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One can contract I have to I've when have is a helping verb, e.g.

I've got an octopus in my pants.

Is contracting the main verb technically incorrect or merely antiquated? My father loves to say,

I've a month-old smoked shoulder I can cook for dinner,

and he sounds like a crazy old man when he does. I would like to know if I can shut him down by informing him that he is incorrect. :)

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Actually, for the first sentence, "got" can be considered superfluous. "I've an octopus..." is acceptable. It's a matter of ear; "I've to do it" just sounds... off. :) –  user730 Dec 29 '10 at 9:54
@J. M.: But "I've yet to do it" sounds just fine. –  Jon Purdy Dec 29 '10 at 10:13
True, that. @Jon –  user730 Dec 29 '10 at 12:59
I've half a mind to contract a main verb, just to demonstrate that it's grammatical. –  user16269 Mar 30 '12 at 11:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Contracting the main verb in a sentence is perfectly fine. It sounds awkward only when the pattern of prosodic stress falls on that word:

I have to do it.
* I've to do it.
I have yet to do it.
I've yet to do it.

But this is probably just because you can't use a contracted form in a grammatically stressed position, such as:

I don't know what it is.
* I don't know what it's.

But even then, there are sentences in which the stress falls on the contracted verb and it doesn't sound awkward, showing that it's not ungrammatical except perhaps by the standards of a mad prescriptivist somewhere.

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In American English, the contracted form ’ve is only possible as an auxiliary verb. It is not grammatical as a main verb. This is not the case in British English, where it is grammatical, and this is one of the differences between British and American English

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I've no problem with this answer. +1 –  Robusto Jun 20 '11 at 12:30


I'd not even consider it antiquated. The contraction that is - the shoulder's a different matter.

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Ah, nice touch. :-) As you say, it's fine. He's right in saying what he does. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 29 '10 at 11:50

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