If you hear the word Contraction and you have no context to the conversation, then you would probably think about pregnancy and giving birth. However, this is Adept English and we are talking about basic English grammar today, specifically English language contractions.
Contractions are really just a way of shortening common verb forms, it is is faster to use them when speaking as it helps English conversations flow more naturally. So it’s (which is a contraction) no surprise that when speaking English we use contractions because English speakers like to cut corners and take shortcuts when in conversation.
Unfortunately for new English language learners this can be a pain, as not only do you need to learn the correct forms and grammar, you also need to understand the shortcuts being used by native English speakers. Now all of this would be terribly boring if I were to hand you a book and leave you to it, but that is not how we work at Adept English. All you need to do is put on some headphones and listen and learn your way to English language fluency.
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Contractions Inherited Context
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Let’s do some work today on what are called ‘contractions’ in English. You may not know this term, this word, but you will be familiar with contractions. Or at least, I hope so because we use them all the time. Hmm...another use for the word ‘contractions’ is when a woman is about to give birth! The pains, the muscle spasms are called ‘contractions’.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Contractions in English language? I use them in podcasts all the time, because it’s part of the natural way of speaking English that native speakers use. In fact, there we are. I said ‘It’s part of the natural way of speaking English’ – ‘it’s’ is a contraction. It’s a contracted form of ‘it is’, spelt I-T-’-S. So there you have it, that’s a contraction.
So these contractions are used with the really common verb forms – especially of the verb ‘to have’ and the verb ‘to be’. In fact, when you learn the verb ‘to have’ and the verb ‘to be’ right at the beginning of your language learning, if your purpose is to be able to speak English, then really you would be better learning the contracted form from the beginning as well.
So as well as learning ‘I have, you have, he has, she has, it has, we have, they have’, you would learn ‘I’ve, you’ve, he’s, she’s, it’s, we’ve and they’ve’ because these forms are what we actually say in conversation. And if you’re (oops there’s another and another one in ‘there’s!)...if you’re learning the verb ‘to be’, then as well as learning ‘I am, you are, he is, she is, it is, we are, they are’, you do also need to learn ‘I’m, you’re, he’s, she’s, it’s, we’re’ and ‘they’re’ as well. If you’re finding this confusing, then listening to the podcast with a transcript, the written words in front of you would be perhaps easier. You can find the transcript on our website at adeptenglish.com – or you can listen to this with subtitles on YouTube.
So of course, the verb ‘to be’ and the verb ‘to have’ in English are very important in their own right. But we also use them for other tenses – so they matter for all verbs. ‘I’ve been eating lots of carrots this autumn’, or ‘You’ve really made me feel happy today’. So these are very, very common contractions that pop up all the time. And in those two examples I’ve just given you, they’re there because we’re using past tense for the verbs ‘to eat’ – ‘I’ve been eating lots of carrots this autumn’ and ‘to make’ – ‘You’ve made me feel really happy today’.
And it can be confusing – you’ll notice of course that the ‘he, she, it’ form of both the verb ‘to be’ and the verb ‘to have’ are the same. ‘He’s, she’s it’s’. So you have to know from the context which one you’re dealing with. What also can be confusing is that the contraction for ‘I had’ is the same as the contraction for ‘I would’ – ‘I’d’ - and that’s carried through, all parts of the verb. So as well as ‘I had, you had, he had’ etc. and ‘I would, you would, he would’ – it’s good to also know ‘I’d, you’d, he’d, she’d it’d, we’d and they’d’ as well.
And of course, the future tense, which you’ll know goes ‘I will, you will, he will, she will, it will, we will, they will’, you also need to learn the contracted forms of these which are ‘I’ll, you’ll, he’ll, she’ll, it’ll, we’ll, they’ll’ for spoken English. And as well as recognising them when you hear them, it’s a good idea to be able to spell them too, with the apostrophe in the right place.
The apostrophe, A-P-O-S-T-R-O-P-H-E is the little mark which sits in place of the missed out letters, when you come to write down spoken English. So it is worth practising these. Notice I said ‘It is worth practising these’? The reason I didn’t do a contraction there – because I was emphasising the verb. So you might still do that in spoken English.
Of course, we don’t just use contractions if we’re writing down literally what someone says. We use contractions in informal, conversational style, even when it’s written down. So if you listen to my podcasts, and follow the written words at the same time, you’ll notice that I use this contracted style.
This is because it’s informal and friendly – I’m ‘aving a chat with you! But it’s also because it’s important to be able to use these, so it’s good for practice because this is authentic English. It would feel unnatural for me to do the non-contracted forms, the long form in a spoken podcast. And people use this form sometimes when they’re just writing as well, to indicate informality.
A photograph of a beautiful executive smelling coffee in office.
There are lots of other contractions in English, but these ones I’m covering today are the most common ones. So how about we do some practice with some of these? You may be really quite familiar with these common verb forms. But how about we practise the ones that look and sound the same for different common verbs?
Solve The Maths Problem To Download Podcast & Transcript
So ‘he’d’ could mean ‘he had’ or ‘he would’ and you’d only know which it was from the context. So I’ll give you some sentences – and you can either use this podcast to practise mirroring my pronunciation, so say the sentence after me. Or another way to use this exercise, you could practise writing down what I say. But also, for each sentence, say or write down the full, non-contracted version. I’ll give you an example of what I mean to start. So this is our:-
HAD or WOULD Exercise
Example: I'd better go home now. So there, is the ‘I’d’ meaning ‘I had’ or ‘I would’?
Another Example: I'd already have reached home, before it was dark. Does the ‘I’d’ mean ‘I had’ or ‘I would’?
Get the idea? So you can either use this to practise writing or use it for pronunciation practise. I’ll say them twice.
- It’d be difficult to work out the answer, without seeing the question. It’d be difficult to work out the answer, without seeing the question.
- We’d better hurry up, if we want to go out tonight. We’d better hurry up, if we want to go out tonight.
- She’d like to have a pint of beer, please. She’d like to have a pint of beer, please.
- He’d had enough beer. He’d had enough beer.
- I’d have preferred lager. I’d have preferred lager.
- I’d also had enough beer. I’d also had enough beer.
- You’d better wake up and smell the coffee. You’d better wake up and smell the coffee.
- My parents are old. They’d rather not drive over in the dark. My parents are old. They’d rather not drive over in the dark.
- It’d been such a long day, I was really tired. It’d been such a long day, I was really tired.
- You’d never guess what happened to me last night? You’d never guess what happened to me last night?
- We’d prefer it if you didn’t tell anybody what you saw. We’d prefer it if you didn’t tell anybody what you saw.
- They’d inherited a very large house. They’d inherited a very large house.
- He’d manage a very small pie, but a portion of chips would be too much. He’d manage a very small pie, but a portion of chips would be too much.
- She’d not noticed that there was a cat in the house. She’d not noticed that there was a cat in the house.
OK, so for each of those sentences, there’s a contraction, which might be a ‘had’ or a ‘would’ – see if you can work out which it is. And of course, use them for practising speaking and pronunciation and for writing practice. Listen a number of times to this podcast to make sure that you understand the content, the actual lesson as well. It’s worth learning and very useful to your understanding of spoken English. And of course – to your speaking as well – then you can use these contractions. The answers are in the transcript – you’ll find them at the bottom of the transcript - whether it’s ‘had’ or ‘would’.
HAD or WOULD Exercise – The Answers!
- It’d be difficult to work out the answer, without seeing the question. (IT WOULD)
- We’d better hurry up, if we want to go out tonight. (WE HAD)
- She’d like to have a pint of beer, please. (SHE WOULD)
- He’d had enough beer. (HE HAD)
- I’d have preferred lager. (I WOULD)
- I’d also had enough beer. (I HAD)
- You’d better wake up and smell the coffee. (YOU HAD).
- My parents are old. They’d rather not drive over in the dark. (THEY WOULD).
- It’d been such a long day, I was really tired. (IT HAD).
- You’d never guess what happened to me last night? (YOU WOULD)
- We’d prefer it if you didn’t tell anybody what you saw. (WE WOULD).
- They’d inherited a very large house. (THEY HAD)
- He’d managed a small pie, but a portion of chips would be too much (HE WOULD).
- She’d not noticed that there was a cat in the house. (SHE HAD)
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.