Contractions in English--How to Join Two Words to Become One

Contractions in English–How to Join Two Words to Become One

Learning Contractions in English

Contractions are shortcuts. When we use them in English we are joining two words together. Then, they become one word. This is not the same as a compound word. In a compound words, both words are joined together with no changes.

When we use contractions, we leave out one or more letters of the second word. We replace those letters with an apostrophe (‘). For example, if we contract did and not, it becomes didn’t. In this posting I talk about how to form and use these words.

In addition, I talk about types of contractions. The download at the end will contain a list of common English contractions and their meanings.

When can we use contractions?

Contractions are easy to use.We can use them most of the time in our daily use of English. We can use them in conversation. In addition, we can talk to anyone about anything using contractions. These shortcut words are also work well  in informal writing (such as this posting). Use them in informal articles, notes, e-mails, texts, Facebook postings, and tweets. The only time we don’t use them is in very formal or academic writing.

How do we form contractions?

Contractions are easy to form. When we join two words together, we leave out one or more letters form the second word. We replace those letters with an apostrophe. Here are some examples.

cannot     do not     did not   should not   are not   I am   she is   will not

can’t        don’t       didn’t      shouldn’t     aren’t     I’m     she’s     won’t (This is an exception.)

Types of contractions–Positive

Positive contractions are often made with the following verbs: be, have, would, will. They are use in affirmative sentences.

  • I’m (I am)  a student.
  • You’re (you are) going to like this movie.
  • He’s (he is) my next door neighbor.
  • It’s (it is)  raining today.
  • She’s (she has) got a cold.
  • I’d (I would) pay my rent on time if I were you.
  • We’ll (we will) be there tomorrow afternoon.

Types of contractions–Negative

Negative contractions contain the word not. They are used in negative sentences.

  • Don’t (do not) look directly at the sun during an eclipse.
  • I can’t (cannot) meet you for lunch tomorrow.
  • He hasn’t (has not) done his homework yet.

Types of contractions–Others

Below are some other contractions. They are positive, but are a little different from the ones listed above.

  • Here’s (here is) the new book you ordered.
  • That’ll (that will) be $5.00, please. You can pay me now.
  • What’s (what is)  his name? I know I’ve seen him before, but  I can’t remember who he is.
  • Who’d (who did) you invite to your party? 

Using contractions with nouns

We can use contractions with nouns. We can do this with both people’s names and with common nouns.

  • Mary’s (Mary is) ready to go now.
  • Mary’s (Mary has) been waiting for an hour.
  • Mary’d (had ) better get to work on time.
  • Mary’ll (Mary will) be here in a minute.
  • The dog’s (dog is) running around in the backyard.
  • That book’s (book is) really good! 

Two ways to use negative contractions

We can use negative contraction with be verb in two ways. The following sentences will give you examples.

  • I’m not ready.  There is no other way to say this correctly with a contraction.
  • You’re not ready. or You aren’t ready. Both mean ,”You are not ready.” 
  • He’s not ready. or He isn’t ready. Both mean, “He is not ready.” 
  • We’re not ready.  or We aren’t ready. Both mean ,”We are not ready.” 
  • They’re not ready. or They aren’t ready. . Both mean, “They are not ready.” 

Using contractions at the end of a sentence.

A sentence can end with a negative contraction.

  • My sister can speak Spanish, but I can’t.
  • Most people drink coffee, but I don’t.

We never, however, and an English sentence with a positive contraction. In that case we say or write out both words fully with out leaving out letters and without an apostrophe.

I asked her is she was married, and she told he that she is. (Not she’s)

Some very informal contractions

Some contractions are very informal. They are not real words, but they are still often used in conversation. Many of them do not contain an apostrophe.

  • ain’t (am, not, are not, has not)–He ain’t been to work in two  weeks.  Note, ain’t is considered to be bad English.
  • gimme (give me)–Gimme the car keys, please.
  • gonna (going to)–I’m gonna go on vacation next week.
  • gotta (got to)–You’ve just gotta see this new movie. It’s so funny! 
  • kinda (kind of–It means a little bit)–My new neighbor is kinda mean.
  • wanna (want to)–What do you wanna eat tonight? 

Some very old contractions

Some common English words are actually contractions! No one ever uses the full two or three words. Here are some examples.

o’clock (This means of the clock). I’ll see you at two o’clock.

Halloween (This means hallowed or holy evening. Halloween is the evening before All Saints’ Day) My brother word a scary costume for Halloween.

ma’am (This means madam.It is a polite way of addressing a woman you don’t know.). Good morning, ma’am. May I help you?

The contraction it’s

It is easy to confuse the contraction it’s with the pronoun its. Many native speaker make this mistake. It’s means it is.

It’s a beautiful day today. This means, “It is a beautiful day today.

Its is a pronoun that means belonging to it.

The dog wagged its tail. You could never say,”the dog wagged it is tail.” That doesn’t make sense.

You now know how to form and use contractions. Contractions are shortcuts. When we form them, we join two words together. We leave out one of more letters in the second word, and replace those letters with an apostrophe (‘). Contractions may be positive or negative. We can also use these words with people’s names and common nouns. We can end a sentence with a negative contraction, but never a positive one. Finally, some common very old or very informal words in English are actually contractions. The download will give you a list of many common English contractions and their meanings.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idiom of the day

  1. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.  This means don’t assume everything will work out until you know all the facts. My brother applied for a new job. He thought he was going to get it,so he ordered a new car. But they hired someone else. So I told him, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
  2. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  This means it’s hard to replace old habits with new one. My friend was late to work everyday. He tried to get there on time, but he was still late everyday. The boss fired him. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Study English Contractions from this lesson with these flashcards

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