Using Apostrophes to Replace Letters (Forming Contractions)
Apostrophes Replace Letters to Form ContractionsAn apostrophe can be used to show that a word is a contraction.
In a contraction, the apostrophe replaces a missing letter or letters. Most often, but not always, a contraction uses the remaining letters of the original words. For example:
More Examples of Apostrophes in ContractionsIn these examples, the contractions are highlighted:
- The weather's bad. (Written in full: "The weather is bad.")
(In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter i, and the two words are joined to make one. The new word is a contraction.)
- Don't think about it. (In full: "Do not think about it.")
In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter o, and the two words are joined to make a contraction.
- Alan can't deliver on Tuesdays. (In full: "Alan cannot deliver on Tuesdays.")
- If you don't fail now and again, it's a sign you're playing it safe. (Actor Woody Allen) (In full: "If you do not fail now and again, it is a sign you are playing it safe.")
- Don't look now, but there's one too many in this room, and I think it's you. (Groucho Marx) (In full: "Do not look now, but there is one too many in this room, and I think it is you.")
- Blood's not thicker than money. (Groucho Marx) (In full: "Blood is not thicker than money.")
Examples of Wrongly Placed Apostrophes in ContractionsHere are two examples of a wrongly placed apostrophes in contractions.
The apostrophe error in this Christmas-cracker joke is funnier than the joke.
(This is a rare mistake.)
- Sally is'nt able to complete her work. (This should be "isn't," which is a contraction of "is not." Writing "is'nt" is the most common mistake with misplacing an apostrophe in a contraction. However, it is still rare.)
Only Use Apostrophes to Replace Letters in Standard ContractionsYou cannot invent your own contractions.
- g'tar (The apostrophe replaces the "ui" in "guitar," but this is not a recognized contraction.)
- potato's (The apostrophe replaces the "e" in "potatoes," but this is not a recognized contraction.)
List of Contractions in EnglishHere is a list of common contractions in English:
|he'd||he had, he would|
|he'll||he will, he shall|
|he's||he is, he has|
|I'd||I had, I would|
|I'll||I will, I shall|
|it's||it is, it has|
|she'd||she had, she would|
|she'll||she will, she shall|
|she's||she is, she has|
|that's||that is, that has|
|there's||there is, there has|
|they'd||they had, they would|
|they'll||they will, they shall|
|we'd||we had, we would|
|what'll||what will, what shall|
|what's||what is, what has|
|where's||where is, where has|
|who'd||who had, who would|
|who'll||who will, who shall|
|who's||who is, who has|
|you'd||you had, you would|
|you'll||you will, you shall|
Read more about contractions.
Common Mistakes Related to ContractionsHere are seven common writing issues involving apostrophes and contractions:
(Issue 1) Don't Merge Three WordsDo not merge three words with a contraction. For example:
(Issue 2) Do Not Confuse "You're" and "Your""You're" is short for "you are." For example:
- You're a naughty boy.
- The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. (Lily Tomlin)
- This is your PC.
- This is you're PC.
- Your a star. (This should be "you're.")
(Issue 3) Do Not Confuse "It's" and "Its"It's" is short for "it has" or "it is." (There are no other uses.) For example:
- It's stopped raining, and it's sunny. (It has stopped raining, and it is sunny.)
- I'm near the whale. I can see its tail.
- This is it's fourth journey. This should be "its.")
- Its as easy as falling off a log. This should be "It's.")
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. (Winston Churchill)
(Issue 4) Do Not Write "Should Of""Should've" sounds like "should of," but it is short for "should have." (This is the same for "could've" and "would've.")
- should of
- could of
- would of
(Issue 5) Write "Cannot" As One WordAs an expansion of "can't," "cannot" is one word.
- I can not stand in the rain for too long.
- A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
- Rebecca can not only sing but dance too.
(Issue 6) There Is No Apostrophe in "Ours"Words like "ours," "theirs," "yours," and "hers" (called possessive pronouns) do not have apostrophes in them.
- These books are ours.
- You can use our's.
- I saw theirs'.
(Issue 7) Write Contractions in Full in Business WritingContractions reflect how people speak. They are generally reserved for informal writing. In business writing, it is unusual to use contractions because they can make your writing look too informal. Unless your business has an informal "voice" (like, say, Virgin and Red Bull), it is a good practice to play it safe and write all words in their full forms.
- Therefore, the delivery date can't be met. (This is not wrong, but it might be too informal for your company's "voice.")
- It's available for collection on Tuesday. (Not wrong but possibly too informal)