Did your teacher tell you not to use contractions when you speak English? Were you told it’s not proper English to say words like “can’t” or “they’ve”?
As a native speaker and English pronunciation coach I’m here to tell you the exact opposite. You SHOULD use contractions when you speak. In fact, if you don’t use contractions when you speak English, you’ll sound too formal. You might even sound annoyed.
Contractions are the result of putting two words together to make one word. An apostrophe replaces the missing letters.
For example: He + is = he’s or I + am = I’m.
Contractions are not slang
Contractions are not considered improper English. Whether it’s the Queen of England or the pizza delivery guy, everyone uses contractions when they speak. This is because it’s efficient and convenient.
English is a stress-timed language. Words that carry the most relevant information in a phrase get stressed; the other words are unstressed. This creates the rhythm of English. Contractions shorten unstressed words and keep the rhythm flowing.
Listen to the following sentences and decide which sounds more natural:
The second sentence in each example is how native English speakers talk. Notice how contractions keep the focus on the stressed words. Less content-heavy words like ‘will’ and ‘am’ don’t receive equal stress. It’s almost like they get “absorbed” into the word in front of them.
Avoiding contractions can send the wrong message
The first sentence in each example above sounds stiff and formal. If you speak like this, people might get the impression you’re being rather serious. Native English speakers usually avoid contractions only if they have to correct someone or clarify a point.
For example, “I said he should NOT drive.” “There WILL be snacks.”
The bottom line: You will sound friendlier, and your speech will sound more natural, if you use contractions.
Practice for better understanding
If you were taught to avoid contractions in your English classes you probably never heard many examples of contractions in conversation. You may struggle at times to understand what native speakers say when they use contractions you’re not familiar with. Using contractions will train your ear to understand native English speakers better.
Download this free useful guide of common English contractions used when speaking.
Download your FREE 2 page English Contraction Guide
Learn which contractions are spoken, but never used in writing.
Practice saying these contractions in sentences and you’ll be one step closer to improving the clarity of your spoken English.