Contractions

Contractions (contracted forms) are short words formed from two or more words. The most common example is when we add "not" to an auxiliary verb in negative sentences.

DO + NOT = DON'T
IS + NOT = ISN'T
WERE + NOT = WEREN'T

Examples

  • He won't do it.
  • Mike isn't happy.

As you can see, the letter o has been replaced by an apostrophe — this is how contractions are formed.

Contracted forms are by no means limited to the ones with not. Other words, such as is, are, will, are also often contracted.

He + IS = HE'S
WE + ARE = WE'RE
I + WILL = I'LL

Examples

  • We'll do it.
  • They're doing just fine.

Since there are only a few contractions, you should easily be able to memorize them.

When are contracted forms used?

Contractions are mainly used in speech and informal writing. They should not be used in formal writing, like you can see in the text below:

"The User also agrees that the aforementioned individuals are not responsible for any Internet Usage Fees incurred while using the Site. The User agrees that the aforementioned individuals may not be sued or be held responsible for anything, as this is a free service and use is voluntary. Should the User NOT agree that the aforementioned individuals are removed from all responsibilities, the User should not use the Service."

Contractions and possessive pronouns

Contractions are often confused with possessive pronouns, because of identical pronunciation.

Look at below sentences. Which of them are correct?

  • Their sleeping in a tent today. (a)
  • They're sleeping in a tent today. (b)
  • Has the lion lost its roar? (c)
  • Has the lion lost it's roar? (d)
  • It's me! (e)
  • Its me! (f)

The correct answers are: b, c, and e.

a and e are contracted forms of the verb to "be", c is a possessive pronoun.

The remaining sentences are incorrect because a possessive pronoun has been used instead of a contracted form, or vice versa.