Can I use contractions when I want to apply them to multiple nouns?

I want to say this:

Sally and I will go to the beach.

Can I say this?

Sally and I'll go to the beach.


2 Answers 2


I have noticed in my own speech that, at least in some cases, when the contracted form has a pronunciation which depends on both of the uncontracted forms, a coordinated structure, or relative clause construction, blocks contraction. It is a peculiarly complicated constraint, so my statement of the constraint may be unclear, -- please consider it together with the following examples.

Some pronouns have special single syllable contracted forms before an auxiliary verb or the 's possessive which are not indicated in the spelling. The special contracted form is missing the final off glide which would ordinarily be present at the end of the pronoun. I doubt that all American English speakers accept these special contractions. I'll use an extra apostrophe to show where this off glide would have been, if it had not been lost. For instance, all of the following are possible:

He will be there.  
He'll be there. [sounds like "heel be there"]  
He''ll be there.  [sounds like "hill be there"]  

He has been there.  
He's been there.  [sounds like "he z been there"]  
He''s been there.  [sounds like "his been there"]  

I believe that these special contracted forms do not occur with non-pronouns or pronouns which come at the end of constructions within the subject (like coordinations):

*Mary''s been there.
She or he's been there.  
*She or he''s been there.  [would sound like "she or his been there"]  
*Some man taller than he''s been there.  
  • Hmm. In my accent, "he'll" pronounced as "hill" is possible (and so on for other combinations of pronouns + "'ll"; "there'll" can similarly lose the "r" and become a homophone of "they'll"). But "he's" pronounced as "his" isn't, I don't think. What you say about the enviroments where fully contracted forms are possible does seem to apply to my accent.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 22:56
  • The problem is that if I am right you can't look at a different contraction and conclude anything about others. As I said in my answer, I think most dialects of English have productive use of "'s" but no productive use of "'ll". I'm ignoring the allowed variations in pronunciation, of course, since that is likely to vary even more widely between dialects.
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 6:35
  • As for noun phrases other than those of the form "X and Y", I agree that even "'s" is not generally used at the end of constructions like "some man taller than he", and I suspect it's because the contraction "X's" for "X is" is in a native speaker's mind often a single concept. When we say "it's about to rain" we don't quite think of "it's" as two separate words joined together. Perhaps it's due to frequency of use.
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 6:55
  • @user21820, yes, this is the idea behind the constraint I proposed. The special contracted forms I describe are remembered as being used for two specific morphemes when they come together -- they are not produced by a general phonological rule (such as the "auxiliary reduction" rules described for English by Arnold Zwicky).
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 8:11
  • Ah ok. So do you know any linguistic reference that puts forth such a hypothesis, or do you have good corpus evidence specifically for "'ll", because I think standard English does have productive use of "'s" with simple noun phrases while other contractions like "'ll" essentially occur only with pronouns. Hence I think any correct explanation has to give a reason for the discrepancy. I don't have any guesses; I just observed it to be like that.
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 7:10

I believe that in most English dialects the contraction "'ll" for "will" is not productive, unlike "'s" (both for "is" and for the possessive). Have you heard people saying "The president'll do what is right." or "Trump'll get kicked out of office."? Google has 1 million results for "Trump will get" while only 3 thousand results for "Trump'll get". The BNC corpus has 334 occurrences of "the government will" but 0 occurrences of "the government'll" (you must put a space before the apostrophe to search in BNC).

It is more difficult to analyze your kind of phrases by a simple search. It is true that "you and I'll" is in use, and here are the matches in BNC:

You and I'll have dinner together then. But how's about a drive round the island -- just so that you can see for yourself what it's like.

You and I'll have to start passive exercises.

'I'll have a glass of rum,' said Black Dog, 'then you and I'll sit and talk like old friends.'

But I suspect that this is just an instance of the closed category of such constructions, and there is generally no productive use of the contraction except for "is". This post supports this claim for "are".

Here is a bit of evidence from the BNC. Searching for "NAME and I 'll" yields 42 occurrences, but all of them (except possibly the last) clearly have "and I'll" beginning a new statement. The last occurrence is from a transcript that seems rather poorly recorded, so basically there is not one occurrence of the kind of construction you asked about.

Furthermore, searching for "NOUN and NOUN 'll" yields 6 occurrences of "mum and dad'll" where "mum and dad" is the subject. Note that "mum and dad" is probably an idiomatic phrase, because it occurs 486 times in the BNC while "dad and mum" occurs only 11 times. Besides "mum and dad'll", there is 1 occurrence of "mummy and daddy'll" and 1 occurrence of "mothers and fathers'll", and apart from these there were no other matches!

  • 1
    Just because it isn't written down doesn't mean that people don't use it in natural speech.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 14:15
  • There I thought simply Beautiful Art was asking about English generally rather than anyone’s dialect. I’ve heard native speakers all over England and in various parts of Scotland, Wales, Northern and Southern Ireland, east and south Australia, Zimbabwe, New England, California and Colorado, as well as numerous natives from South Africa, Zambia using contractions like that. I suggest ’ll is not only acceptable; it’s much more likely than will in most spoken instances. Correct me and isn’t BNC giving mostly written examples? Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 16:13
  • 1
    Further, Clare’s right, too: many people aren't aware how they pronounce things unless they consciously exam their pronunciation in unfabricated usages, sometimes with the help of others. For comparison, try consciously walking, ie thinking about the way you move the muscles in your legs, and see how far you get. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 16:15
  • @RobbieGoodwin: "exam their pronunciation" is invalid English, so Clare cannot be right at least as stated! A quick Google search would tell you that the BNC includes speech. I do not pretend to know the dialects you have heard, but I do consider official sources (like related to news and government) as the standard, and not any dialect that may arise on the streets. The reason is that otherwise we would have to include "would of done" and "have dove into the lake" as grammatical just because a non-negligible fraction of English speakers use them...
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 7:01
  • @RobbieGoodwin: Also consider that nearly every student from India says "I have a doubt." when they mean "I have a question.". Is that standard English? Not in my view.. I'd say it's fair to call it Indian colloquial English, but until the Indian authorities also use it, I'd consider it as non-standard English.
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 7:08

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