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10.12: Apostrophes in Contractions

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Apostrophes in Contractions

1. The word apostrophe comes from a Greek word that meant “a turning away.” In time it came to mean turning away from, or leaving out, a letter or letters in a word. And that is exactly what the apostrophe means in contractions: It means that one or more letters have been left out.

Contraction means “a drawing, or pulling, together”. The prefix con- (an assimilated form of com-) means “together.” The base tract means “draw or pull,” as in words like tractor and traction. A contraction is a pulling together: By leaving certain letters out, and marking their place with an apostrophe, we pull two or more words together into one single word.

The most important thing to remember about contractions is that the apostrophe is part of the correct spelling. If you leave the apostrophe out, you misspell the word.

2. Expand the following contractions into the two-word phrases that they each contract,as we have done with the first one:

Contraction = Two-word Phrase
he'll = he will, he shall
we'll =
didn't =
don't =
I'm =
you've =
they're =
she's =
shouldn't =
I'll =
he'd =

3. Now try some the other way around. Contract the following phrases into a single word. Don't forget to put the apostrophes in to show where the letters have been left out:

Two-Word Phrases = Contraction
he will = he'll
are not =
has not =
I will =
let us =
she shall =
they would =
they have =
was not =
what is =
what has =
you would =
can not =

4. Here are some that are a little different. See if you can figure them out. The last one actually contracts a single word rather than a two- or three-word phrase:

Phrases = Contraction
of the clock =
it was =
it is =
over =

5. The contraction ain't started out as a contraction of “are not” - and it was spelled an't In time the <i> crept in, and ain't began to be used as a contraction for “am not,” “is not,” “has not,” and even “have not.” Perhaps because it was used to stand for any and all of those things, ain't began to be thought badly of. So though it is an old and real contraction, you'd probably do better not to use it - at least not when anyone is looking or listening.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
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Jan 16, 2015
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