English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When is it correct to create a contraction of words followed by is? For instance is who’s a correct short form of who is?

share|improve this question
or even "who was"? – Robert Koritnik Mar 18 '11 at 14:30
@Robert: I think "who has" but not "who was" – Henry Apr 29 '12 at 18:58
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The word "is" can always be contracted, provided it is not stressed - though this is considered somewhat informal.

So, in informal contexts,

Fred is taller than Jim.

can be shortened to

Fred's taller than Jim.

...it doesn't depend on what word comes before "is". But if the is is emphatic:

Fred is taller than Jim.

then it would be wrong to contract that to

* Fred's taller than Jim.

That is probably fairly obvious - if you are stressing a particular word, it doesn't pay to shorten it. But there are also other situations where the is has the emphasis, for instance

I don't know what it is.

cannot be contracted to

* I don't know what it's.

even though

I don't know what it is doing.

can be reduced to

I don't know what it's doing.

share|improve this answer
psmears, i like your answers ! – n0nChun Mar 18 '11 at 10:09
@n0nChun Thank you, it's nice to be appreciated :-) – psmears Mar 18 '11 at 10:44
I think in ordinary, non-emphatic speech (but not writing unless it is intending to mimic speech), it's not so much that you "can" contract is, but rather that speakers practically always do. – Neil Coffey Mar 18 '11 at 12:04

Who's is the correct contraction of who is, in the same way let's is the contraction of let us.

There are no grammatical rules about not using 's as a contraction of is.
In some cases, there could be a confusion between 's used as contraction of is, and 's used as possessive, but the rest of the sentence should clarify which is the exact meaning of the contraction.

Geraldine's back
Barak's thinking

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.