“If y’all want to learn English, y’all better pay attention! I ain’t joking!”
You have probably heard someone use phrases like ya’ll or ain’t before. They are in songs and in quotes. They can be heard on TV and in everyday conversation.
You may have also heard phrases like these even more often:
“He’s running late.”
“I can’t hear what you are saying.”
“My phone won’t connect.”
Noticing a pattern here?
These are all examples of common contractions—those funny little words that help simplify the English language.
Even though they might not seem all that simple to you yet.
But we will get there!
In this post, we will show you common English contractions you should memorize to improve your listening and reading comprehension. We will also help you use these contractions in your own speaking and writing, to get you sounding fluent faster.
Can’t wait to get started?
What Is a Contraction?
A contraction is a shortened version of a pair of words. For example, instead of saying “I am,” many speakers use the contraction “I’m.” It has the same meaning, but is a little shorter.
Contractions help to simplify language (they are great for using on Twitter!) and many people use them to help simplify their spoken English. Knowing different examples of contractions and their meanings is crucial because they are used everywhere in English, especially in conversational or informal language.
To recognize contractions when reading English, look for the floating punctuation mark called an apostrophe (“I’m”), which appears in most common English contractions. If you ignore the apostrophe, you may mistake a contraction for another word.
For instance, the word “she’ll” (she will) could be misinterpreted for “shell” (as in, “a shell on the beach”), which has a completely different meaning. Pay attention to spelling and how apostrophes are used in different words when you read English aloud or in your head. This will help avoid mixing up words.
Keep in mind that apostrophes are also used when showing possession in English. In the phrase “the cat’s toy,” the apostrophe is telling us the toy belongs to the cat. Always make sure to look at the context of the sentence so you can understand why and how the apostrophe is being used.
Learn These English Contractions to Sound More Fluentt
Below, we will take a look at several common English contractions you should memorize. Then we will discuss different situations in which to use them, and finally we will provide some resources to help you practice using contractions correctly.
Common English Contractions to Memorize
Contractions with “To Be”
I’m (I am)
I’m trying to improve my English.
You’re (you are)
You’re such a sweetheart!
He’s (he is)
He’s so handsome.
She’s (she is)
She’s very beautiful.
They’re (they are)
They’re such cute puppies!
We’re (we are)
If you don’t get dressed soon we’re going to be late!
It’s (it is)
It’s against the law!
That’s (that is)
Here’s (here is)
Here’s the car I was telling you about.
Contractions with “Will”
I’ll (I will)
I’ll finish that project later.
You’ll (you will)
You’ll regret that!
He’ll (he will)
He should put on a coat or he’ll get sick.
She’ll (she will)
She’ll love her birthday present.
It’ll (it will)
You should come to the party! It’ll be fun!
We’ll (we will)
We’ll arrive there around 3 p.m.
Contractions with “To Have”
Note: These contractions use “have” as a helping verb to indicate something that happened in the past.
In American English, contractions with “have” are only used in this situation.
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).
I’ve (I have)
I’ve been to his house before.
You’ve (you have)
You’ve been trying to contact her for days.
He’s (he has)
He’s been looking for a job since he got fired.
Note: Does this contraction look familiar? It looks just the same as the contraction for “he is,” so be careful to pay attention to context.
She’s (she has)
She’s already told you once before!
Note: Again, be careful not to confuse this with “she is.”
We’ve (we have)
We’ve been wanting to visit for a long time.
They’ve (they have)
They’ve just arrived.
Should’ve (should have)
The students should’ve listened to the teacher’s warning.
Could’ve (could have)
She could’ve done it if she really tried.
Contractions with “Would”
I’d (I would)
I’d love to visit but flights are too expensive.
You’d (you would)
If you’d stop panicking you could do your job.
He’d (he would)
He’d be better off in a different city.
She’d (she would)
She’d like to get a pet dog.
We’d (we would)
We’d hate to upset you.
They’d (they would)
They’d enjoy this if they could come.
Negative Contractions (Contractions with “Not”)
Don’t (do not)
I don’t know.
You can’t do that!
Aren’t (are not)
They aren’t coming to the party tonight.
Couldn’t (could not)
She couldn’t sit through the movie without getting scared.
Wouldn’t (would not)
Your parents wouldn’t like your behavior right now.
Shouldn’t (should not)
You shouldn’t eat too much junk food.
Isn’t (is not)
It isn’t healthy to eat a lot of fast food either.
Doesn’t (does not)
He doesn’t understand what you said.
Didn’t (did not)
Mom, I didn’t do it!
Hasn’t (has not)
The mail still hasn’t come today.
Wasn’t (was not)
This wasn’t a good idea.
Won’t (will not)
I won’t be able to make it to the meeting.
Weren’t (were not)
Luckily, we weren’t hurt in the car accident.
Ain’t (am not; are not; is not; has not; have not)
I ain’t interested in that kind of thing.
Note: This is a regional word, sometimes considered slang.
Let’s (let us)
Let’s go to the mall.
Y’all (you all)
Y’all better pay attention.
Note: This is a regional word, sometimes considered slang.
How to Use Contractions in Context
Okay, so now you know the common contractions in English—but you might not be comfortable using them yet. Here are some rules to help you speak or write confidently with contractions.
- 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.
- 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?”
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?”)
- Contractions that sound very much like other words (also known as homophones) typically are not used at the end of sentences either. These include it’s (sounds like its), they’re (sounds like there or their) and you’re (sounds like your).
For example, if we ask the question: “Are they coming on vacation?”
Correct: “Yes, they are.”
Incorrect: “Yes, they’re.”
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.”
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 contractions acceptable and use them a lot. 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 words.
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.
Resources to Practice Using Contractions
To master contractions, first you need to memorize the list provided above. But you also need to be exposed to different speaking styles or dialects.
Start by using FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.You’ll see contractions as used by native speakers, which will help you learn how to use them naturally.
Practice also with as many language partners or native speakers as possible. Even native speakers from the same area may speak differently and use different contractions. If you need to find an English speaker to practice with, try using Wyzant, where you can choose from hundreds of English tutors to find one that matches your goals, learning style and budget. Wyzant is a cool option because you can choose in-person lessons or virtual tutoring using a webcam.
Most Wyzant tutors are experienced, certified educators who will have no problem providing expert contraction guidance or help with any other language need. Browse the profiles to start exploring your options.
You should also watch movies, YouTube videos and listen to songs from people from different English-speaking places.
For example, here is a YouTube video that uses the popular song “Call Me Maybe” to help explain contractions. It also has some more examples of slang contractions that are sometimes used in English.
If you want to hear sophisticated language, watch a movie with very proper English, such as “Pride and Prejudice.” If you want to hear dialects with a lot of contractions and slang, you could try watching the popular TV series “The Walking Dead.” But again, try watching all kinds of different shows and movies. The more English you are exposed to, the more you will learn!
You can also get some interactive practice with online quizzes. Here are three to try:
- This quiz gives you a full sentence with a phrase that can be turned into a contraction. It gives you different answer choices to choose from and you need to pick the contraction that uses the apostrophe correctly.
- This next quiz gives you a sentence and a phrase that needs to be turned into a contraction. However, there are no answer choices given and you need to write the phrase its contraction form. It is very good practice!
- The English Language Centres provide some more examples of contractions being used in sentences. There is also a quiz at the very bottom where you need to choose the correct contraction based on the context of the sentence. Unlike the other quizzes, this one does not tell you which phrase to use ahead of time. You have to figure it out yourself!
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:
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.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.