99 English Contractions That Native Speakers Use Every Day
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 common contractions in English. They help simplify the language.
In this post, we will show you useful English contractions that you can memorize to improve your listening and reading comprehension.
We will also explain how you should 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?
- English Contractions with “Be”
- English Contractions with “Will”
- English Contractions with “Have”
- English Contractions with “Would”
- English Contractions with “Had”
- Negative Contractions in English
- Miscellaneous Contractions in English
- How to Use Contractions in English the Right Way
- Resources to Practice Using English Contractions
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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 (they are great for keeping your comments on Twitter under the maximum character count!). Knowing different examples of contractions and their meanings is crucial because they are used everywhere in English, especially in conversational or informal situations.
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.
Below, we will take a look at several common English contractions you should memorize. They’re made with the following words:
And others! 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.
English Contractions with “Be”
|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.|
|They are||They're||They're really cute puppies!|
|We are||We're||We're probably going to be late.|
|It is||It's||It's not a problem.|
|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”
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 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.”
So, both “he has” and “he is” contract to form “he’s.” Same with “she has,” “what has” and more.
Pay attention to the context of the sentence to understand the difference between these forms!
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”
Note: The contractions for “had” and “would” look exactly the same!
So how do you tell them apart? It is all about the context.
Contractions that use “had” are usually followed by a past participle of a verb. For example: “When she called, I’d been eating.”
You can’t use these contractions as just a past tense (for instance, you wouldn’t say “She’d a dog” for “She had a dog”).
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 in English
All of these contractions use the word “not” to form a negative meaning.
|Do not||Don't||I don't know.|
|Cannot||Can't||You can't have any more cookies.|
|Must not||Mustn't||You mustn't touch that.|
|Are not||Aren't||They aren't coming to dinner tonight.|
|Could not||Couldn't||She was so full that she couldn't eat another bite.|
|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.|
|Is not||Isn't||That building isn't safe.|
|Does not||Doesn't||He doesn't understand what you said.|
|Did not||Didn't||I didn't go grocery shopping today.|
|Has not||Hasn't||The mail still hasn't come yet.|
|Had not||Hadn't||I hadn't thought of that solution.|
|Have not||Haven't||They haven't seen that movie.|
|Was not||Wasn't||That wasn't a good idea.|
|Will not||Won't||I won't be able to attend the meeting.|
|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 in English
|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.
How to Use Contractions in English the Right Way
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 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.
Practice 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. They can show contractions as used by native speakers, which will help you learn how to use them naturally.
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 more 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!
Another resource is the language learning program FluentU. It has a library of short authentic videos that cover different topics. Each clip has interactive captions, so you can spot contractions and see how they’re used in context. You can also click on a contraction, or any other word or phrase, to get information about its definition, grammar and usage in sentences.
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 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 in its contraction form. It is very good practice!
- This site provides 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!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)