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A Look at Contractions in English Spelling

By: Sarah Folega - Updated: 25 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
English Contractions Learn Speech

Sometimes in the English language, you may come across words that have been contracted. We usually contract (shorten) words in English to join two words together . An apostrophe (‘) is normally placed where the missing letter, or letters, would be if the two words were complete.

  • He is – He’s
  • She is – She’s
  • Who is – Who’s
  • They are – They’re
  • Have not – Haven’t
  • Would have – Would’ve

Contractions are usually included in informal writing rather than formal writing, and more often than not in speech. Some contractions may cause confusion to some people learning English as a second language, as they can have more than one meaning.

  • He would – He’d (“He’d love to go to the zoo.” – “He would love to go to the zoo”.)
  • He had – He’d (“He’d already done by the time I got there.” – He had already done by the time I got there.”)

Positive Contractions

Positive contractions are usually words that denote a positive meaning in one way or another. The contraction for the word ‘is’ and the word ‘has’ (s) are used with nouns, pronouns, names and question words. So, instead of “Richard is happy”, it could be “Richard’s happy”. Instead of “there is a cat”, you could contract it to “there’s a cat”.

  • I am – I’m (“I’m very pleased.” – “I am very pleased.”)
  • I have – I’ve (“I’ve been there in the last year.” – “I have been there in the last year.”)
  • You have – You’ve (“You have been looking ill recently.” – “You’ve been looking ill recently.”)
  • He will – He’ll (“He’ll do it tomorrow.” – He will do it tomorrow.”)
  • We are – We’re (“We are going later.” – “We’re going later.”)

Negative Contractions

Negative contractions are usually ended with the word ‘not’. Also, while using the verb ‘to be’, it is possible to create two other negative forms – We’re not or we aren’t.

Other negative contractions that are common in the English language are as follows:

  • Are not – Aren’t (“We are not going there again!” – “we aren’t going there again!”)
  • Did not – didn’t (“ We did not do that right.” – “We didn’t do that right.”)
  • Does not – Doesn’t (“That does not appear to fit right.” – “That doesn’t appear to fit right.”)
  • Must not – Mustn’t (“You must not do that again.” – “You mustn’t do that again.”)
  • Is not – Isn’t (“ That is not correct.” – “That isn’t correct.”)
  • Ought not – Oughtn’t (“ You ought not.” – “You oughtn’t.”)
  • Shall not – Shan’t (“I shall not.” – “I shan’t.”)

Informal Contractions

As informal contractions are almost slang words, they are not normally used in writing. You can use them when writing short notes or letters to people you are familiar with, but it is not advisable to use them in any other forms of writing.

You may find informal contractions in scripts, comic books and personal letters, but you would never find them in a formal letter to an employer, or employee; nor would you find them in essays or school writing. The same goes for speech; you wouldn’t use informal contractions in a job interview or when speaking publically. However, you would probably use them when chatting to friends and family.

With informal contractions, an apostrophe is hardly ever used.

  • Going to – Gonna
  • What are you – Whatcha
  • Want a – Wanna

There are lots of contractions in the English language. Some are more common than others, but they are widely used in speech, and in writing. They are an important part of being truly fluent in English, whether you are learning as a second language, or you are a native speaker.

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