Contractions

Contractions

What is a contraction?

A contraction is a shortened form of a word (or group of words) that omits certain letters or sounds. In most contractions, an apostrophe represents the missing letters. The most common contractions are made up of verbs, auxiliaries, or modals attached to other words: He would=He’d. I have=I’ve. They are=They’re. You cannot=You can’t.

Common English Contractions

Contractions are common in speech—so common that we don’t always take the time to pronounce them precisely, which leads to a particular contraction mistake writers might make if they’re not paying attention. In speech, we often pronounce could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve in a way that sounds identical to “could of,” “should of,” and “would of.” But you should never write could of, should of, or would of. Remember, could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve are contractions that mean could have, should have, and would have.

Other contractions

Some writers use less common contractions when they want to represent a particular style of speech. They might write somethin’ to represent the way people often don’t pronounce the final g of “something” in speech. Occasionally, you might see e’er (instead of ever) in poetry. And, of course, in the American South, you will probably encounter y’all (you all). Decade names are often contracted as well: the ’60s (the 1960s).

There are a few contractions, such as gonna (going to) and wanna (want to) that are written without apostrophes.

When to use contractions

Contractions are perfectly standard, but they’re usually considered to be relatively casual. If you’re writing something very formal, you may want to avoid using them except in cases like o’clock, where the full phrase (of the clock) truly is rare.

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Your writing, at its best
Why not make your writing mistake-free across the web?
Get Grammarly It’s free
Blog Updates
Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Embed Code

Copy code below to embed this post to your site.