A friend of mine keeps using a contraction like this and I keep correcting him by asking "I'll what?". He doesn't get it though, and no matter how much I try to explain it doesn't seem to sink in.

For example, I tried explaining that in most cases you can't use a contraction (more specifically ones that refer to a person(s) like I'll, they'll, he'll and so on) right before who/what/where/when/how/why, that he should use "I will" instead of "I'll" unless he's asking a question; "I'll when?" makes sense, "I'll when it's finished" doesn't.

So, just to clarify, does "I'll when" work when it's not a question?

How can I better explain it to him? I'm having a hard time and I seem to be making a mess of it rather than helping.

closed as not a real question by Hugo, Mitch, kiamlaluno, MrHen, Marthaª Nov 21 '11 at 15:58

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    I don't fully understand what you are asking. Can you please add a couple of the "I'll when?" question forms as examples that make sense, plus at least one more non-question example that doesn't? Thanks! – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 20 '11 at 5:51
  • Maybe I didn't express my request properly. My question was: Is "I'll when" grammatically correct? Meaning, is it proper form to use a contraction before an adverb with nothing in between them like "I'll when"? – Sehra Farron Nov 20 '11 at 7:18
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    @SehraFarron: Again, please give examples of full sentences that you believe are grammatical/ungrammatical, or want to ask about. Not sentence fragments. It should be easy enough to do, right? It will help ground the discussion in something concrete. (As an aside, I note that you used "I'll what" in the first sentence.) – ShreevatsaR Nov 20 '11 at 7:47
  • "I'll when it is done." I didn't think examples would have been required as I thought that perhaps this was incorrect grammar in general regardless of sentence. – Sehra Farron Nov 20 '11 at 7:54
  • The "I'll what?" wasn't an example by the way, it's a question I ask him whenever he uses "I'll when" in a sentence, something I do to bring his incorrect grammar to his attention. Yes, "I'll what?" is a question and is correct use of the contraction before a pronoun. My question is, is it grammatically correct to use a contraction before the adverbs when, how, what and why with nothing in between them? I should think the sentence it is used in is irrelevant as the sentence is not in question, simply the use of those two words, no? – Sehra Farron Nov 20 '11 at 8:30

The contraction works when will is being used to express the simple future. For instance:

I'll eat it later.

I will eat it later.

The verb will can also be used to express intent or willingness, rather than just the future.

Will you do it?

I will when I have time.

In this case, you can't use the contraction, and both the sentences below are grammatically incorrect:

I'll when I have time.

I'll when?

You can remember this easily by looking for the emphasis in the sentence - eat or will. The sentence doesn't work if there's no emphasis. Wikipedia provides a comprehensive overview of sentences using shall and will.

I've been unable to find sources comparing your construction to the correct one, but this doesn't surprise me as it's not a common mistake.

The only time this makes any sense as a question is when you haven't heard or want to question what the other person is saying, and you can use what, but not when. Even then I suspect this is a colloquialism rather than correct grammar.

You'll lend me $200, won't you?

I'll what?

  • Do you have any sources? I can't find a mention of this in the Wikipedia article you linked. – ShreevatsaR Nov 20 '11 at 12:11
  • Try this one if you want more: annies-annex.com/auxiliary_verbs.htm - afraid I have no formal references. You can also google for "contraction" and "auxiliary verb" since that's what "will" is in this case. – Lunivore Nov 20 '11 at 16:56
  • Not "more"; I just want any sources at all. :-) BTW I can't find the rule in the link you just gave either. Can you point to a specific section (either in the Wikipedia article or the above link) which pertains to "I'll when"? – ShreevatsaR Nov 20 '11 at 18:06
  • Search for "contraction" in the articles. The only reference I could find to contraction was with "will" used as an auxiliary verb; it's not contracted in any other context. The confusion suffered by commenters who couldn't even see that you'd already posted a complete sentence should act as evidence enough for this. If you doubt it, try it out on native English speakers and watch what happens! – Lunivore Nov 20 '11 at 22:42
  • So to clarify, you're pointing to sources which say that "will" is contracted when used as an auxiliary verb, to conclude (based on absence) that it cannot be contracted in other contexts? You don't have any sources that actually talk about "I'll when" itself, right? Could you make this clearer in your answer? – ShreevatsaR Nov 21 '11 at 6:53

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