Today on our LiveEnglish with Livemocha Facebook page, we conducted a lesson that was inspired by some comments made on a Facebook post that we made last Friday. Here’s what the post said:
It’s been a busy week! Who else is ready for the weekend?
To which some folks replied:
“Of course we’re”
In these responses, we recognized that there may be some confusion among the English language learners in our community about how to properly use an English contraction. So we asked one of our LiveEnglish teachers, Miranda González, to create a lesson clarifying the rules for when contractions should be used.
Miranda also wrote the following supplemental lesson for those of you who missed today’s live, instructor-led lesson, and for those who joined her, but want to study the topic a bit more.
Can you end a sentence with a contraction?
No. And yes. It depends on the TYPE of contraction. Let’s start out by taking a look at this exchange:
Person 1: Are you happy?
Person 2: Yes, I’m.
Let me begin by pointing out that Person 2’s response is grammatically incorrect. Now, most native English speakers would know that this response is wrong because it just sounds wrong. (In fact, it kind of makes me twitch a little when I hear it!) However, most native speakers wouldn’t be able to tell you why it is wrong. That is because it just isn’t as simple as saying, “No contractions at the end of the sentence!” But English learners probably aren’t going to be satisfied with an explanation of “Well, that’s just the way English is.” (I know I wouldn’t be!) So how do you explain it? Read on!
Let’s take a look at types of contractions:
- Pronoun-Verb contractions
In this type of contraction, a pronoun is linked together with a shortened form of an auxiliary verb. (Note: Here I am including “be”, which can be contracted as an auxiliary verb and a main verb. “Have” can only be contracted as an auxiliary verb, not a main verb.)
I am – I’m
We will – We’ll
She has – She’s
- Verb-Negative contractions
In this type of contraction, an auxiliary verb is made negative by simply adding “n’t” in place of “not”.
He does not – He doesn’t
They would not – They wouldn’t
- Modal + “have” contractions
This is the least common type of contraction. Here a modal is contracted to a shortened form of “have”.
I should have – I should’ve
She would have – She would’ve
Here comes the rule…
You CAN end a sentence with a contraction if it is a Type 2 (Verb-Negative), both in speaking and writing. You are always in safe territory when you end a sentence with a negative contraction.
No, I don’t.
I’m a student, but she isn’t.
For a Type 3 (Modal + “have”), English expert Eugene Mohr says in his article in TESOL Quarterly, “The Independence of Contractions”, that “no contraction takes place if….have occupies the final position” in a sentence. HOWEVER, Mohr limits his explanations to contractions in written language, not spoken. In informal speech, native speakers often contract a modal with “have” at the end of a sentence. So, while it looks funny written out, you will hear people end a sentence this way.
I didn’t go to church, but I should’ve.
Last, and most importantly, you CANNOT end a sentence with contraction if it is a Type 1 (Pronoun-Verb). Not in formal English, not in informal English – never! In this case, you must write out the entire verb that follows the pronoun. So take a look at the contraction at the end of your sentence. Does it contain a pronoun? If it does, then break it up into its two original words.
INCORRECT: Yes, we’re.
CORRECT: Yes, we are.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
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