive R between both the words. So for example native speakers often pronounce saw it [sɔː][r][ɪt]. It's more common in non-rhotic accents than in rhotic accents.

There's no 'correct' or 'incorrect'. Pronounce it however you want.
However, if it's difficult for you to pronounce it with the intrusive consonants, you can pronounce the second word with a glottal stop. So you'll also hear go away being pronounced [ɡəʊ][ʔ][əweɪ], but pronouncing it with a /w/ sounds more natural.

(It's been explained in this answer.)


Two separate words

I can "hear" a case for a "hard attack" glottal stop before the initial vowel in "away": /goʊ ʔəweɪ/.

Words get elided

I could also hear a case for an extra voiced labialized velar to be inserted between words: /goʊ wəweɪ/

The /wə/ sound (between "go" and "way") is the natural way for this (AmE) speaker to elide the two words.


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