Contractions are shortened words that use an apostrophe to combine two words into one. You hear contractions in conversation and see them in writing. Understanding the proper use of contractions can help you master the English language.

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using contraction they"re in a sentence

How to Write a Contraction Word

Since the word contract means “to squeeze together,” it seems only logical that a contraction is two words made shorter by placing an apostrophe where letters have been omitted. Writing a contraction properly is simple when you know the general rule of creating contractions.

You replace the letters that were removed from the original words with an apostrophe when you make the contraction.

If you combine “is” + “not” to form “isn’t,” you remove the “o” from “not” and replace it with an apostrophe. One common exception to this rule is the word “won’t.” It is a shortened form of “will not,” but you can see the word “will” is not in the contraction at all.


Lists of Contraction Words

Contraction words are made out of common words, and there are a little over 90 standard contractions.


List of Common Contractions

These are the most common contractions you’ll hear or use when speaking English.

Contraction Word

Base Words

could’ve

could have

he’d

he had or he would

he’s

he is

he’ll/she’ll

he will/she will

I’d

I had

I’ll

I will

I’m

I am

I’ve

I have

let’s

let us

might’ve

might have

must’ve

must have

she’d

she had or she would

should’ve

should have

there’s

there is

they’re

they are

they’d

they would

they’ll

they will

they’ve

they have

we’d

we had or we would

we’ll

we will

we’re

we are

we’ve

we have

where’s

where is

who’s

who is

you’ll

you will


List of Negating Contractions

Contractions like these that include the word “not” negate a verb.

Contraction Word

Base Words

aren’t

are not

can’t

can not

couldn’t

could not

didn’t

did not

doesn’t

does not

don’t

do not

hadn’t

had not

hasn’t

has not

haven’t

have not

isn’t

is not

mustn’t

must not

shouldn’t

should not

wasn’t

was not

weren’t

were not

won’t

will not

wouldn’t

would not


List of Weird Contraction Words

From double contractions to slang and old fashioned words, some contractions don’t look exactly like all the others.

Contraction Word

Base Words

ain’t

am not, is not, has not, have not

e’er

ever

he’d’ve

he would have

ma’am

madam

o’clock

of the clock

she’d’ve

she would have

‘tis

it is

‘twas

it was

y’all

you all


Using Contractions in Formal Writing

While contractions can be very useful in written English, many experts caution against the use of contractions in formal communication. Since contractions tend to add a light and informal tone to your writing, they are often inappropriate for academic research papers, business presentations, and other types of official correspondence.

However, this rule does have some flexibility. In general, it"s best to use your own judgment when deciding if contractions are appropriate for a particular piece.


End of Sentence Contractions

Contractions can be used in any position in a sentence; however, homophone contractions such as "it"s" and "they"re" sound better when followed by another word or phrase. The reason is that the sounds of "its" and "it"s" and "they"re" and "their" are so similar that they can be confusing unless they are used with the context of an additional word.

For example:

Incorrect: "It is what it"s."Correct: "It is what it is looking like."Correct: "It is what it is."Incorrect: "You said they didn"t want to go, well, they"re."Correct: ""You said they didn"t want to go, well, they"re going."Correct: "You said they didn"t want to go, well, they are."

Importance of Contraction Words

Technically speaking, contractions aren"t necessary in written English. Using the full version of a word is always grammatically correct. However, there are a number of reasons why contractions do serve a valuable stylistic purpose.

Contractions make your writing seem friendly and accessible. They give the appearance that you are actually "talking" to your reader.When writing dialogue in a novel or play, contractions help reflect how a character actually speaks.Contractions help save space when preparing advertisements, slogans and other written works that must be short and to the point.

Commonly Confused Contraction Words

A couple contractions fall into the category of commonly confused words in English.


It’s and Its

The contraction it’s is often confused with the word its. You can learn the correct usage of “it’s” and “its”, including the trick for telling the difference.

To determine if you should use “it"s” or “its” in your sentence, try replacing the word with “it is” or “it has”. If the sentence makes sense, “it’s” is appropriate. If not, use “its”.


They’re, Their and There

“They’re” is another troublesome contraction word. Practice usingthey’re”, “their”, and “there” to ensure you’re using each word correctly.

Deciding which word to use is easy if you remember a few simple tips:

If you can replace the questionable word with “they are”, “they’re” is correct.If you can replace the questionable word with “his” or “her”, “their” is correct.If you can replace the questionable word with “here”, “there” is correct.

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Keep on Contracting

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to use contractions correctly, take a look at some of the ways you could still get tripped up by contraction words. Learn when not to use an apostrophe and the 7 y2kcenter.org rules you can break, including using contractions.