Take a look at the following sentences:

I’m learning how to code.

I'll get a software developer job.

Learning how to code doesn’t have to cost you money.

The words I’m, I’ll and doesn’t are called contractions.

In this article, you'll learn all about contractions – what they are, when and where you'll most likely come across them, when and when not to use them. Finally you'll see some of the most common contractions used in the English language.

Let's get started!

What are contractions?

Contractions, also known as 'short forms', are shortened words.

Specifically, a contraction is when two words are shortened in form and are put together to form one new word.

For example, you and are can be combined to create a shorter word, you’re.

When two words are combined, certain letters will disappear. You can lose just one letter or more, depending on the contraction.

When you combine those two words and the letter(s) disappear, an apostrophe () will take their place.

The missing, original letters get replaced by the apostrophe to show the place where the missing letters should be. Those letters will not appear in the contraction (as they've been replaced by the apostrophe).

For example, take the word isn't. This contraction combines the words is and not. When those two get paired together, the letter o disappears. An apostrophe now takes its place to show where the missing letter was.

Another example is when you and will get combined to form you'll. Now two letters disappear,w and i, and the apostrophe fills that space of two missing letters.

When do you use contractions?

We use contractions every day in both speech and writing.

You'll hear them from your friends, family, and on TV. You'll see them in novels, non-fiction books, newspapers, instruction manuals, blog posts, learning material, and much more. There are a couple in this very paragraph, and I use them throughout this article.

They are informal and casual, since they give your writing a more friendly, light, accessible, and approachable tone.

Contractions can make the reader feel like you are talking directly to them and having a conversation. It helps make your writing appear uncomplicated for everyone to understand and make sense of.

Because contractions are shorter, it also means that they take up less space. Because of that, you'll often see them in advertisements where space is valuable.

In a nutshell, you can comfortably use contractions in more informal writing and on relaxed occasions.

When to avoid using contractions

It's best to avoid using contractions when you want to maintain a more serious and formal tone in your writing.

For example, skip using them in academic research papers, important business presentations, or in any situation where informal writing or speech would not make much sense.

Common contractions

Below are some of the most widely used and common contractions you'll encounter when speaking and writing in English.

Common Contractions ending in -ll

Contractions ending in -ll include the word will. The w and i letters get dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
I’ll I + will
She’ll She + will
It’ll It + will
We’ll We + will
You’ll You + will
They’ll They + will
Who’ll Who + will
That’ll That + will
There’ll There + will
What’ll What + will
When’ll When + will
Where’ll Where + will
How’ll How + will

Common Contractions ending in -re

Contractions ending in -re include the word are. The letter a gets dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
We’re We + are
You’re You + are
They’re You + are
Who’re Who + are
What’re What + are
When’re When + are
Where’re Where + are
Why’re Why + are
How’re How + are

Common Contractions ending in -s

Contractions ending in -s include either the word is or has.

For example:

  • He is going = He’s going
  • It has gone = It’s gone.

The letter i or the letters h and a, respectively, get dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
He’s He + is / He + has
She’s She + is / She + has
It’s It + is / It + has
Who’s Who + is / Who + has
There’s There + is / There + has
Thats’s That + is / That + has
What’s What + is
When’s When + is
Where’s Where + is
Why’s Why + is
How’s How + is

What about let's ? That is a bit different. let's comes from let + us.

Common Contractions ending in -ve

Contractions ending in -ve include the word have. The letters h and a get dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
I’ve I + have
You’ve You + have
We’ve We + have
They’ve They + have
Could’ve Could + have
Would’ve Would + have
Should’ve Should + have
Must’ve Must + have
Might’ve Might + have
Who’ve Who + have
What’ve What + have
When’ve When + have
Where’ve Where + have
Why’ve Why + have
How’ve How + have

Common Contractions ending in -d

Contractions ending in -d include either the word had or would.

Some examples with the word had:

  • I'd better go now = I had better go now
  • I wish I'd never left = I wish I had never left.

Some examples with the word would:

  • I'd rather not go there = I would rather not go there
  • I'd like something to drink please = I would like something to drink please.
Contracted Uncontracted
I’d I + had / I + would
She’d She + had / She + would
We’d We + had / We + would
They’d They + had / They + would
Who’d Who + had / Who + would
That’d That + had / That + would
What’d What + had / What + would
There’d There + had / There + would
When’d When + had / When + would
Where’d Where + had / Where + would
Why’d Why + had / Why + would
How’d How + had / How + would

Common Contractions ending in -m

Contractions ending in -m,include the word am.

The letter a gets dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
I’m I + am

Negative contractions

Negative contractions are those that end in -nt.

You achieve this by adding the word not to a verb, making it negative.

In this case,the letter o gets dropped.

Contracted Uncontracted
Can’t Can + not
Hadn’t Had + not
Hasn’t Has + not
Haven’t Have + not
Didn’t Did + not
Doesn’t Does + not
Don’t Do + not
Daren’t Dare + not
Couldn’t Could + not
Wouldn’t Would + not
Shouldn’t Should + not
Mustn’t Must + not
Mightn't Might + not
Oughtn’t Ought + not
Needn’t Need + not
Wasn't Was+ not
Isn’t Is+ not
Aren’t Are + not
Weren’t Were + not
Shan’t Shall + not

A word that is a little different and an exception to what has been shown so far is won’t – it comes from will + not = won’t.

will does not turn into willn’t. In fact the word "will" does not appear in the contraction at all. Just think of it as an irregular contraction (like how we have irregular verbs).

Common mistakes with contractions

A couple of contractions commonly cause confusion and people often use them in the wrong way - you'll even see native English speakers make these mistakes.

These contractions sound exactly the same with other words, so these mistakes commonly occur in writing.

You’re and Your

You’re is a contraction, a combination of the words you and are.

For example, You’re learning how to code or You’re doing great!.

Your is a possesive pronoun, it is used to indicate that something is owned by/belongs to someone.

For example, Your cat is so cuddly! or Your cooking always tastes so good.

Your doing great makes no sense since it doesn't indicate that something belongs to someone. You’re doing great does, since it indicates action and verbs are used for that.

If you get confused and don't know which to use, read it out to yourself as you are and see if it sounds right.

Your are cat is so cuddly! doesn't make sense or sound right, for example.

It’s and Its

It’s is a contraction – a combinations of it and is or has.

For example, It’s raining outside or It’s been great for me so far, I’m really enjoying it here.

Its is a possesive pronoun. Its shows possession.

For example, Don’t judge a book by its cover or The cat is in its sleeping basket.

Similarly to the example from the previous section, if you're confused use the verbs is or has in your sentence and check to see if it makes sense to add the apostrophe/make it a contraction: Don’t judge a book by it is cover doesn't make sense, so you use the possessive "its" with no apostrophe.

It is raining outside makes sense, so you now know that you can use an apostrophe.

They’re, Their, and There

All three of these words sound the same.

They’re is a contraction. They and are were combined.

For example,They’re going away for the holiday season or They’re buying a house together.

Does the sentence sound right when you use they are? Then use they’re.

Their shows possesion.

For example,Their dog bit me last night or I don’t like their attitude.

Finally, There indicates a place, a location.

For example,I wish I was there instead or I’m never going there again.


And there you have it!

This article gave an overview of contractions and how to use them in both spoken and written English.

You saw some of the most common ones used and some frequent mistakes made when using them.

Thanks for reading!