Don’t what? Don’t worry about contractions and getting them right–it’s easier than you think.

There are some very simple rules about figuring out where the apostrophe goes in a contraction. Even better, however, is that you don’t need to know the rules when you’re writing an essay.

Wait, what? No rules in an essay?

No, not exactly–no contractions. Do not use contractions when you’re writing a formal essay. Instead, write the full words out, rather than their contractions. Easy peasy.

However, if you’re not writing a formal essay and you just want to know where to put the apostrophe, here’s the deal:

A contraction is two words squishing together. Take, for example, “don’t.” “Don’t” is “do” and “not” squished together so hard that the o in “do not” squirted out the top of the word in an apostrophe.

Do not. Donot. Dont. See? It’s the O squirting out the top because it got squished so hard.

Can not. Cannot. Cant.

Uh, hold on. Cannot loses two letters–cannot -> cannot -> cant. Where did that missing  N go?

Look, I’m going to be honest with you. We’re really only marking where vowels were lost with this whole apostrophe thing:

Shall not -> shant.
Will not -> wont.
Have not -> havent.
Has not -> hasnt.

And so on. To mark where the vowel was, we use the squishy apostrophe.

You are -> youre.
We are -> were.
They are -> theyre.

See? It works on the missing a, too.

Need more examples?

I am -> Im
I will -> Ill
I would -> Id
I have -> Ive
I had -> Id

Now, there are some odd contractions that don’t follow this rule. This is English, so a few weird things showing up is obligatory. But for the most part, that rule of thumb works.

As for the weird ones, they’re things like:

of -> o
of the clock -> oclock
madam -> maam
it was -> twas (although that one, the vowel squirted out again!)

These tend to be older terms, and through long use in speech they were compressed in this way.

Need more examples? Don’t be afraid to comment and ask!


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