A ‘contraction’ is any word that combines two separate words. In a contraction word, some letters from the original words are omitted and replaced with an omissive apostrophe. An example of a contraction is ‘don’t,’ which combines the words ‘do’ and ‘not.’
What is a contraction in English?
So, what is a contraction in English? In simple terms, a contracted word, or contraction, is where a new word is made by combining two existing words. In addition, some letters are omitted and replaced with an apostrophe.
Using phrases like ‘did not’ and ‘where’ can be quite formal. Contractions in English can help us to convey a friendly and casual tone. That’s why they’re frequently used in everyday speech. We’ve used quite a few different contracted words in this text alone!
This makes contractions an excellent way for children to capture a natural tone when writing dialogue for fictional characters, such as plays and novels. Contractions will allow kids to write organic, natural-sounding dialogue for their characters!
What are some examples of contractions?
Now that we’ve answered ‘what is a contraction in English?’, let’s look at some practical examples.
‘Did not’ is contracted to ‘didn’t.’ For instance:
‘Thomas did not enjoy his lunch.’
‘Thomas didn’t enjoy his lunch.’
Here are some further examples of contractions in English grammar.
|Two Words||Contracted Form|
Common Mistakes with Contractions
But to truly tackle the question of ‘what is a contraction in English?’, we need to know how to use them properly while avoiding common blunders. Make sure your KS1 children are aware of these common contraction mistakes so that they can avoid them in their writing:
- ‘Could of’ instead of ‘could’ve’: Children often replace ‘have’ with ‘of.’
- ‘It is’ has the contracted form of ‘it’s’: A misconception is that ‘its’ is the same. However, this possessive pronoun shouldn’t be used in its place.
- ‘They’re,’ ‘their,’ and ‘there’ have different meanings, and ‘they’re’ is the only contraction, meaning ‘they are.’
- ‘Your’ and ‘you’re’ are often mixed up, so it’s important to stress that ‘you’re’ is made up of the two words ‘you’ and ‘are.’ If children struggle with this, they should consider whether the sentence would make sense if they said ‘you are’ instead.
Here are a few more specific rules to follow when using contractions and teaching children about ‘what is a contraction in English?’:
Contracted Nouns and Pronouns
In spoken English, contractions involving nouns, such as ‘Jimmy’s mum’ll pick us up,’ are pretty standard. However, they are much less frequent in the written form. In writing, you are much more likely to see contractions with pronouns, like ‘he’s’ and ‘we’ll.’
Contractions with proper nouns can mean ‘it’ or ‘has.’ For instance:
“Jimmy’s going to call his mum to come and get us.”
“Jimmy is going to call his mum to come and get us.”
“Hannah’s just bought a new dog.”
“Hannah has just bought a new dog.”
You will frequently find the homonyms ‘who’s’ and ‘whose.’ The contraction is either ‘who is’ or ‘who has,’ and the whole word is possessive.
Negative contractions and verb contractions
Contractions are often created using auxiliary verbs such as to be, do, have, would, should, or can. For example, you can either say:
“Monday isn’t my favorite day of the week,” or “Monday’s not my favorite day of the week.”
However, you can’t say:
“Monday’s n’t my favorite day of the week.”
When dealing with a negative clause, you must decide between using negative contractions like “n’t” or contracting the pronoun and verb, for instance, “Monday’s.” If you do both at the same time, the sentence becomes unreadable.
While they may look messy, specific multiple contractions are reasonably common in spoken English. For instance, it is pretty standard for people to say things like:
“If she’d’ve had the right papers, she wouldn’t’ve got stuck at security.”
It is almost incidental that we use multiple contractions when speaking, as the words seem to run together. This is fine in spoken English, but it is not considered good practice if you are writing.