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Is the contraction from that will to that’ll an actual word or not?

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English language is defined by usage, not by a regulatory body that gives a seal of approval to distinguish "actual" from "fake". If "that'll" is in wide use, which you know it is, then it's an "actual" word. –  tenfour Oct 27 '11 at 13:13
@tenfour: languages, English or otherwise, are defined by usage by linguists, and, separately, groups of people give authority to governing bodies as they please to define languages by fiat. It could come to pass that an Academy of English Language is created to maintain and enforce language rules (just like the French!) and they would define English...rather they could define 'defining English' to be what they say, in competition with the linguists.. –  Mitch Oct 27 '11 at 14:00
@Mitch: some group could anoint themselves the keepers of the English language but that doesn't mean that they would be. Even the French language academy is not that effective in directing language change. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 27 '11 at 14:14
@ Mitch: I don't agree. Languages are defined and changed by speakers, not by linguists. Linguists are there to record and study anything that has to do with a language; they aren't supposed to act as the keepers of any language. Those who attempt to do so are very often ignored and history records their failure later. –  Irene Oct 27 '11 at 16:38
@Mitch: I'm not really following you. Usage is what people say. There are linguists who catalogue usage, and they determine it through observation. "Rule writing bodies" may be able to influence education but they can't really enforce language rules. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 27 '11 at 18:51

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Well, that'll is not a word but a contraction.

Some dictionaries include it, some don't. That'll clearly exists, and is used to some degree. It's just a matter of whether it has been used enough to be widely understood.

An example of its usage would be in the song That'll be the day (1957) by Buddy Holly.

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Also: "When pouring ketchup from the bottle, at first none comes, then a lot'll." –  The Raven Oct 27 '11 at 13:57
That'll be the right answer... –  G.Rassovsky Oct 13 '14 at 15:26

Whether or not it’s a real word depends on how you define word. If you’re asking whether it’s part of the English language, then it clearly is. The extent to which anyone might want to use it, particularly in written discourse, depends on the nature of the discourse.

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  • "that'll" is most likely not in any dictionary; it is an artifact of informal speech.
  • it is commonly recognized and understood as a natural utterance. That is, the Queen of England might say it, but she probably wouldn't write it.
  • you probably don't want to use it in a formal written document or in formal speech unless you are specifically trying to evoke informality.
  • it is as much a 'word' as any other contraction (just not as common). Are contractions considered 'words' or are they all in this weird conceptual space between words and multi-word expressions?
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Are all contractions artifacts of informal speech, or do contractions exist which are able to be written in a formal context? –  Pantalones Aug 8 '12 at 4:52
What's in a dictionary, what is deemed formal or informal, is a cultural judgement. By most stylistic conventions nowadays, a contraction is unwelcome in formal language. You -can- do anything; whether people look down their nose at you for doing so is a cultural decision. Consider change in a language over time...the formal high-minded French is essentially a slurred pastiche, bastard derivative of Vulgar (in both senses) Latin, just with a bunch of old guys in suits behind it. Style guides have chosen to consider contractions informal, but they could have chosen to accept them. –  Mitch Aug 8 '12 at 12:30
@Mitch: Certain contractions are entirely proper in formal contexts; I do not think "that'll" is among them, but in many cases text with lots of "it is", and "is not" can be harder to read than text which substitutes "it's" and "isn't". PS--while not "formal", one of my favorite CakeWrecks posts had a cake with the text "It is a boy." Somehow that line just doesn't work without the contraction. –  supercat Sep 21 '14 at 2:47

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 3221 uses of this contraction. Since MetaEd mentions this as a part of the phrase "that'll be the day", I'll mention that the phrase appears only 40 times in COCA, so 99% of the time it is used in other contexts.

The Google n-gram viewer shows many uses back to the early 19th century: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=that%27ll&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3


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Thank you for presenting corpus evidence! –  curiousdannii Jul 9 '14 at 5:40

According to Dictionary.com, that’ll is supported by the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms as part of the phrase “that’ll be the day”, attested since the 1950s.

“That'll do”, a phrase used, among other things, to send your sheepdog home (and in that context made famous by the movie Babe), is found by Google Ngram Viewer in books and magazines since the early 1800s, including Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

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Came for the Babe reference, left satisfied. –  Malvolio Aug 31 '12 at 19:33

protected by tchrist Feb 22 at 4:47

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