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What is the difference between "don't" and "do not" in the English literature as well as spoken English? Are they same?

The same question goes for "wouldn't" and "would not", "couldn't" and "could not".

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I could say, "Don't joke about bombs at airports." But I might say instead, "Do NOT joke about bombs at airports." The uncontracted form "do not" is stronger and more serious, especially when you emphasize the "not". –  Dietrich Epp Jun 22 '12 at 8:24
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

"Don't", "wouldn't" and "couldn't" are contractions of "do", "would" and "could" with "not".

From the Wikipedia page on Contraction:

An informal type of contraction occurs frequently in speech and writing, in which a syllable is substituted by an apostrophe and/or other mode of elision, e.g., can't for "cannot", won't for "will not". Such contractions are often either negations with not or combinations of pronouns with auxiliary verbs, e.g., I'll for "I will".

  • The contractions (e.g. don't) and the full phrases (e.g. do not) have the same meaning.
  • Contractions are more frequent in speech than writing.
  • Contractions are more frequent in informal than formal contexts.
  • It is not always the case that you can replace "don't" or "can't" etc. with "do not" or "cannot" directly; e.g. "Why can’t I?" (See nohat's comments below)
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It is not always the case that you can replace don’t or can’t etc. with do not or cannot directly; e.g. there is no unawkward way to uncontract Why can’t I? –  nohat Sep 20 '10 at 0:16
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There is also a difference in the imperative form: "do not walk on the grass" is a better phrasing than "don't walk on the grass". –  Ether Sep 20 '10 at 6:02
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@moioci “Why can I not do that?” is not “Why can’t I?” uncontracted. It is a different sentence. Uncontracted “Why can’t I?” is “Why cannot I?”, which is ungrammatical. You might argue that “Why can I not?” is the uncontracted form, but like I said, it is pretty awkward. You could rephrase it to make it less awkward, but that’s entirely different from uncontracting. –  nohat Sep 20 '10 at 17:46
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They have precisely the same meaning. However, there are some contexts where you are required to use the weak form ("Why can't I do that?") and some where you are required to use the strong form ("Are you as hungry as I am?"). –  David Schwartz Aug 28 '11 at 18:14
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I'm afraid that Wikipedia's wrong. Cliticization does not involve apostrophes; that's just a way we sometimes write cliticized words. Clitics are part of English, even for people who can't read or write, and always has been. With or without apostrophes. –  John Lawler Jul 9 '12 at 22:49
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But don't you think that sometimes, "don't" works better than "do not"? "Do not" conveys an urgency or an order. While "don't" is not as pressing or commanding. For instance, I don't see your point of view." It could sound strange to force the argument by saying, "I do not see your point of view." Any thoughts on this?

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protected by RegDwigнt Jun 22 '12 at 7:36

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