"How ya doin?" v. "How ya' doin'?" and so on.

There's... a debate.

  • 5
    Certainly a matter of opinion, but I'd go with "How ya doin'?".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 21:55
  • @HotLicks Why for "doing" and not "you"? Trying to nail down if there are any particular rules/norms for apostrophe application. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:02
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers, actually all over the Southern US, not just 'Deep South', we say y'all. The only time ya should be followed by an apostrophe is when it is part of the contraction of ya and will: ya'll. I see people mistype this all the time, ya'll when they meant to say y'all. Drives me nuts! ;)
    – Tim Ward
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:10
  • 1
    @Tim Ward: My scare quotes around "Deep South" were intended to acknowledge the fact that I'm sure there are plenty of Americans who would say they're from the "Southern US", but reject the designation "Deep South". As a Brit, I know little about such distinctions - to us, that latter term is mostly just a historical term relating to the time/place when/where supposedly civilised men kept other men as slaves. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:28
  • 1
    Not really an answer, but without the apostrophe, "doin" looks like it rhymes with "loin" or "groin". Something out of Lord of the Rings: "Boin, son of Doin, of the great house of Goin!"
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 9:14

4 Answers 4


I use an apostrophe to indicate the place where letters have been omitted.

What'll I do (' = wi/sha)

I'd say (' = woul/shoul/coul)

How ya doin' (' = g)

Ya is an alternative form of 'you' (- regional or colloq. = you pron.(OED))

Since there are no letters missing in 'ya' there is no apostrophe.

  • Is this codified somewhere I could refer to? I know that's the "rule" for most contractions/etc, I'm just wondering if it's similar for other constructs. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 12:06
  • I thought ya was a contraction of ya'll, which was a contraction of you all. Hence, it should be ya'. But I might be mistaken. Your input is welcome. (Also, as a logician, I need to point out that you're wrong that you only use apostrophe to indicate letter omissions. I dare you to construct a possessive form without it. In a general case! My and of crown doesn't suffice...) Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 12:11
  • 6
    @KonradViltersten I have a suspicion (but no evidence) that the apostrophe in the possessive suffix is indicating an omission, just one we've long forgotten. My amateur theory is based on modern German having a possessive (genitive) suffix "es", so "des Wortes Endung" -> *"the wordës ending" -> "the word's ending"...
    – IMSoP
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 12:32
  • 2
    @IMSoP Wikipedia still remembers: "The spelling -es remained, but in many words the letter -e- no longer represented a sound. In those words, printers often copied the French practice of substituting an apostrophe for the letter e. In later use, -'s was used for all nouns where the /s/ sound was used for the possessive form, and when adding -'s to a word like love the e was no longer omitted."
    – Sabre
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 21:06
  • 3
    When "ya" means "you" there aren't any letters missing, but I think an argument could be made for "How 'ya doin'", on the basis that it's a further contraction of how're ya, pronounced slightly differently from e.g. "I don't know how ya do this".
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 22:36

It doesn't make sense to put an apostrophe after "ya", because no letters have been omitted. And that's what apostrophe indicates — it isn't a general clue that a word is shortened in some way.

In "ya", the "ou" vowel has been replaced with "a". We don't have punctuation to indicate that, so we just write it.

This is also generally the case where a replacement slang/informal word is missing letters, but others have changed. When this happens, we usually just transcribe the sounds rather than using an apostrophe. For example, we write "gimme" for the hurried expression which means "give me". We don't write "gi'me", even though that might make logical sense. And, we write "gonna" for "going to", rather than.... "go'na", I guess. (Yeah, not that.)

  • 2
    Interestingly it seems people did use to write 'gi'me'. I guess, over time the familiar version - gimme - took over. books.google.com/ngrams/…"
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:31
  • 4
    And, I guess "won't" might be an exception to the general rule I'm giving here. But, it wouldn't be English if we didn't have a few of those. :)
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:49
  • 1
    Well, also, the spelling gi'me doesn't represent the short i, so it looks like you want to add another m. And there seems to be an unwritten convention that in general once you add or change some letters, that trumps the apostrophizing to some degree and you just opt for a direct transcription of the sound. Examples: your gonna example, kinda not kinda', watcha, wanna not wan'a, lemme not le'me. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 22:40
  • @ThePopMachine Hm. How about "kind'f" or "kind've" then? That's one aspect I hadn't thought've. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:14
  • @DaveNewton: I feel like "kind've" is the same as "kind of". I'm not capable of saying the former without introducing the same "uv" sound we normally use to pronounce "of". And unlike "c'mon", we aren't changing the emphasis or pronunciation, just the speed. I could understand "I'mkindofinahurry" if you were trying to emphasize someone speaking quickly, or "kindof" to do the same.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 9:11

Nowhere, you're informal and/or in a hurry so adding apostrophes on proper places defeats the purpose in my opinion (unless there's some other purpose like writing a book or something).

disclaimer: now I'm not native speaker and this is not an advice about grammatical correctness

  • 2
    Normally one wouldn't write like this to save time (that'd be "how u doin" or somesuch). One would write this way to reflect a speaker's dialect and/or informal tone.
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:16

I would suggest that at least in some dialects, the phrase "are you" is (informally) spoken as something between "ee-ah" and "eh-ya", which is distinct from "ya" meaning "you"; I would suggest 'ya (with the apostrophe) as an orthography for shortened form of "are you", since any other notation for that initial vowel sound would be apt to cause confusion. In many cases, context would distinguish between the usages even without a difference in spelling, but I would regard the following as different questions, with somewhat different pronunciations:

  • 'Ya lost?
  • Ya lost?

The former question would be asking whether someone is confused about their location; the latter would ask whether they had been vanquished.

I would thus notate the question How 'ya doin' with the apostrophe as shown, pronounced as "Howie adieuing"; if ya were used to simply mean "you", as in "I don't know how ya do it", I would omit the apostrophe.

  • Interesting distinction; I'm not sure about the apostrophe in the first case. The more I think about it the less I know. Ya know? Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 16:41
  • @DaveNewton: English orthography often necessitates compromises when transcribing dialect. The first syllable of "ya" can replace a variety of linking verbs including "do", and in many questions the word "do" is grammatically optional but affects meaning slightly, so Ya know? or 'Ya know? would both work [though they are pronounced differently]. Note that the "ee-ah" pronunciation doesn't work in places where no linking verb would fit, e.g. with past-tense verb forms which can't be used as participles like Ya broke it.
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 16:56

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