One of the hallmarks of good writing is clarity. Unless you’re a fiction writer who specializes in lengthy convoluted prose, you’re goal should be to convey your message with as many words as it takes – and not one word more. That’s one reason why we revise and edit to get rid of extra words and phrases.

Sometimes this is accomplished by shortening words. For example, we may say she’s instead of she is, or they’re instead of they are. These words are called contractions.

What are Contractions?

Contractions are two words that have been condensed into one. We use contractions every day when we speak and we use them in informal writing, too. They are formed by inserting an apostrophe to replace one of the letters.

Examples of Contractions

Contraction Type: Have and has

Some contractions are formed by combining pronouns and the words have and has. All you have to do is snip the “ha” from the word have or has and insert an apostrophe. Here are a few examples.

I have – I’ve you have – you’ve
he has – he’s she has – she’s
it has – it’s we have – we’ve
they have – they’ve  

I’ve decided to go to the party after all.

He’s not coming with us.

It’s his birthday and he has other plans.

They’ve thought about going to the movies.

Contraction Examples: Not

Other contractions are formed by combining with the word not. In most cases, replacing the o in the word not with an apostrophe creates these contractions. There are two exceptions to this: will not becomes won’t and cannot becomes can’t. Examples:

Are not – aren’t Do not – don’t
Does not – doesn’t Could not – couldn’t
Would not – wouldn’t Should not – shouldn’t
Have not – haven’t Had not – hadn’t
Has not – hasn’t Is not – isn’t
Was not – wasn’t Were not –weren’t

Aren’t you Caroline’s friend?

I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.

They haven’t decorated for the party yet.

Isn’t there a coffee house down the street?

Contraction Examples: Had

Contractions using the word had are formed in a similar manner. In most cases it involves combining a pronoun with the word had and replacing the “ha” in had with an apostrophe.

I had – I’d You had – you’d
He had – he’d She had – she’d
They had – they’d It had – It’d
We had – we’d  

It looked as if she’d already made up her mind.

They’d better get here on time or they’ll miss dinner.

He’d walked twenty miles before he finally made it.

We’d talked about it for hours but decided to stick to our plan.

Contraction Examples: Am Is Are

Combining the pronouns I, you, she, he, we, it, and they with the words am, is, and are creates some contractions. Here’s how:

I am – I’m You are – you’re
He is – he’s She is – she’s
It is – it’s We are – we’re
They are – they’re  


I’m ready for a vacation.

He’s going to Florida for the holiday.

We’re staying in town.

They’re undecided at the moment.

When forming contractions don’t make the mistake of placing the apostrophe between the two words, such as in the examples: could’nt, did’nt, etc. Other than that, forming contraction is really pretty easy once you practice. Don’t hesitate to use them in your informal writing, and these days they are becoming more and more acceptable in formal prose. And remember to strive for concise and clear sentences!