In grammar, a contraction is the shortened version of a word or phrase.
The purpose of a contraction is not only to simplify speech by making it quicker and shorter, but to make it more casual. Use of contractions can make speech seem less formal.
I cannot agree to that because it is not in my best interest.
This phrase seems a bit stiff and formal. However, with a couple of contractions inserted, the listener is less likely to assume that you are talking down to them.
I can’t agree to that because it’s not in my best interest.
The words can’t and it’s are contractions. A contraction is created by removing letters and inserting an apostrophe (‘).
“Can’t” is the word “cannot” with the second “n” and the “o” removed. Removed letters are then replaced with an apostrophe.
CANNOT ➔ CAN’T
“It’s” is the phrase “it is” with the space and the letter “i” removed.
IT IS ➔ IT’S
Here is a list of commonly used contractions:
DOES NOT ➔ DOESN’T Example: He doesn’t understand.
DO NOT ➔ DON’T Example: Don’t do that.
ARE NOT ➔ AREN’T Example: They aren’t that stupid.
COULD NOT ➔ COULDN’T Example: I couldn’t go without him.
WOULD NOT ➔ WOULDN’T Example: I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
HAD NOT ➔ HADN’T Example: She hadn’t thought of that.
I HAVE ➔ I’VE Example: I’ve seen enough.
SHE WOULD ➔ SHE’D or SHE HAD ➔ SHE’D Example: She’d better get going.
HE WILL ➔ HE’LL Example: He’ll call me later.
IT WOULD ➔ IT’D Example: It’d be great if you could do that.
THEY ARE ➔ THEY’RE Example: They’re too young to leave the mother.
YOU ARE ➔ YOU’RE Example: You’re crazy!
I AM ➔ I’M Example: I’m thinking about it.
There are some contractions that do not follow the regular rules of creating a contraction.
WON’T is a contraction of the phrase WILL NOT. If you were to follow the rules, you would end up with WILLN’T which is not a word. The apostrophe represents the missing “o” in “not,” however there is no explanation for replacing the “ill” in WILL and substituting it with the letter “o.”
There is one very common contraction which is used all the time even though it is not a legitimate word or phrase.
AIN’T as in I ain’t gonna fall for that!
As you can tell by the example, this word is slang. It originates from the phrases AM NOT, IS NOT or ARE NOT. Somehow, those phrases became modified to AIN’T.
The contraction AIN’T should only be used as a direct quote from someone who said it, or to convey a certain type of character in fictional writing. However, it is not acceptable in proper speech.
But I know Y’ALL AIN’T GOING TO DO THAT, RIGHT?