apostrophize

We do not speak like this

apostrophizeOne of the big differences between native speakers of English and non-natives is that non-natives do not don’t use contractions nearly as much.

This is related to the tendency for foreign languages to be taught in their written form. Contractions are not aren’t used in formal writing, for instance in academic journals. They can be seen here and there in newspapers: I have I’ve just glanced at a copy of the Guardian and found “there’s also Osborne the pragmatist” and “you don’t have to look far to see which banks will pay more”. But contractions are relatively rare in print.

By contrast, they are they’re a basic part of spoken English. I adopt a fairly conversational style in my website, and that is that’s why you will you’ll find quite a lot of contractions here.

Let us Let’s listen to some spoken examples from popular Brits. Stephen Fry:

I’m always getting myself into trouble… That’s the point of democracy… We don’t have enough of it.

Dame Judi Dench:

It’s pretty cool… Why can’t I find a play… If they don’t make a difference, I’ll be home here.

Benedict Cumberbatch:

A profession that’s very challenging… You’re asked to use your imagination… Meeting that challenge in a way that’ll hopefully make my peers, my family and my friends proud.

Contractions are not aren’t always used in speech. Sometimes, eg for emphasis, they are not used. But it sounds extremely formal or stilted to avoid them completely. The Queen might say It is no accident that they are known as the friendly games:

but in more normal speech this would be It’s no accident that they’re known as the friendly games.

The main categories of contractions

1. Modal/auxiliary verb + not: don’t, can’t, won’t, aren’t, weren’t, couldn’t, mustn’t, etc

2. Especially after pronouns:

    • the verb be in the present: I’m, you’re, she’s, etc
    • auxiliary have in both present and past: I’ve, I’d, you’ve, you’d, she’s, she’d, etc
    will/shall: I’ll, you’ll, she’ll, etc
    • would: I’d, you’d, she’d, etc

3. let’s


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