English Contractions

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English contractions are shortened forms of helping or auxiliary verbs in both positive and negative sentences. Contractions are generally used in spoken English, but not in formal written English. However, written English is becoming more informal (emails, notes to friends, etc.) and you will often see these forms in print.

Here's an example from a business email:

I've been working on a new project. It hasn't been easy, but next week I'll finish.

This example shows three contractions: I've / hasn't / I'll. Learn the rules of contraction use in English below.

Each of the following English contractions includes an explanation of the full form and example sentences to provide context for understanding.

Positive Contractions

I'm --- I am --- Example: I'm waiting for my friend.
I'll --- I will --- Example: I'll see you tomorrow.
I'd --- I had / I would --- Example: I'd better leave now. OR I'd already eaten by the time he arrived.
I've --- I have --- Example: I've worked here for many years.

You're --- You are --- Example: You're joking!
You'll --- You will --- Example: You'll be sorry!
You'd --- You had / would --- Example: You'd left before he arrived, hadn't you? OR You'd better hurry up.
You've --- You have --- Example: You've been to London many times.

He's --- He is / has --- Example: He's on the phone now. OR He's been playing tennis since 10 this morning.
He'll --- He will --- Example: He'll be here tomorrow.
He'd --- He had / would --- Example: He'd prefer to meet you later in the week. OR He'd finished before the meeting began.

She's --- She is / has --- Example: She's watching TV at the moment. OR She's had a lot of trouble lately.
She'll --- She will --- Example: She'll be at the meeting.
She'd --- She had / would --- Example: She'd been working for two hours when he telephoned. OR She'd like to have a glass of wine.

It's --- It is / has --- Example: It's been long time since we saw each other last. OR It's very difficult to concentrate.
It'll --- It will --- Example: It'll be here soon.
It'd --- It would / had --- Example: It'd be difficult to say no. OR It'd been a long time.

We're --- We are --- Example: We're working hard on the Smith account this week.
We'll --- We will --- Example: We'll begin when he arrives.
We'd --- We had / would --- Example: We'd better hurry up if we want to catch the train. OR We'd finished the meeting before you arrived.
We've --- We have --- Example: We've been waiting for you!

They're --- They are --- Example: They're studying German this afternoon.
They'll --- They will --- Example: They'll finish soon if they concentrate.
They'd --- They had / would --- Example: They'd eaten their lunch when she stopped by to say hello. OR They'd rather not come to the meeting.
They've --- They have --- Example: They've just purchased a new home.

There's --- There is / has --- Example: There's a hotel in the next town. OR There's been too many telephone calls today!
There'll --- There will --- Example: There'll be a price to pay!
There'd --- There had / would --- Example: There'd better be a good explanation for this. OR There'd be some reason for that.

That's --- That is / has --- Example: That's been on my mind lately. OR That's why I can't come.
That'll --- That will --- Example: That'll happen sooner than you think.
That'd --- That had / would --- Example: That'd be the reason why. OR That'd happened before my time.

Negative Contractions

aren't --- are not --- Example: They aren't coming next week.
can't --- can not --- Example: I can't understand you.
couldn't --- could not --- Example: He couldn't get his shoes on!
didn't --- did not --- Example: We didn't visit Rome. We went straight to Florence.
doesn't --- does not --- Example: He doesn't play golf.
don't --- do not --- Example: They don't like cheese.
hadn't --- had not --- Example: I hadn't thought of that!
hasn't --- has not --- Example: She hasn't telephoned yet.
isn't --- is not --- Example: She isn't listening to you.
mustn't --- must not --- Example: Children mustn't play with fire.
needn't --- need not --- Example: You needn't worry about that.
shouldn't --- should not --- Example: You shouldn't smoke cigarettes.
wasn't --- was not --- Example: I wasn't joking when I said that.
weren't --- were not --- Example: They weren't invited to the party.
won't --- will not --- Example: I won't be able to attend the conference.
wouldn't --- would not --- Example: She wouldn't be surprised if he showed up at the party.

Contractions in Speech

English learners should become familiar with contractions in order to understand the grammar of what is said quickly. Native English speakers tend to speak quickly and glide over function words such as helping verbs. Most English contractions are contractions of helping verbs, so an understanding of the role these contracted helping verbs play in grammar can help you better understand spoken English.

English learners should feel free to use contractions whenever they speak, but the use of contractions is not required. If you prefer to speak using full helping verb forms, continue to do so, but become familiar with contractions in order to help your understanding.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "English Contractions." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/english-contractions-1210757. Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). English Contractions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/english-contractions-1210757 Beare, Kenneth. "English Contractions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/english-contractions-1210757 (accessed June 4, 2023).