I’ve just heard an unfamiliar phrase from a video:
What’s the driver say?
At first, I thought I just couldn’t follow what the actor said but I confirmed that what I had heard was right from the script.
I can imagine three similar sentences which are grammartically correct:
- What did the driver say?
- What has the driver said?
- What is the driver saying?
The expression ‘What’s the driver say?’ does not correspond to none of these. Is this some kind of erratic colloquial expression which means one of above sentences? Or, does this mean something different?
From English Pronunciation in Use (Martin Hewings, 2007)…
When does follows a wh- word1, it can be pronounced /s/ or /z/, but isn’t left out completely.
What does he do? = What’s he do?
When does it start? = When’s it start?
(not What he do? When it start?)
As per @Greg’s comment, this particular contraction is
almost never used in other contexts. Also, it won’t always sound “natural”, and unlike more “standard” contractions (can’t, isn’t, won’t) there’s rarely any reason to transcribe it, and your speech won’t ever sound stilted even if you never say it.
1 @Janus Bahs Jacquet’s comment below is highly relevant…
Note that wh- word here doesn’t necessarily just mean the interrogative word itself, but the entire interrogative phrase it’s in; thus…
What time’s it start?
Who in the bloody hell’s he think he is?
…both work fine as well.