What are contracted words or contractions?

What are contracted words?
Contracted words or contractions are used every day in spoken and written English. Help your child keep them straight with our parents' guide, including complete listings of the common contractions children learn to spell in Year 2 and throughout Key Stage 2.

What are contracted words?

Contracted words, also known as contractions (the term used in the 2014 revised national curriculum) are short words made by putting two words together. Letters are omitted in the contraction and replaced by an apostrophe. The apostrophe shows where the letters would be if the words were written in full.

Examples of contracted words

Original two words Contraction / Contracted words
do not don’t
is not isn’t
he is he’s
we are  we’re
I will I’ll
you are you’re
they are they’re
we will we’ll
cannot can’t
did not didn’t
has not hasn’t
could not couldn’t
it is  it’s

Contractions are used a lot in everyday speech, so children will be familiar with these words but may not know where they come from and the grammatical terminology we use to describe them is ‘contracted’.

Contractions can be used in speech and informal writing such as writing notes or writing to friends and family, but should be avoided for formal writing where the original two words should be used (for example, do not rather than don’t).

When are contractions taught in primary school?

Contractions are formally taught in Year 2 as part of children's spelling work / lessons.

How are contracted words taught in KS1 and KS2?

The teacher will introduce the term and show children examples. They will discuss when and how they are used. The teacher will model using the contractions in writing and model identifying contractions in texts when reading. The children may be given fun activities to complete individually or in small groups, such as:

  • Matching the two original words to the contraction
  • Playing ICT games to match the original words to the contraction
  • Sorting the contractions according to the missing / omitted letters
  • Identifying and highlighting contractions in texts

Children are often given contracted words as spelling lists to learn at home or as part of their homework.

3 steps to using contracted words correctly

  1. Remember the apostrophe is used in place of a letter(s).
  2. Be careful not to confuse the use of an apostrophe for a contraction with apostrophes for possession.
  3. Try using both the two-word and contracted versions of the words when talking to your child to help them to learn what the contractions mean, for example using both 'do not' and 'don’t' during discussions.

Common contracted words in English list

  BE WILL WOULD HAVE HAD
I I'm
I am
I'll
I will
I'd
I would
I've
I have
I'd
I had
YOU you're
you are
you'll
you will
you'd
you would
you've
you have
you'd
you had
HE he's
he is
he'll
he will
he'd
he would
he's
he has
he'd
he had
SHE she's
she has
she'd
she had
she's
she is
she'll
she will
she'd
she had
IT it's
it is
it'll
it will
it'd
it would
it's
it has
it'd
it had
WE we're
we are
we'll
we will 
we'd
we would
we've
we have
we'd
we had
THEY they're
they are
they'll
they will
they'd
they would
they've
they have
they'd
they had
THAT that's
that is
that'll
that will
that'd
that would
that's
that has
that'd
that had
WHO who's
who is
who'll
who will
who'd
who would
who's
who has
who'd
who had
WHAT what's / what're
what is / what are
what'll
what will
what'd
what would
what's
what has
what'd
what had
WHERE where's
where is
where'll
where will
where'd
where would
where's
where has
where'd
where had
WHEN when's
when is
when'll
when will
when'd
when would
when's
when has
when'd
when had
WHY why's
why is
why'll
why will
why'd
why would
why's
why has
why'd
why had
HOW how's
how is
how'll
how will
how'd
how would
how's
how has
how'd
how had

English contracted words (negating a verb) list

Two words Contraction
is not isn't
are aren't
was not wasn't
were not weren't
have not haven't
has not hasn't
had not hadn't
will not won't
would not wouldn't
do not don't
does not doesn't
did not didn't
cannot can't
could not couldn't
should not shouldn't
might not mightn't
must not mustn't

Contracted words: common mistakes to look out for

Children often write 'of' instead of the contracted form of 'have', 've' (so "I could of" instead of "I could've").

It's is the contracted form of it is. Its isn't the same thing – it's a possessive pronoun meaning "of it".

The contraction they're is a homophone (it sounds just like the words their and there, but has a different meaning).