Contractions in English

Explanation and List of Contractions

girl talking on phoneContractions in English are words or phrases that are shortened by dropping one or more letters and replacing the letter or letters with ' (an apostrophe).

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

Only one apostrophe is used in a contraction no matter how many letters are removed.

Contractions in English are very common in spoken language.

  • he is = he's

    We remove the i and replace it with an apostrophe.

  • I have = I've

    We remove the h and a and replace them with an apostrophe.

  • did not = didn't

    We remove the o and replace it with an apostrophe.

  • will not = won't

    We remove the ill and n and replace them with an apostrophe.

Using contractions in writing

In American English, contractions are very common in spoken language.

We do not use contractions as much in our writing.

Contractions are not used much in formal writing, such as a business letter, business email or essay.

You may use contractions in formal writing when you quote what somebody says.

  • John said, "I wasn't surprised because I knew she was coming to visit."

    was not = wasn't

We can use contractions in friendly letters, friendly emails, blogs and text messages.

writing a letter
Dear Mom,

I'm glad you came to visit last week. I can't wait until I see you again at Christmas. I hope you've made it home safely.


I am = I'm

cannot = can't

you have = you've

Common Contractions in English

are not aren't
cannot can't
could not couldn't
did not didn't
does not doesn't
had not hadn't
has not hasn't
have not haven't
he had; he would hadn't
he will; he shall he'll
he is; he has he's
I had; I would I'd
I will; I shall I'll
I am I'm
I have I've
is not isn't
let us let's
might not mightn't
shall not shan't
she had; she would she'd
she is; she has she's
should not shouldn't
that is; that has that's
there is; there has there's
they had; they would they'd
they will; they shall they'll
they are they're
we had; we would we'd
we are we're
we have we've
were not weren't
what will; what shall what'll
what are what're
what is; what has what's
what have what've
where is; where has where's
who had; who would who'd
who will; who shall who'll
who are who're
who is; who has who's
who have who've
will not won't
would not wouldn't
you had; you would you'd
you will; you shall you'll
you are you're
you have you've


An apostrophe does not always signal a contraction.

Apostrophes are also added to nouns to show ownership.

  • Bill's house

    The house belongs to Bill. This is not a contraction.

  • The cats' food

    The food belongs to the cats. This is not a contraction.

  • The boy's ball

    The ball belongs to the boy. This is not a contraction.

    boy with ball
These were the uses of Contractions in English. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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