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Can I contract "will" as "ll" when preceded by a proper name? For example:

John will visit you tomorrow

John'll visit you tomorrow

I am inclined to think this is not acceptable in standard English. It's also not pretty when spoken. In which case, is this construction valid in any dialect?

Why am I asking this? (some people seem to care): I'm translating a game I originally wrote in Japanese, into English. I have a native English speaker taking care of the dialogue, and a construction similar to the one I wrote above appeared on the text he sent me to check.

I'm not a native English speaker, so even though I have probably heard that contraction a handful of times in my life, I would like to know if it is correct English.

It also happens that my native English speaker is from Texas, so it occurred to me that this is probably common in the Texan dialect of English. I have never been to Texas, so I have no idea if this is right.

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Written? Spoken? Reported dialogue? –  tchrist May 14 '13 at 16:08
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Do you by any chance still remember the name of that book? Or can you perhaps even cite the corresponding passage? Also, I am certain you don't really wish to imply that something that is a common feature of dialogue between native speakers can be "plain wrong", and hopefully neither does the book, but that's what you end up saying right now, and that of course doesn't compute. Thank you. –  RegDwigнt May 14 '13 at 16:15
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John'll visit you tomorrow seems fine to me for spoken English. –  GEdgar May 14 '13 at 16:46
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I'm not with you. Clearly native speakers use contractions all the time, as I just did there. Idiomatically, many of us would probably avoid writing Reg's right here, even though we might write Panda's wrong. But that's just because it's meaningless to contract the former (since it would sound identical to the "non-contracted" version). You could consult a relevant style guide to establish whether certain contractions are "acceptable" in certain written contexts, but that's got very little to do with most English usage, which is primarily spoken. –  FumbleFingers May 14 '13 at 16:59
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Yes, that contraction is just fine for informal English. Contractions in general are considered bad form in formal written English, but are used unnoticeably in speech. This particular contraction sounds a little more informal, but is also probably not noticed in speech. –  Mitch May 14 '13 at 17:12

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Short answer: yes. It'll be understood, and if it's seen as a mistake, it'd be one of register rather than of grammar.

Longer answer: contractions are informal by nature, so if you're asking about formal written English, then any contraction is frowned upon, whether it's "it's", "you're", or "John'll".

So we're clearly talking about less-than-formal English, where the rules (such as they are) get fuzzy.

  • In spoken English, contractions are totally fair game. In fact, you really have to pay attention to even notice whether someone said "I am" or "I'm". The difference between "John will" and "John'll" is a bit more audible, but it's still perfectly fine to say the latter rather than the former.

  • In written English, the contractions you choose to use, or not use, determine the level of informality. In this sense, "John'll" is a bit more informal than "you're", but there are very few contexts where the latter would be acceptable while the former wouldn't be.

Bottom line is, in an informal context such as a video game, usage such as "John'll" simply adds to the colloquial, informal nature of the dialogue/narration. It is not, in and of itself, a mistake.

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+1 for the register observation. –  rajah9 May 14 '13 at 18:08
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I find it interesting that the contraction persists in spoken English even when the pronunciation is awkward. Jill'll be at the conference Tuesday while Charles's presenting, but Jane and Peter're coming Wednesday. –  choster May 14 '13 at 18:16
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@choster: I dunno. I don't think saying "Jill'll" is any more awkward than saying "Jill will". –  Marthaª May 14 '13 at 19:20
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@Kris: could you please point out where I said anything about "standard English"? –  Marthaª May 15 '13 at 13:50
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After you're finished laughing (or, perhaps, if you don't want to appear ridiculous, instead of laughing), @Kris, you might want to check where on this page the word "standard" appears. Hint: you won't find it in my answer. –  Marthaª May 16 '13 at 13:46

If this is for dialogue in a video game, then why would it matter if it's formally correct?

What are you striving for? To mimic the way the characters would actually communicate? Or to write a script that would pass for formal prose?

Authors such as Mark Twain, Stephen King, and Harper Lee often used constructs like this to add a sense of realism to the dialogue in their books, knowing that people often speak in a less formal way than they might write polished text.

“Let him alone,” said Stuart Mordaunt. “His brother's absence has upset him, but Jim'll come round all right.” (Mr. Groby's Slippery Gift by Paul Laurence Dunbar)

“I think that cat'll outlive us all,” I said and patted Tim on the shoulder. (Night and the Cat by Alan Adler)

By striking such contractions from the video game, you run the risk of having language that might sound artificial and contrived.


Incidentally, this is why you were asked about where you would use this, and why “people seemed to care.” If you were presenting at an academic conference, I think it would be a terrible idea to write Dave'll go next on one of your presentation slides. But that doesn't mean such informal phrasing should be removed from a video game dialogue. The theives in Grand Theft Auto don't generally speak like English gentlemen.

When you don't provide adequate context, the community cannot provide an accurate answer.

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I asked whether or not it was gramatically correct, not formally correct. I still believe the context is irrelevant for a grammar question. –  Panda Pajama May 15 '13 at 1:15
    
@PandaPajama: Define grammatically correct. I don't think "grammatically correct" is a box with fixed surfaces, but an elastic bag that stretches according to context. Who am I to tell Dunbar he should fix his sentence? Also, you could change my "Why would it matter if it's formally correct?" question to, "Why would it matter if it's grammatically correct?" and my answer would stay the same – unless you're merely curious, and not concerned at all with what goes in the final version of the video game. Lastly, you didn't ask if it was "grammatically correct," you asked, "Can I use it?" –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 10:06
    
I tagged it as "grammar", which is enough to note this is a grammar, not a register question. "Grammatically correct" means that "it abides by the rules of the English language". For example, a sentence such as "Clock it'd when pierce" is grammatically incorrect, while "My name is Panda" is grammatically correct. And it does matter a lot, because a poorly constructed translation would reflect lack of attention to detail and general lack of education, and could probably hurt the sales of my product. –  Panda Pajama May 15 '13 at 13:53
    
@PandaPajama, actually "Clock it'd when pierce" is (or might be) grammatically fine. Where it runs into trouble is semantics. And the problem with "the rules of the English language" is not "rules" or "English", but that first "the". –  Marthaª May 15 '13 at 13:57
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You can't usefully separate register from grammaticality, because different registers sometimes have different grammars. –  Colin Fine Oct 28 '13 at 23:18

As a native English speaker, "John'll....." Is totally acceptable and not at all awkward to say. In a sentence where I wish to stress that John is definitely going to do something, without any doubt, then I will say "John WILL..."....otherwise I'll contract it. In natural connected speech, the "will" serving as helping verb will get reduced, and the resulting utterance is "'ll". This pronunciation poses a problem for non-native English speakers where the "dark L" is non-existent in their native language, but can be learned.

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