Contractions: When You Can and When You Can’t

Contractions are the same as their longer forms, just shorter!

Contractions are wonderful, and we use them when speaking English all the time.

We don’t often hear: “I am going to the store later, but I cannot take you with be because you will need time to do your homework.”

Even when we read it, it sounds like a robot!  You’re more likely to hear: “I’m going to the store latter, but I can’t take you because you’ll need time to do your homework.”

How do contractions work?  In one of three ways:

Don’t do it!
  1. Negative contractions

Negative contractions are for when we need to use the “no” version of something.  The “not” part of the sentence gets pushed together, usually with a helping verb, and we exchange the “o” for an apostrophe [‘].  Negative contractions are words like:

  • Can not = Can’t
  • Do/Did not = Don’t/Didn’t
  • Would not = Wouldn’t
  • Could not = Couldn’t
  • Will not = Won’t
  • Should not = Shouldn’t
  • Might not = Mightn’t

Even though you see a lot of modal verbs in this list, there is no “may not” contraction: just say “That may not work” and use both words.

We’re going shopping, and she’s getting a new dress!

2. Be-verb Contractions

You probably heard a be-verb contraction before you even knew what a contraction was!  These are very common, and we use them all the time.  They give us words like:

  • I am = I’m
  • You are = You’re
  • She/he is = She’s/He’s
  • We are = We’re
  • They are = They’re

Be-verb contractions are only used for present tense verbs.  There is no “I was = I’s” contraction.

I’d love to go on an adventure! I’ve never been on an adventure before!

3. Helping verb contractions

Helping verbs like “have” and “will” and modal verbs like “would”, “could”, or “should” can be contracted with their subjects.  Be careful though!  Sometimes they can look the same, so be sure to read the whole sentence before you decide which verb has been contracted!

  • I would = I’d
  • Also: I had = I’d
  • You have = You’ve
  • She will = She’ll

Remember that usually* you can only use one contraction per subject.  “I have not” does NOT become “I’ven’t“.

* The only exception to this is “would + have”, which can sometimes be contracted in speaking to “She’d’ve”, for example:

She would have gone home, but she was having too much fun! 
She’d’ve gone home, but she was having too much fun!

Remember, only use this double-contraction in speaking, and try to avoid it in writing!

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Want to learn more about how contractions can help you feel more confident speaking English?  Contact LingoLoop today to speak with a tutor!

 

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