What Are Contractions?
Contraction is a shortened form that is created when two words are combined together and used as a single word. Some letters are omitted to make a word shorter and an apostrophe is used in their place.
To make contractions, we need an apostrophe. In fact, the apostrophe replaces the letters that are omitted. However, if more than one letter is omitted, you still use only one apostrophe.
When Do We Use Contractions?
We can use contractions with the following words:
Auxiliary verbs 'have', 'be', and 'do' can be shortened to form contractions.
To Be Verbs
When we use 'to be' verbs in the present tense they can be contracted with the subject pronoun that is used before them, or sometimes with the noun which is used as their subject. Here are a few examples:
I am happy to see you. → I
We are waiting for him at the airport. → We
Sarah is a nurse. → Sarah
Let us take a look at the table to see all the contracted forms of to be verbs combined with their subject pronouns.
The verb 'have' can be contracted in the present and the past tense as well as with different subjects. In the following table, you can see the contracted forms of this verb:
Now take a look at the examples:
To make negative sentences, we add 'not' to auxiliary verbs. To make a negative contraction, all you need to do is to omit the letter 'o' and use an apostrophe instead. Check out these examples:
Take a look at the table to see the negative contractions of to be verbs.
|am not||(there is no contraction form for am not)|
Take a look at the table of negative contractions of the auxiliary verbs 'have' and 'do'. Keep in mind that the auxiliary verb 'do' is only contracted in the negative form.
In the table below, you can find the most common contractions of modal verbs.
|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.|
The following shows the negative contractions of modal verbs in the present tense.
You might have noticed that won't and shan't do not follow the general rule for making contracted forms of negative verbs. This is because their forms are based on the old form of these modal verbs.
Remember, shall and shan't are no longer common in American English, especially shan't.
'Shall' is still common among British English speakers in very polite usage.
Some of interrogative words can be contracted with the to be verb 'is'. For example:
In the following table, you can see the contracted forms of the question words with 'is'.
Contractions are used to make the context informal. There are contracted forms of some phrases that make a text even more informal. Here are the most common ones on the list.
- gonna → going to, wanna → want to, gotta → (have) got to
- lemme → let me, gimme → give me, kinda → kind of
- ain't → am not/are not/is not, whatcha → what are you
- ya → you, y'all → you all
Some contractions such as ain't, y'all, and many more, are slang. Some of them might be so popular among English speakers that they become well-known and understandable everywhere, but others might be only understandable to people of specific regions.
Abbreviations vs. Contractions
When we use abbreviations, we are actually using a special form for a specific word or phrase. But when we use contractions, we are using a single word as a combination for two or three words. Compare these two examples.
In this example, 'U' stands for united, 'S' stands for stated, and 'A' stands for America
Wanna stands for 'want' and 'to'.
If the contractions are confusing, it's better to avoid them. For example: "she'd" can be both "she had" and "she would", so if the context of the sentence cannot clarify which meaning is intended, it's best to avoid using it.
We should avoid double contractions. We cannot have two consecutive contractions. Let's see an example:
❌He'sn't busy → He isn't busy or he's not busy.
If the contraction can be confused with a possessive even for a moment, it is better to avoid it.
Amanda is a key to this problem. Not her key to this problem!
We should avoid using contractions in formal writing unless we are quoting someone's words in our text.
We do not use contractions at the end of affirmative clauses. Although, this doesn't apply to negative contracted forms.
Is she Sarah? → ✔Yes she is. ❌Yes, she’s.
Is she Sarah? → ✔No, she isn't. ✔No, she's not.
Contractions are used to make informal texts and conversations. We have different types of contractions as follows.
- modal verbs
- interrogative words
- auxiliary verbs (have, do, be)
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