#202: Using English Contractions: When & Why You Should + 25 Examples

by | Mar 24, 2021 | 12 comments

Did you know that we have English contractions so we can say words faster? And more easily?

It’s true! Plus, we have contractions because we’re lazy when we speak. We naturally reduce or even omit sounds in spoken communication. 

And the result is contractions!

But here’s the problem: contractions can be difficult to understand in conversation and they can sound strange. As a result, you may avoid using them. 

In this Confident English Lesson, you’ll learn exactly:

  • How contractions work in English
  • When to use English contractions
  • Why you should use contractions

Plus, you’ll learn how to correctly pronounce 25 common English contractions and understand them more easily when you hear contractions in conversation. 

Using Contractions in English + 25 Common Examples

How do English contractions work?

Contractions come from lazy speech. In casual conversation, we may reduce some sounds, which means to make them shorter or quieter. We may even elide over some sounds, which means we don’t say them at all. We do this to make words easier and faster to say when we speak. 

You know all those times you think native speakers talk too fast? It may be a result of contractions. The good news is that when you become more aware of contractions, not only will you recognize and understand them more easily but you’ll also be able to use them in your own speech.

The result of sound reduction or elision is contractions:

  • I will = I’ll
  • Do not = Don’t
  • My name is = My name’s

In writing, contractions are easy to recognize because they include an apostrophe to replace the missing letters or sounds.

Warning: But don’t confuse contractions with possessive nouns. For example, that pen belongs to Annemarie. That is Annemarie’s pen. That house belongs to my friend. That is my friend’s house.

With time, some contractions become standardized. What that means is they are commonly accepted and can be used any time except in formal writing (for example, a job resume, a business letter, an academic paper, etc.)

We also have some nonstandard contractions. What this means is they are considered very casual and should only be used in casual conversation and informal writing, such as text messages.

In this lesson today, you’ll learn common examples of BOTH standard and non-standard contractions.

 

Now that we know HOW contractions work, let’s talk about WHEN you should use them and WHY you should. 

Then we’ll talk about how to pronounce common contractions so you can start using them right away.

So when should you use English contractions?

Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

  1. Casual conversation (chatting with friends, neighbors, coworkers, family, etc.)
  2. Professional conversations that are not formal — for example, introducing yourself to a potential new client, getting to know your team members
  3. Casual writing including text messages, social media posts/comments, emails (generally speaking)

When to avoid contractions:

  1. Formal writing: business letters, job resumes, formal emails, academic papers/research papers
  2. Formal speaking events such as presentations/lectures, more formal business meetings

 

What to do if you’re not sure?

  1. Listen to others around you. Are they using contractions? Or do you notice their speech is more formal and correct? Follow the example of others around you.

 

You may be thinking, do I really need to do this? Why should I?

Using contractions is considered to make one’s speech sound more natural and more informal. 

Is that a good thing?

 

Absolutely! Imagine speaking to your closest friend with overly formal speech, for example, “Hello Amy. I am pleased to see you. How are you doing today?”

 

What might your best friend think if you spoke to her like that?

It’s a bit unusual, right? It’s too formal.

 

Using contractions is like removing a barrier. There is less formality, less distance in the conversation. 

Instead of that formal way to greet your friend, you could say:

 

“Hey Amy. It’s great to see you. How’s it going?”

Ah, that’s much better!

 

Now let’s work on the pronunciation of common standard and nonstandard contractions, plus some clear examples of how they sound in a sentence.

 

Standard English Contractions: 

  1. I’m (I’m Annemarie.) or My name’s (My name’s Annemarie.)
  2. He’s/She’s (She’s late.)
  3. We’re (We’re going out for drinks after work. Want to join us?)
  4. You’re 
  5. They’re
  6. I’ll (I’ll call you later.)
  7. You’ll 
  8. We’ll (We’ll see you tomorrow!)
  9. They’ll
  10. He’ll/She’ll
  11. Don’t
  12. Doesn’t
  13. Wasn’t
  14. Weren’t (Even after working overtime, they weren’t able to meet the deadline.)
  15. Won’t
  16. Wouldn’t (I wouldn’t do that if I were you.)
  17. Couldn’t 
  18. Shouldn’t
  19. How’s (How’s it going?)
  20. How’d (How’d the presentation go?)

 

As a reminder, these standard contractions are commonly accepted. You can certainly use them in conversation and in some writing as well.

Let’s move on to some nonstandard examples. Nonstandard means they should only be used in casual conversation and very informal writing, such as text messages. But they are not acceptable for emails or other forms of casual writing. 

Non-Standard English Contractions: 

  1. Why’d = Why did (Why’d you do that?)
  2. Who’d’ve = Who would have (Who’d’ve thought contractions could be so interesting?)
  3. We’d’ve = We would have (We’d’ve finished the project on time if we’d had all the details we needed.)
  4. Must’ve = Must have (She must’ve missed the train.)
  5. I’d’ve = I would have (I’d’ve called you yesterday but I didn’t get home until late.)

 

What’s best about learning contractions is that once you become aware of them, you’ll hear them often AND you’ll recognize them. It will make understanding others MUCH easier and you can incorporate them into your own English speaking.

Now that you’ve reviewed the lesson, I’d love to know if you had an aha moment. A moment of insight or discovery. 

If so, tell me about it!

You can share and review comments from others in the Confident English Community in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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