What Are Contractions in Writing? (2023)

Contractions are a unique type of word that combines two or more other words in a shortened form, usually with an apostrophe. Contractions take words that usually go together, like can not or I have, and then remove certain letters to shorten them and make other words, like can’t or I’ve.

Contractions are an incredibly useful way to save time in both writing and speech, but there are a lot of rules about when and how to use them (for example, in formal writing they’re considered inappropriate). We’ll clear up the confusion and explain everything you need to know about contractions and provide a contraction word list below.

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What are contractions in writing?

Contractions are a kind of abbreviation that combines two or more words by removing certain letters and usually adding an apostrophe. Only certain words can be contracted: typically small and common words (not, is/are), especially pronouns (I, he/she/it, they), and modal verbs (can, will, might, must, should, would, could).

Even though they represent multiple words, contractions act as a single word. Moreover, contractions all have a definite spelling, which means you can’t just combine words however you like. Be careful, though, because two different contractions can be spelled the same, such as I would and I had, which are both contracted as I’d.

In sentence structure, contractions act in the same way as the words that make them.

I do not understand how to use contractions.

(Video) Contractions! | English Grammar Practice | Scratch Garden

I don’t understand how to use contractions.

The point of contractions is simply to save time. By cutting out letters and combining multiple words into one, your writing (and speech) becomes more compact and therefore more potent. Contractions are common in casual conversations like emails, text messages, or social media posts but not in formal writing like academic papers.

Only certain word combinations have contractions, so you shouldn’t try to make up your own. We’ve provided a contraction word list below so you can review which contractions are acceptable.

Contractions grammar: How are contractions used?

Here’s a quick list of the grammar rules for contractions.

1 Don’t use contractions in formal writing.

Contractions are considered informal language—they’re most common in speech and casual written conversations. That makes them out of place in formal writing like academic papers or research reports. You can review formal vs. informal writing here to see whether or not you should use contractions.

2 Negative contractions are typically used with tag questions.

Tag questions are declarative statements with a question “tagged on” the end that asks if someone agrees.

The weather is hot today, isn’t it?

If the declarative part of the sentence is a positive statement, then the question part is phrased as a negative and vice versa. When the tag question is negative, use a contraction. If the main verb is be, then the verb in the tag question should match (like in the example above, which uses is and isn’t). If the declarative statement uses a main verb other than be, the tag question uses a negative contraction formed with do and not.

She loves you more than me, doesn’t she?

3 Some contractions are colloquial.

You may have heard some people use contractions like amn’t or ain’t, but these are not common. Like slang, some contractions are popular only in certain geographical regions or cultures. These are known as colloquialisms, and colloquial contractions may not be understood by everyone because they’re technically not proper English.

Specifically, the contraction amn’t is used mostly in Scottish and Irish English, while the contractions ain’t and y’all are used mostly in regional American English.

(Video) Contractions: What are contractions? | English For Kids | Mind Blooming

4 Don’t confuse contractions with possessives.

Apostrophes are common in both contractions and possessive nouns, which can get confusing. To make matters worse, possessive nouns in English use ’s, just like many contractions. If you’re confusing contractions and possessives, it can help to take a look at their context.

The university’s recruited archaeologists to help with the dig.

[The university has recruited . . .]

The university’s archaeologists help with the dig.

[The archeologists of the university help . . .]

Another potentially confusing area is possessive pronouns, which can sound the same as some contractions. In these cases, just remember that possessive pronouns do not use an apostrophe, so if you see what looks like a possessive pronoun with an apostrophe, it’s actually a contraction.

it’s -> it is

its -> possessive of it

they’re -> they are

their -> possessive of they

who’s -> who is

(Video) Contractions 1 | English Song for Kids | Reading & Writing Skills | Grammar | Jack Hartmann

whose -> possessive of who

she’s -> she is

her -> possessive of she

5 In American English, don’t use contractions with has/have to express possession.

Have and has are two of the most common words in contractions, whether they’re preceded by subjects (we’ve, it’s) or phrased as negatives (haven’t, hasn’t). However, have and has can be used as contractions only when they’re modal verbs, another name for helper verbs. When have or has is used as a main verb with the meaning “to own, possess, or hold,” they cannot be used as contractions.

I’ve a dog at home.

I’ve owned dogs since I was a kid.

6 In American English, avoid subject contractions in the negative present perfect tense.

There’s another rule about contractions, again particular to American English, related to subject contractions in the present perfect tense (used for past actions that are related to or continue into the present). When the present perfect tense is used in the negative, it’s incorrect to use a subject contraction like she’s or I’ve. Instead you should use the subject followed by the contractions haven’t or hasn’t.

(Video) Should you use contractions in writing?

I’ve not even gotten dressed yet!

I haven’t even gotten dressed yet!

7Contractions with nouns are less common in writing than in speech.

While contractions with pronouns are typical in both speech and informal writing, contractions with other nouns are more exclusive to speech than to writing.

When speaking directly to someone, you might say something like, “My friend’ll be here soon” or “Jonah’s on his way,” but in writing these are considered too informal (unless they’re part of dialogue). It’s best to avoid contractions like these in all forms of writing.

8 It’s best to avoid double contractions in writing.

Another type of contraction that’s fine in speech but not in writing is the double contraction, such as I’d’ve for I would have or mustn’t’ve for must not have. While these are technically acceptable in casual conversations, they look awkward and should be avoided in all forms of writing (again, unless they’re part of dialogue).

Contraction word list: examples of contractions

Common contraction word list

could’vecould have
he’dhe had, he would
he’llhe will
he’she has, he is
here’shere is
how’dhow did, how would
how’llhow will
how’rehow are
how’show has, how is
I’dI had, I would
I’llI will
I’mI am
I’veI have
it’dit had, it would
it’llit will
it’sit has, it is
let’slet us
might’vemight have
must’vemust have
she’dshe had, she would
she’llshe will
she’sshe has, she is
should’veshould have
somebody’ssomebody has, somebody is
someone’ssomeone has, someone is
something’ssomething has, something is
that’dthat would
that’llthat will
that’sthat has, that is
there’sthere has, there is
there’rethere are
these’llthese will
these’rethese are
they’dthey had, they would
they’llthey will
they’rethey are
they’vethey have
this’llthis will
this’sthis has, this is
those’llthose will
we’dwe had, we would
we’llwe will
we’rewe are
we’vewe have
what’dwhat did
what’llwhat will
what’rewhat are
what’swhat has, what is
what’vewhat have
when’dwhen did
when’swhen has, when is
where’dwhere did
where’llwhere will
where’rewhere are
where’swhere has, where is
where’vewhere have
which’swhich has, which is
who’dwho did, who had, who would
who’llwho will
who’rewho are
who’swho has, who is
who’vewho have
why’dwhy did
why’rewhy are
why’swhy has, why is
would’vewould have
you’dyou had, you would
you’llyou will
you’reyou are
you’veyou have

Negative contraction word list

aren’tare not
can’tcan not
couldn’tcould not
didn’tdid not
doesn’tdoes not
don’tdo not
hadn’thad not
hasn’thas not
haven’thave not
isn’tis not
mustn’tmust not
shouldn’tshould not
wasn’twas not
weren’twere not
won’twill not
wouldn’twould not

Contractions FAQs

What are contractions?

Contractions are two or more words that are combined and shortened to save time. Typically, you can identify a contraction by the apostrophe, as with isn’t or they’ve—but don’t confuse contractions with possessive nouns, which also use apostrophes.

How do contractions work?

Contractions replace the words they represent and take their place in a sentence. Typically, certain letters are removed, which are noted by the apostrophe.

(Video) What are contractions in writing examples?

When should you use contractions?

Contractions are considered informal, so they should not be used in formal writing like academic papers.

What are some examples of contractions?

Some of the most common contractions in English include can’t, it’s, they’ve, what’s, and would’ve.


What are the contractions in writing? ›

Contractions are a unique type of word that combines two or more other words in a shortened form, usually with an apostrophe. Contractions take words that usually go together, like can not or I have, and then remove certain letters to shorten them and make other words, like can't or I've.

What is a contraction answer? ›

A contraction is a word made by shortening and combining two words. Words like can't (can + not), don't (do + not), and I've (I + have) are all contractions. People use contractions in both speaking and writing.

What is contraction explain with example? ›

Contractions, also known as 'short forms', are shortened words. Specifically, a contraction is when two words are shortened in form and are put together to form one new word. For example, you and are can be combined to create a shorter word, you're . When two words are combined, certain letters will disappear.

What are the most common contractions? ›

List of Common Contractions
II'm I amI'll I will
youyou're you areyou'll you will
hehe's he ishe'll he will
sheshe's she isshe'll she will
10 more rows

What is the rule of contractions? ›

The 5-1-1 Rule: The contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour. Fluids and other signs: You might notice amniotic fluid from the sac that holds the baby. This doesn't always mean you're in labor, but could mean it's coming.

What is the best way to describe contractions? ›

Contractions are often described as a cramping or tightening sensation that starts in the back and moves around to the front in a wave-like manner. Others say the contraction feels like pressure in the back. During a contraction, the abdomen becomes hard to the touch.

What are 5 examples of contractions? ›

Here are some common contractions and the groups of words that they represent.
  • aren't → are not.
  • there's → there is; there has.
  • can't → can not.
  • they'd → they had; they would.
  • couldn't → could not.
  • they'll → they will; they shall.
  • didn't → did not.
  • they're → they are.

What are the 3 types of and contraction? ›

There are three types of muscle contraction: concentric, isometric, and eccentric.

What are the four types of contractions? ›

Isometric: A muscular contraction in which the length of the muscle does not change. isotonic: A muscular contraction in which the length of the muscle changes. eccentric: An isotonic contraction where the muscle lengthens. concentric: An isotonic contraction where the muscle shortens.

What are the 10 examples of contractions? ›

Common English Contractions
  • am becomes 'm.
  • are becomes 're.
  • had becomes 'd.
  • has becomes 's.
  • have becomes 've.
  • is becomes 's.
  • will becomes 'll.
  • would becomes 'd.
Oct 20, 2019

How do you use contraction in a sentence? ›

Example Sentences
  1. The hot metal undergoes contraction as it cools.
  2. Two teams were eliminated in the contraction of the baseball league.
  3. She felt contractions every two minutes.
Jan 7, 2023

How do you write a sentence with a contraction? ›

You use contractions in a sentence to shorten the phrase and give it a less formal tone. For example: “They are playing together.” When you use a contraction, you combine “they” and “are”. You then replace the “a” with an apostrophe. The sentence becomes: “They're playing together.”

Can you end a sentence with a contraction? ›

Unless it's negative, never put a contraction at the end of a sentence. Watch out for homophones. Avoid slang like y'all and ain't in writing.

What are contracted words? ›

Contracted words, also known as contractions (the term used in the 2014 revised national curriculum) are short words made by putting two words together. Letters are omitted in the contraction and replaced by an apostrophe. The apostrophe shows where the letters would be if the words were written in full.

Is a contraction one word? ›

Contractions are shortened words. People will read and understand them depending on their context. Avoid them in formal content.

What are 5 contractions? ›

Here are some common contractions and the groups of words that they represent.
  • aren't → are not.
  • there's → there is; there has.
  • can't → can not.
  • they'd → they had; they would.
  • couldn't → could not.
  • they'll → they will; they shall.
  • didn't → did not.
  • they're → they are.

Is it your dad or you're dad? ›

Your father. (Refers to the father you have… not you) You're a father. (Refers to you … YOU are a father)


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