Contractions

You might wonder what the difference between formal and informal styles is. One of the elements that can make your writings informal is using contractions.

Intermediate
Contractions in English

What Are Contractions?

Contraction is the shortened form of words. Actually, it happens when two words are used as a single word. Some letters are omitted to make a word shorter.

How To Make Contractions?

To make contractions we need to use apostrophes. In fact, you omit some letters and put an apostrophe to replace them. Remember, if there is more than one omitted letter, you still use only one apostrophe.

You're really jealous. (You are → You're)

I won't leave you alone. (Will not → Won't)

When Do We Use Contractions?

We can use contractions in the following cases:

Auxiliary Verbs

In this lesson, we will learn about auxiliary verbs (have, be, do).

To Be Verbs: Contracted Forms

When we use to be verbs only in the present tense they can be contracted with the subject pronoun which is used before them. Or sometimes with the noun which is used as the subject before them. Here are a few examples:

I am happy to see you. → I'm happy to see you.

We are waiting for him at the airport. → We're waiting for him at the airport.

Sarah is a nurse. → Sarah's a nurse.

Let us take a look at the table to see all the contracted forms of to be verbs combined with their subject pronouns.

Full Form Contraction
I am I'm
you are you're
she is she's
he is he's
it is it's
we are we're
they are they're

Have: Contracted Forms

The contracted form of the verb 'to have' whether in present tense or the past tense are 've and 'd. Look at the examples:

I've got to go.

They'd been in China.

In the following table, you can see the contracted forms of the verb 'have'. Remember, you can combine them with any subject.

Full Forms Contractions
have 've
has 's
had 'd

Negative Contractions

As you know, to make negative sentences we just add 'not' to the auxiliary verbs. To make a negative contraction, all you need to do is to omit the letter Oand use an apostrophe instead. Check out these examples:

You aren't quite what I thought you'd be.

They haven't talked to me yet.

Take a look at the table and see the negative contractions of to be verbs.

Full Forms Contractions
am not _
is not isn't
are not aren't
was not wasn't
were not weren't

Take a look at the table of negative contractions of the auxiliary verbs have and do.

Full Forms Contractions
have not haven't
has not hasn't
had not hadn't
do not don't
does not doesn't
did not didn't

Two of the modal verbs can also be contracted with the subject pronouns that are used before them. These two modal verbs are will and would. Here are a few examples:

I'll call you as soon as possible

We'd like to hear from you.

On this table, you can find the most common contractions of modal verbs.

Full Form Contraction
I will, she will, we will, etc. I'll, she'll, we'll, etc.
I would, she would, we would, etc. I'd, she'd, we'd, etc.

This table shows the negative contractions of modal verbs in the present tense.

Full Forms Contractions
cannot can't
shall not shan't
will not won't
may not mayn't
must mustn't

Tip

Since there is a rule to contract the negative form, you might have noticed that won't and shan't do not follow the same rules as others. This is because they are formed based on an ancient form of these modal verbs.

Warning

Remember, shall and shan't are no longer common in English, especially shan't.

Check out the table of negative modal verbs in the past tense.

Full Forms Contractions
could not couldn't
would not wouldn't
might not mightn't
should not shouldn't
ought not to oughtn't to

Contractions with Interrogative Words

Some of the interrogative words can be contracted with the to be verb is. For example:

When's your birthday?

Where's your key?

In the following table, you can see the contracted forms of the question words with 'be'.

Full Forms Contractions
what is what's
when is when's
how is how's
where is where's
who is who's

Contracted Forms of Phrases

Contractions are used to make the context informal. There are also contracted forms of a few phrases that make a text even more informal. Here are the most common ones on the list.

  • whatcha → what are you, gonna → going to, wanna → want to
  • ya → you, gimme → give me, gotta → (have) got to
  • ain't → am not/are not/is not, kinda → kind of
  • lemme → let me, y'all → you all

What Is the Difference between Abbreviations and Contractions?

When we use abbreviations we actually are using one special form for each word. But when we use contractions we are using a single word as a combination for another two or three words. Compare these two examples.

USA

In this example, 'U' stands for united, 'S' stands for stated, and 'A' stands for America

wanna

Wanna stands for both want and to. In this example, wanna means 'want to.'

Review

Contractions are used to make informal texts and conversations. We have different types of contractions as follows.

  • modal verbs
  • interrogative words
  • phrases
  • auxiliary verbs (have, do, be)

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