English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

What are contractions (with examples)

What are contractions? (with examples)

A contraction is a shortened version of a word or words.

Easy Examples of Contractions

There are two main types of contraction:

(1) Those formed by replacing the missing letter(s) with an apostrophe. (These contractions are formed by either shortening a word or merging two words into one.) For example:

  • don’t
  • can’t
  • shouldn’t
  • he’s

(2) Those formed by compression or truncation of a word. (These contractions do not have apostrophes.) For example:

These are compressed versions of the full words:

  • Mr.
    (compressed version of Mister)
  • Dr
    (compressed version of Doctor)

These are truncated versions of the full words:

  • Prof.
    (truncated version of Professor)
  • Rev.
    (truncated version of Reverend)

(Note: Under UK convention, contractions only attract a period (full stop), when the last letter of the contraction is different from the last letter of the full word. In other words, in the UK, only the truncated versions are written with a period.)

Real-Life Examples of Contractions

Here are some real life sentences with contractions:

  • I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.
  • If you’re hotter than me, then I’m cooler than you.
  • If we shouldn’t eat at night, why’s there a light in the fridge?

Only Use Apostrophes to Replace Letters in Standard Contractions

When an apostrophe replaces a letter, a new word is formed (most often, but not always, from two original words). The new word is called contraction. You can’t make up your own contractions. Here is a list of common contractions in English:

Contraction Original
aren’t are not
can’t cannot
couldn’t could not
didn’t did not
doesn’t does not
don’t do not
hadn’t had not
hasn’t has not
haven’t have not
he’d he had, he would
he’ll he will, he shall
he’s he is, he has
I’d I had, I would
I’ll I will, I shall
I’m I am
I’ve I have
isn’t is not
it’s it is, it has
let’s let us
mustn’t must not
shan’t shall not
she’d she had, she would
she’ll she will, she shall
she’s she is, she has
shouldn’t should not
that’s that is, that has
there’s there is, there has
they’d they had, they would
they’ll they will, they shall
they’re they are
they’ve they have
we’d we had, we would
we’re we are
we’ve we have
weren’t were not
what’ll what will, what shall
what’re what are
what’s what is, what has
what’ve what have
where’s where is, where has
who’d who had, who would
who’ll who will, who shall
who’re who are
who’s who is, who has
who’ve who have
won’t will not
wouldn’t would not
you’d you had, you would
you’ll you will, you shall
you’re you are
you’ve you have

Why Should I Care about Contractions?

Hay cuatro problemas comunes relacionados con las contracciones.

(Issue 1) Putting a period (full stop) at the end of a contraction.

Writers are often unsure whether contractions like Mr and Dr should be spelled with periods (dots) (ie Mr. and Dr.). There are two conventions:

Convention 1. Use a period every time.

  • Dr. Smith asked Prof. Bloggs to remove para. 7 and paras. 18 to 22.

Convention 2. Use a period if the last letter of the contraction and the full word are different.

  • Dr Smith asked Prof. Bloggs to remove para. 7 and paras 18 to 22.
    (Dr and doctor share the same last letters, as do paras and paragraphs. Therefore, these contractions do not require periods. Put another way, in the UK, truncated contractions (e.g.,“Prof.“) attract periods, but the compressed ones (e.g.“Mr“) do not.)

Convention 1 dominates in the US Convention 2 is the most popular in the UK, but Convention 1 is not uncommon. Pick a convention and then be consistent.

(Issue 2) Confusing contractions with other words.

The following contractions are often confused with other words:

  • It’s gets confused with its.
  • You’re gets confused with your.
  • They’re gets confused with there and their.

A mistake related to it’s, you’re, or they’re is considered a howler, and if you make too many, your readers will start to think you’re a bit silly. Hard but true. Here is an important tip:

Top Tips
Expand your contraction. If your sentence still makes sense, then you can put your contraction back. If your sentence doesn’t make sense with the expanded contraction, then you shouldn’t use a contraction.

Let’s try one:

  • Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all it’s pupils.

Apliquemos el consejo:

  • Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all it is pupils. ❌
    (We’ve expanded the contraction, and our sentence makes no sense. Therefore, we shouldn’t be using a contraction.)
  • Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ✔️

Este consejo funciona siempre.

(Issue 3) Expanding a contraction like“should’ve“to“should of.“

Contractions that shorten the word have (for example, should’ve, could’ve) sound like they end with the word of. They do not do it! They have nothing to do with the word of. Write should of, could of or would be a serious howler. Your readers will think you’re dumb if you make that mistake just once.

(Issue 4) Using contractions in business writing.

Many people still consider contractions to be informal and inappropriate for business writing. So it’s best to avoid contractions in business documentation, especially if you’re writing about something serious and you’re not sure who your reader will be. However, this is far from a bug. Contractions can make text less heavy and more enjoyable to read. If they are a casual or casual company and the topic is appropriate, address those contractions.

Key Points

  • Choose a convention for putting periods (dots) after contractions like Dr/Dr. and Mr./Mr. and stick to it.
  • Don’t confuse contractions (eg, you are, are) with other words (eg, you, there). Remember that if you can’t expand a contraction to its full version, then it’s wrong.
  • Do not write could of, should of, or could of… ever.
  • If you think you can get away with using contractions in business writing, go for it.

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