The Power of Contractions in English

Learning to speak English can be a difficult and daunting task. Fortunately, there are a few shortcuts that can make speaking much easier and more natural sounding.

One of those shortcuts is using contractions. Understanding how to use contractions correctly will help you sound more like a native speaker and increase your fluency in English. Let’s talk about why contractions are so helpful.


What Are Contractions?

Contractions are shortened forms of two words that we put together to make a new word. 

To form a contraction, we drop one or more letters and replace the missing letters with an apostrophe. For example:

"do not" becomes "don't"

"she is" becomes "she’s"

“he would” becomes “he’d”

"I am" becomes "I'm"

"you will" becomes "you'll"

"we are" becomes "we’re"

“they have” becomes “they’ve”

Contractions make speech more natural and fluent, and they also help us to convey information more efficiently.

Why Use Contractions?

  1. It sounds more natural: Native speakers use contractions all the time!   Contractions allow your speech to flow more naturally and fluently.  When we use contractions, we sound more like people actually sound in everyday conversations.  American speakers use contractions because they fit the rhythm of English better than using the full words that contractions represent. 
  2. It conveys tone and attitude: Contractions give an informal tone to your speech which helps you sound friendly and conversational. Using or NOT using contractions will help convey your tone, attitude, and intentions during a conversation. 
  3. Listeners expect them: When our speech doesn’t match what the listener expects, communication breaks down and we are not easily understood.
  4. It saves time and effort: When we use contractions, we can communicate the same message in fewer words, and we can convey information more efficiently. 

One important thing to keep in mind: 

When I talk about using contractions, I am talking about speaking, not writing.  American speakers will use full words when writing but will almost always use contractions when speaking.

So, when writing, especially formal writing, you’ll probably want to use the full words but when speaking, contractions are a much better fit.

Contractions can be an invaluable tool for improving your fluency when speaking. By understanding how to properly use contractions when speaking English, ESL students will be able to communicate more naturally and confidently with native speakers.  Try practicing with a native speaker or an experienced speech coach to improve your pronunciation and overall grammar skills. With dedication and practice anyone can master the art of using contractions correctly!