Contractions in English: Meaning, Usage and Common Examples

You have probably heard someone use phrases like won’t or y’all before. They are in songs and in quotes. They can be heard on TV and in everyday conversations.

These are all examples of contractions in English. They help simplify the language.

In this post, we will show you useful English contractions along with how to use these contractions in your own speaking and writing, to get you sounding fluent faster.

Can’t wait to get started? Let’s begin!


What Is a Contraction?

In English, a contraction is a shortened version of a pair of words where at least one letter is dropped and an apostrophe ( ’ ) is added. For example, instead of saying “I am,” English speakers frequently use the contraction “I’m.” It has the same meaning, but it is a little shorter.

Contractions help to simplify language. In fact, they’re used everywhere in English, especially in conversational or informal situations.

To recognize English contractions, look for the floating punctuation mark called an apostrophe (“I’m”), which appears in most common English contractions. 

For instance, the word “she’ll” (she will) isn’t the same as “shell” (as in, “a shell on the beach”), which has a completely different meaning. 

Curated authentic video library for all levels
  • Thousands of learner friendly videos (especially beginners)
  • Handpicked, organized, and annotated by FluentU's experts
  • Integrated into courses for beginners
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

Most Common Contractions in English

Most contractions in English are made with the following words: be, will, have, had, would, not.

Here are some of the most frequent contractions in English that you should memorize: 

I am I'm I'm trying to improve my English.
You are You're You're such a sweetheart!
He is He's He's so handsome.
She is She's She's very beautiful.
It is It's It's not a problem.
We are We're We're probably going to be late.
They are They're They're really cute puppies!

Negative contractions are also common:

Do not Don't I don't know.
Cannot Can't You can't have any more cookies.
Will not Won't I won't be able to attend the meeting.
Is not Isn't That building isn't safe.
Are not Aren't They aren't coming to dinner tonight.
Did not Didn't I didn't go grocery shopping today.
Have not Haven't They haven't seen that movie.
Would not Wouldn't My sister wouldn't ride a bike until she was 11 years old.
Should not Shouldn't You shouldn't watch too much TV.
Could not Couldn't She was so full that she couldn't eat another bite.
Does not Doesn't He doesn't understand what you said.
Has not Hasn't The mail still hasn't come yet.
Had not Hadn't I hadn't thought of that solution.

When to Use Contractions

Most of the time, it is acceptable to use contractions in everyday English. People use them all of the time in both spoken and written English.

However, sometimes contractions are considered less formal than the full phrase. Saying “I can’t help you” is more casual than saying “I cannot help you.”

You generally wouldn’t use contractions in formal writing, like academic papers and legal contracts. For example, contractions like “they’re” and “can’t” sound too informal so you would avoid them there. 

Video player for learners like you
  • Interactive subtitles: click any word to see detailed examples and explanations
  • Slow down or loop the tricky parts
  • Show or hide subtitles
  • Review words with our powerful learning engine
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

Make sure to always assess the situation to see if using a contraction is appropriate. Most of the time, though, using a standard contraction will be just fine.

Grammar Tips for Contractions

To speak or write confidently with contractions, keep these rules in mind.

1. Do not double up on contractions.

There should only be one apostrophe in a word. For example, “you’re’nt” is not proper English and is just plain weird.

2. With the exception of negative contractions, most contractions cannot go at the end of a sentence.

Make sure to say the entire phrase. For example:

“Is the cold contagious?”

Master words through quizzes with context
  • Learn words in the context of sentences
  • Swipe left or right to see more examples from other videos
  • Go beyond just a superficial understanding
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

Correct: “The doctor said it is.”

Incorrect: “The doctor said it’s.”

However, negative contractions can end a sentence. Take a look at this example:

Correct: “If he goes to the party, I won’t.” (Here, we get a full understanding of the speaker’s intentions. The speaker will not go to the party.)

Incorrect: “If he goes to the party, I’ll.” (Here, the meaning is unclear. This sentence leaves the listener wondering: “You will what? You will go to the party, or you will avoid him?”)

4. Contractions that sound very much like other words (or homophones) typically are not used at the end of sentences.

These include it’s (sounds like its), they’re (sounds like there or their) and you’re (sounds like your)

Stop memorizing words.
Start building sentences.
  • FluentU builds you up, so you can build sentences on your own
  • Start with multiple-choice questions and advance through sentence building to producing your own output
  • Go from understanding to speaking in a natural progression.
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

For example, if we ask the question: “Are they coming on vacation?”

Correct: “Yes, they are.”

Incorrect: “Yes, they’re.”

Other English Contractions 

Aside from the most common contractions above, there are plenty of other contractions in English: 

English Contractions with “Be”

That is That's That's awesome!
Here is Here's Here's the car I told you about.
There is There's There's a fly in my soup!
Who is Who's Who's going to the party tonight?
Where is Where's Where's my key?
When is When's Congratulations! When's the wedding?
Why is Why's Why's he looking at me like that?
What is What's What's for dinner?
How is How's How's the new job?
Everybody is Everybody's Everybody's here now!
Nobody is Nobody's Looks like nobody's coming to the party.
Something is Something's Something's making a funny noise.
So is So's I'm done with my food, and so's he.

English Contractions with “Will”

I will I'll I'll finish the project later.
You will You'll You'll regret that!
He will He'll He should put on a coat or he'll get sick.
She will She'll She'll love her birthday present.
They will They'll I hope they'll get home before dark.
It will It'll Come to the party! It'll be fun!
We will We'll We'll arrive around 3 p.m.
That will That'll I'm not sure that'll be enough.
This will This'll This'll only take a minute.
These will These'll Those are too expensive. These'll work just as well.
There will There'll There'll be about 30 people at the meeting.
Where will Where'll Where'll you go next?
Who will Who'll Who'll take care of you when you get older?
What will What'll He lost his job last week. What'll he do now?
How will How'll Our phones don't work here. How'll we contact each other?

English Contractions with “Have”

When you use “have” in a contraction, it’s only for talking about something that happened in the past.

Contractions are typically not used when “have” is the main verb showing possession. In other words, you could say I’ve seen that movie (I have seen that movie) but not I’ve a dog (I have a dog).

Accurate, detailed word explanations made for you
  • Images, examples, video examples, and tips
  • Covering all the tricky edge cases, eg.: phrases, idioms, collocations, and separable verbs
  • No reliance on volunteers or open source dictionaries
  • 100,000+ hours spent by FluentU's team to create and maintain
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU
I have I've I've been to his house before.
You have You've You've been trying to contact her for days.
He has He's He's been looking for a new job recently.
She has She's She's already booked her hotel room.
We have We've We've been wanting to visit for a long time.
They have They've They've just arrived.
Should have Should've We should've turned left at the last light.
Could have Could've She could've scored high on the test, but she didn't study enough.
Would have Would've I didn't know you were at the party. I would've said hello!
Might have Might've I might've missed the error if you didn't point it out to me.
Must have Must've I must've forgotten the extra pens. I'm sorry.
What have What've Oh no! What've you done?
What has What's What's he been doing lately?
Where have Where've Where've they already traveled to?
Where has Where's Where's the cat been hiding?
There have There've There've been a lot of thunderstorms this summer.
There has There's There's been something different about you lately.
These have These've Wear your other shoes; these've got mud on them.
Who has Who's Who's got the marker?

Notice that the contractions in this table that end with “s” look exactly the same as contractions using “is.” Pay attention to the context of the sentence to understand the difference!

English Contractions with “Would”

I would I'd I'd love to visit, but plane tickets are expensive.
You would You'd I think you'd be a great salesman.
He would He'd He'd probably be happier in a different city.
She would She'd She'd like to get a dog.
We would We'd We'd love to go see that new movie.
They would They'd If my parents were here, they'd really like this hotel.
It would It'd It'd be cheaper to buy all the tickets together.
That would That'd Do you want to go to the circus? I think that'd be a fun experience.
These would These'd I love sunflowers! These'd look great in my garden.
There would There'd If he doesn't come, then there'd only be five people for dinner.

English Contractions with “Had”

The contractions for “had” and “would” look exactly the same (like “I’d”)!

So how do you tell them apart? It is all about the context.

If it’s followed by a past participle of a verb, it’s most likely “had.” For example: “When she called, I’d been eating.”

There are also some common phrases that use these contractions, like “had better,” which means something should happen or be done. For example: “She’d better call me back later!”

I had I'd I'd never been to the beach until last summer.
You had You'd You'd better come look at this.
He had He'd She wanted to go to the movies, but he'd already seen the film.
She had She'd After searching for a month, she'd finally found the perfect bag.
We had We'd We'd practiced often so that we could win the soccer match.
They had They'd They'd already finished cooking by the time we arrived.
There had There'd They went to the house that morning, but there'd been no one at home.

Negative Contractions

All of these contractions use the word “not” to form a negative meaning. Here are other negative contractions that weren’t mentioned earlier: 

Hi, I'm Alan! I became obsessed with learning Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in 2001, and managed to get good enough to work professionally in those languages as a management consultant.

I started FluentU to build a new kind of language app.
Want to learn more about how FluentU got started?
Must not Mustn't You mustn't touch that.
Was not Wasn't That wasn't a good idea.
Were not Weren't Luckily, we weren't hurt in the car accident.
Am not; are not; is not; has not; have not Ain't I ain't interested in dance classes.

Note that the word “mustn’t” is most commonly used in British English.

You should also be aware that the word “ain’t” is regional, and is considered slang in many areas.

Miscellaneous Contractions

Let us Let's Let's go shopping this afternoon.
You all Y'all Y'all need to pay attention.
Where did Where'd Where'd the dog go?
How did How'd How'd you know I was at the library?
Why did Why'd Why'd you throw that paper ball at me?
Who did Who'd Who'd you see at the store?
When did When'd I didn't see you come in! When'd you get here?
What did What'd What'd you find?
Good day G'day G'day to you!
Madam Ma'am Have a good evening, ma'am.
Of the clock O'clock It's five o'clock now.

Just like “ain’t,” the word “y’all” is regional and is considered slang in some places.

The contraction “g’day” is mainly used in Australia.

Also, be aware that the words “y’all” and “ain’t” may be considered slang, depending on where you are. Some American dialects consider these acceptable, while in other places and situations, these words are considered very poor English and should be avoided. If you are in an English class, it is probably better to not use these.

How to Practice English Contractions

To master contractions, you will first want to memorize the list provided above. But you also need to be exposed to different speaking styles or dialects.

  • For practice, try Wyzant, which has hundreds of English tutors, most of whom are experienced and certified. You choose between in-person lessons or lessons via video call.
  • You should also watch YouTube videos and listen to songs from different English-speaking places to hear contractions as used by native speakers. For example, this YouTube video uses the song “Call Me Maybe” to help explain contractions:


Now that you have learned the basics of contractions, use these resources and any others you can find to master contractions and improve your English!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.


FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:


FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.


FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe