Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

I read this in a product review, and it has been bugging me all day.

Three words: it's really cheap.

"It's" is obviously a contraction of two words, but does it count as one or two words?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by FumbleFingers, David Wallace, MετάEd, StoneyB, Mahnax Sep 18 '12 at 23:04

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Pick a definition of word (or look up "it's" in a dictionary). If it's a word then 1, if not then 2. –  Mitch Sep 4 '12 at 17:56
    
I'd count "it's" as one word. It may be a contraction of two, but that contraction still forms a single word. According to NOAD's definition of a word, "it's" would pass the single-word test. –  J.R. Sep 4 '12 at 18:11
9  
If you're counting words in something you've written and you get paid by the word, it's two. Otherwise, it's one. –  Jay Sep 4 '12 at 19:03
    
+1 that would bug me all day too. It IS going to bug me all day. –  JAM Sep 4 '12 at 19:08
    
@Jay Although your comment is amusing, I feel compelled to point out that it is not actually correct. –  tchrist Sep 5 '12 at 16:05
show 1 more comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

MS Word and the concordoncer I’m using count them as one. Some dictionaries may count them as two. It all depends on what your purpose is in counting.

share|improve this answer
    
Barrie, what is a "concordoncer"? I looked it up in two online dictionaries and on Google and could not find an obvious definition. –  JAM Sep 5 '12 at 16:07
    
@JAM lextutor.ca/concordancers What else is Google for, ha! –  Kris Sep 7 '12 at 6:39
    
@JAM: It's software that allows an electronically stored corpus to be interrogated for lexical and grammatical features. –  Barrie England Sep 7 '12 at 6:45
add comment

According to your question, "It's" is obviously a contraction of two words

... into one, right?

Where's the doubt, then?

In the given context, it is beyond question that "It's" is one word.

In a different context where you may be concerned with serious lexical parsing, you may need to treat it as two words, though.

share|improve this answer
1  
I have indeed seen lexical analysers that have an apostrophe-s token. –  tchrist Sep 5 '12 at 17:44
add comment

If it has spaces or other punctuation around it, it is one word, just as hyphenated words and compound words are. Each of these list items is a single word:

  • won’t, he’ll, oughtn’t, ’tisn’t, I’d’ve, couldn’t’ve, o’rreaching, mine’ll, ain’t, durstn’t
  • big-hearted, teeter-totter, to-morrow, now-a-days, snarf-n-barf, wine-colored, re-elect, vis-à-vis, tête-à-tête, air-cushioned, arch-enemy, salpingo-oöphorectomy
  • cannot, tomorrow, yesterday, nowadays, windshield, Christmas, Halloween, Michaelmas, elsewhither, grandmother, crosswalk, corkscrew, overdiversified, overreaching, breastfeed
share|improve this answer
add comment

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