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.
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.
When Do We Use Contractions?
We can use contractions in the following cases:
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
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.
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:
In the following table, you can see the contracted forms of the verb 'have'. Remember, you can combine them with any subject.
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:
Take a look at the table and 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.
Modal Verbs: Contracted Forms
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:
On this table, 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.|
This table shows the negative contractions of modal verbs in the present tense.
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.
Remember, shall and shan't are no longer common in American English, especially shan't.
shall still is common and very polite between the British English speaker.
Contractions with Interrogative Words
Some of the 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 'be'.
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
Some contractions such as ain't , y'all and many more, are slangs. Maybe some of them get so popular among English speakers and be well-known and can be understood everywhere, but there are some that maybe just the people of the same area will get them.
Abbreviations vs 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.
In this example, 'U' stands for united, 'S' stands for stated, and 'A' stands for America
Wanna stands for both want and to. In this example, wanna means 'want to.'
Mistakes To Avoid
If the contractions lack clarity, it's better to avoid them. For example: "she'd" can be both "she had" and "she would", so if it's not clear in our sentence we avoid using it.
We should avoid double contractions. We certainly must not have two contractions back to back, let's see an example:
❌He'sn't busy → He isn't busy or he's not busy.
If the contraction be mistaken with a possessive even for a moment, it is better to avoid it.
❌Amanda’s key to this problem.
Amanda is a key to this problem. Not her key to this problem!
We should avoid using contractions in formal writings unless we are quoting something from someone in our writing.
We do not use contractions at the end of the affirmative clauses.
Is she Sarah? → ✔Yes she is, ❌not→ yes she’s.
This doesn't apply for negative form.
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)