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In regular usage, nowadays we use short spellings of words in speaking or writing.

For example:

  • They are in the cinema. => They're in the cinema.
  • We have been waiting for me. => We've been waiting for me.
  • etc...

I know it makes our vocabulary and understanding easier than the real spelling of words, but my question is: why do we need that type of change and how should it be applied to our regular usage?

Most importantly when should we use this kind of short word when writing or speaking?

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  • Hi Chandresh. Both avail and spell are words, and are not short forms, or abbreviations. Could you give full sentence examples where you are having trouble with short forms? Dec 19, 2011 at 12:01
  • I didn't faced any kind of trouble, but i just want to know the reason we are using that kind of short forms..Thanks.
    – Chandresh
    Dec 19, 2011 at 12:10
  • "the reason we are using that kind of short forms" -- what kind of short forms? Giving examples will help us answer.
    – slim
    Dec 19, 2011 at 12:15
  • Please check edited Question/ Example . Thanks.
    – Chandresh
    Dec 19, 2011 at 12:24
  • Since when does using short forms make our vocabulary and understanding easier? Surely it makes things harder for people to learn English. They not only need to know which short forms are commonly-used - they also need to learn where they are appropriate, and how to write them down. OP himself has obviously got problems in that area, having introduced spaces into nowadays. Dec 19, 2011 at 16:44

2 Answers 2

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These shortened words are known as contractions. They're used in writing in order to reflect he patterns of speech.

In spoken English, we're always shortening or clipping words in order to express ourselves more efficiently. (This process of shortening goes on in all languages.) Over time, some of the most common and widely-used shortenings have become accepted into the written language as well, and these are usually spelled with an apostrophe:

They are -> they're

We will -> We'll

You had said -> You'd said

The number of contractions accepted in standard written English is pretty small and limited, covering basically just the forms of the verb to be, modal to have, and some of the modal verbs.

There are other contractions used in speech which are not commonly presented in writing. One example is the word because, which is often shortened to just its second syllable. This is sometimes written as 'cos or cuz, but this spelling is not accepted in the standard language.

There are also a handful of contractions which have written forms, but whose spoken forms have fallen out of use. The most notable member of this group is probably 'twas (it was), which is familiar from old poems and songs, but otherwise rarely occurs in modern speech.

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The same logic applies to all contractions, so I'll concentrate on one: "I am" versus "I'm".

It's easy to see how anyone speaking quickly would skip over the words "I am" so that it sounds like "I'm".

In languages such as Russian and Japanese, the same thing happens, but (to my knowledge) it's not reflected in the written language. Hence the learner must know which vowels to shorten to the extent that they're omitted.

In English, we do reflect the omitted vowels when writing, and hence "I am" becomes "I'm".

The question becomes, when do you not contract words.

  • In a formal settings:
    • In formal written communication, such as a resume or a letter to your bank. "I am writing to inform you..."; "I am qualified as a..."
    • Often when speech-making at a formal occasion: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited..."
  • In spoken conversations (and writing in that style) when you wish to emphasise one word or the other:
    • "I am the one who makes the decisions around here!"
    • "I am glad to see you"

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