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The apostrophe is a possessive kind of punctuation mark, but it’s also used in another way. When we leave something out of a word or phrase, the apostrophe marks the place where it was left out. We use this in everyday speech without even thinking about it.

Put another way, apostrophes are used to show contractions. Here are six types of contractions we use every day:

  1. Verbs where not is shortened: aren’t; can’t; couldn’t; don’t; doesn’t; hasn’t; haven’t; isn’t; wasn’t; weren’t; won’t; wouldn’t
  2. Pronouns where will is shortened: I’ll; you’ll; he’ll; she’ll; they’ll. This is also used when speaking with names: Doug’ll be home soon
  3. Contractions of the verb to be: I’m, you’re; who’s; he’s; she’s; it’s; we’re; they’re
  4. Contractions of the verb to have: I’ve; he’s; you’ve; they’ve
  5. Contractions with would or had: I’d; she’d, he’d; we’d; you’d; they’d
  6. Let’s for let us

Common Confusions

There are four common cases where it is easy to get confused.

  1. It’s has an apostrophe when it stands for it is; when it is possessive, the correct form is its
  2. Who’s stands for who is or who has; the possessive is whose
  3. You’re stands for you are; the possessive is your
  4. They’re stands for they are; the possessive is their

Of course, we use the apostrophe for other contractions as well. If you have ever said: “I shouldn’t’ve done that”, then you already know how to use the apostrophe.

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7 thoughts on “Contractions”

  1. I would like to know something about this sentence.
    Liz’s brother is working.
    What does the contration stand for.

    Thank you

  2. It is possible to say there’re, right? No-one writers I know use this, and there’s is always used instead (e.g. there’s two in that bucket).

  3. I want to know that contractions are used only for pronouns or it can be used with nouns as well ? Simon can’t be late today.

  4. I have a friend who asked, “Isn’t there supposed to be falling stars tonight?”, and I answered with (because i AM a grammar Nazi, lol), “It’s ‘AREN’T there supposed to be falling stars tonight?'”, since she was talking about more than just one star. Can you please explain why this is so, because it has been many years since I was in school and cannot find the answer anywhere else online. Thank you!


  5. You’re right Kimmi,it’s ‘aren’t’.Because the word stars is more than one and the word ‘is’ is for regular words/things only and the word ‘are’ is for plural words/things only.I hope I helped 🙂

  6. I’m looking for the proper way to write the contraction for brother is. Is it “my brother’s a carpenter” or “my brothers a carpenter”?

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