Contractions (Short Form)

A contraction is two words joined together to make the short form.

she is she’s

We use an apostrophe to show the missing letters.

apostrophe = '

Making contractions

We can only make contactions with certain words. There are three common types:

  • Subject + auxiliary verb;
  • Negative sentences with ’not';
  • Questions words with ‘is’.

Subject + auxiliary verb

We often use the short form when we have a subject pronoun followed by ‘be’ or ‘have’.

She is playing tennis. She’s playing tennis.
They are at the cinema. They’re at the cinema.
We have been waiting. We’ve been waiting.

Subject pronouns are the words ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, ’they’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’.

Learn more about using pronouns.

You can’t use a contraction if ‘have’ is the main verb in the sentence.

I have two cats.
Auxiliary verbs are helping words. They are ‘be’, ‘have’, ‘do’.

You can also use the short form when you have a noun followed by ‘is’.

The train is late. The train’s late.
John is going to the party. John’s going to the party.

Negative sentences (not)

We use contractions a lot in negative sentences.

We use the short form when we have an auxiliary verb or a modal followed by ’not’.

I do not know the time. I don’t know the time.
I have not seen the film. I haven’t seen the film.
He could not find the keys. He couldn’t find the keys.
They will not be at the party. They won’t be at the party.
Modals are another type of helping word. They are ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘shall’, ‘should’, ‘will’, ‘would’, ‘must’, ‘may’, ‘might’.

Question word + is

We use the short form when we have a question word follwed by ‘is’.

What is the time? What’s the time?
Where is the party? Where’s the party?
Who is going to the party? Who’s going to the party?
There are words we use to make questions. They are ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘how’.


The modal ‘will’ is special. We can use it in the short form with a subject pronoun and with questions words.

She will be late. She’ll be late.
Who will be there? Who’ll be there?

When do we use contractions?

We use contractions in speech. Learning to use contractions will make your spoken English sound more natural.

You can use contractions in informal writing. If you are not sure, use the long form.

Learn more

You can find all of the short forms in the contractions tables: