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Contractions & Homonyms

Thank you for tuning in to our Write Right screencasts. Today we will be discussing the grammar rule of contractions.
What is a contraction?
•  A contraction occurs when you combine two words into one. A few letters will be replaced by an apostrophe. For example, take the contraction I’m.
•  The use of contractions can make a thought or command more streamlined and concise.
When should contractions be used?
It’s always a good idea to consider your target audience.
•  It is most common to use contractions in informal or casual writing (as well as speaking).
•  However, in academic and more formal writing, the use of contractions is not encouraged.
How do we form contractions?
Here are a few common examples:
Take the one we first looked at: I am becomes I’m.
As in: “I’m going to the store this afternoon.”
I would becomes I’d.
“I’d go to the store with you.”
You will becomes You’ll.
“You’ll go to the store when you run out of food.”
He is becomes He’s.
“He’s going to the store two miles away.”
She is becomes She’s.
“She’s going to the store after class.”
Cannot becomes Can’t.
“You can’t go to the store right now.”
Do not becomes Don’t.
“Don’t go to the store on Main Street.”
And there are many other contractions!
Earlier I mentioned that contractions should probably be avoided in more formal writing. So How do we undo contractions? Basically we just come from the opposite direction. Instead of “He’s going to the store,” we would use “He is going…” And instead of “You can’t go to the store,” we would use “You cannot go…”
One thing to be mindful of while forming contractions is: homonyms.
What are homonyms? Homonyms are two words that sound the same but do not share the same meaning. Sometimes contractions can be tricky because the word that is formed sounds similar to another word.
For example, let’s look at the contraction “You’re.”
You are becomes You’re.
But it sounds a lot like the possessive pronoun your.
Take the following sentence:
“You are in my class” can become “You’re in my class.”
Rather than “Your friend is in my class,” where your is a possessive pronoun.
Let’s look at another example: “They’re.”
They are becomes They’re.
But this one is tricky because “they’re” sounds like “their,” the possessive pronoun and “there,” the preposition.
Let’s take a look:
“They are in my class” becomes “They’re in my class.”
Rather than “Their friend is in my class,” where “their” is a possessive pronoun, or
“My class is over there,” where “there” is a preposition.
Now let’s look at one more tricky homonym: “It’s.”
It is becomes It’s.
But keep in mind: “It’s” looks and sounds a lot like the possessive pronoun “its.”
“It is my first class of the day” becomes “It’s my first class of the day.”
The possessive pronoun can be seen in “I gave the class iguana its food for the day.”
Remember: The contraction “it’s” contains an apostrophe, where the possessive pronoun “its” does not.
So, I hope this has been a helpful guide for forming and using contractions.
Thanks again for tuning in to our Write Right screencasts.

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