Posted by: Idioma Extra | May 25, 2011

Thursday´s Tidbit

Contractions or no contractions?

The English language has many contractions. There are two types of contractions: writing contractions and speaking contractions. For formal writing, contractions are never used. For informal writing they are acceptable. Here, we are going to focus on speaking contractions, or rather, speaking contractions that are NOT used. Let’s look at a few instances where contractions are not used, in speaking.

Question words/pronouns and auxiliary verbs

Most question words and auxiliary verbs can be contracted. Here are a few that CANNOT be contracted, however.

Who/what/where/when/why/how + would: There would be too much confusion between would and did with question words (did can be used in contractions with question words). Therefore, would isn’t used in contractions with question words. The same applies to pronouns and auxiliary verbs.


What’d you buy? (Is it: What did you buy? Or What would you buy?)

However, with pronouns you CAN use would because you don’t generally use did in a positive sentence (unless you need to clarify the opposite of didn’t. Ex. He didgo to the store.)


He’d go if he had the money.

Who/what/where/when/why/how + was/were: In this case, there would be too much confusion between is/are and was/were and contractions with question words. Therefore, contractions with was/were and question words are not used. In this case, the same applies to pronouns and auxiliary verbs.


What’s he doing? (Is it: What is he doing? Or What was he doing?)

* Remember, we are talking about contractions used in speaking.

Check yourself:

Look at the following examples and decide if the underlined part can be contracted. Put “Y” for “YES,” or “N” for “NO.”

1. What time were you planning to go to the party? ____

2. I don’t know if she is planning to come. ___

3. What would you do if an earthquake occurred? ___

4. They are going to arrive at the meeting early. ___

5. Where has she been traveling lately? ___

6. How did they find out the answer? ___

7. No. I said she did get the promotion. ___

8. How much were they thinking of spending? ___

9. I didn’t think he was going to finish. ___

10. How much are you going to buy? ___

Answers to last week’s Check Yourself:

Write the correct form of the participle in the spaces below.

1.  My bath was ___relaxing__.  I feel ___relaxed____ now.  (relax)

2.  Joe is _tired___ because he had a ____tiring___ day.  (tire)

3.  The mouse was __confused__ by the trap.  How to get the cheese was ___confusing___.  (confuse)

4.  The amount of homework was ___overwhelming___.  The student felt __overwhelmed___.  (overwhelm)

5.  Your jokes are __amusing____.  I am ___amused___. (amuse)

6.  I was so ____touched__ by the movie.  Some of the scenes were very __touching___. (touch)

7.  The TV program was __boring___.  I felt __bored___ watching it. (bore)

8.  My father got angry.  My father’s words were ___upsetting____.  I got _upset___.  (upset)

9.  The nurse came in with a big needle.  It was __frightening__.  I felt __frightened__ when she started walking towards me. (frighten)

10.  Ted forgot to zip his zipper.  It was so ___embarrassing__.  He felt very ___embarrassed___.  (embarrass)




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