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How to Use Apostrophes to Form Contractions

In English you can use contractions to shorten a word by removing one letter or more and substituting an apostrophe in the same spot. For example, chop wi out of I will, throw in an apostrophe, and you have I’ll. The resulting word is shorter and faster to say, with only one syllable (sound) instead of two.

Common contractions in the English language

The following table shows some common contractions. Notice that a couple of contractions are irregular. (Won’t, for example, is short for will not.)

Phrase Contraction
are not aren’t
cannot can’t
could not couldn’t
do not don’t
does not doesn’t
did not didn’t
he will he’ll
he would he’d
he is he’s
is not isn’t
it is it’s
I am I’m
I will I’ll
I would I’d
I have I’ve
she will she’ll
she would she’d
she is she’s
that is that’s
they are they’re
they will they’ll
they would they’d
we are we’re
we will we’ll
we would we’d
we have we’ve
what is what’s
who is who’s
will not won’t
would not wouldn’t
you are you’re
you have you’ve
you will you’ll
you would you’d

If you’d like to make a contraction that isn’t in this table, check your dictionary to make sure it’s legal!

Common contraction mistakes

If you’ve gone to the mall, chances are you’ve seen a sign like this:

Doughnuts ’N Coffee

or

Broken Grammar Rules

Okay, maybe you haven’t ever seen the last one, at least as a sign, but you’ve seen ’n as a contraction of and. And therefore, you’ve witnessed broken grammar rules at the mall.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. These three “verbs” are potholes on the road to better grammar. Why? Because they don’t exist. Here’s the recipe for a grammatical felony. Start with three real verb phrases: would have, could have, and should have.

And turn them into contractions: would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve.

Now turn them back into words. But don’t turn them back into the words they actually represent. Instead, let your ears be your guide. (It helps if you have a lot of wax in your ears because the sounds don’t quite match.) Now you say the following: would of, could of, and should of.

These three phrases are never correct. Don’t use them! Take a look at these examples:

Wrong: If George had asked me to join the spy ring, I would of said, “No way.”
Right: If George had asked me to join the spy ring, I would have said, “No way.”
Also right: If George had asked me to join the spy ring, I would’ve said, “No way.”

Here’s another set:

Wrong: When I heard about the spy ring, I should of told the Central Intelligence Agency.
Right: When I heard about the spy ring, I should have told the Central Intelligence Agency.
Also right: When I heard about the spy ring, I should’ve told the Central Intelligence Agency.
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