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"It is" cannot always be shortened to "it's". For example:

She says freelancing is a dream job. It is, but there are several factors to consider, before taking the plunge.

Here, it would be incorrect to contract "It is" to "It's". I have a non-native English colleague who keeps making this mistake, and I would like to help her, but I'm unable to find any rules as to why "it is" shouldn't be contracted, in such cases.

I'm not even sure what to call "it is" when used this way, purely descriptively. A similar usage might be:

It's not the popular career choice people say it is.

Here again, it would be wrong to use "it's". The "It's" at the start of the sentence is fine; but definitely no "it's" at the end of the sentence. The usage seems to be when the object of the verb "is" is omitted and implied, as it refers to an object mentioned previously.

Does anyone have a more official name for this?

Many thanks!


Re-open Note

The top answer in the linked-to question explains that when "the object of a phrase is preposed (moved before the phrase)" its head must be stressed and must have a strong form. Strong forms, of course, can't be contracted.

However, in the example here, there is no object that has been pre-posed or "moved" to the left of the phrase. What is the exact explanation for why this verb in this example cannot be contracted?

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  • 2
    Does this answer your question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/500/… ?
    – dubious
    Dec 12, 2022 at 9:59
  • 1
    The simple rule is that if the word is emphasized in normal speech, you do not contract it. "Is it raining?" "Yes, it is." There's no obligation to emphasize the word in the written form (i.e. no strict need to use italics) but in spoken practice, one speaks that word with more emphasis than the "it" which procedes it, for example. That's why it's not contracted away.
    – Brandin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 10:10
  • @tchrist Hi. See reopen note in question. Not sure the linked-to question has an adequate prominent answer (Nohat's answer is very good but doesn't address the question here because of the way he presented it). Dec 15, 2022 at 18:24

1 Answer 1

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The principle that makes contraction impossible is that of the syntaxical function of the verb. The verb stands for an expression.

  • She says freelancing is a dream job. It is, but there
    She says freelancing is a dream job. It is a dream job, but there…

When the verb has this function it is said to act as a pro-form; in the preceding example "a dream job" is called an ellipsis; . There is no possible contraction when stress falls on the verb. A phrase usually receives late stress. The difference is shown in the example below, which also makes clear that it is not necessary to revert to full forms in all cases of pro-form use of the verb.

  • — I'm sick
    — No, you're not! (stress on "not")
    — Yes, I am! (no possible contraction)
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  • How about "No, you aren't"? Isn't the syntactic function of the verb the same in each case? It's the head of a VP!. Dec 13, 2022 at 18:23
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. The verb is not contracted, and takes main stress; there is no question of any possible contraction because a further contraction (for instance "yourn't", does not exist. Otherwise, as you know well, "No, you aren't" is an option.
    – LPH
    Dec 13, 2022 at 18:46
  • I think your answer needs to separate out negative 'contractions' from auxiliary verb contractions for the reader. They are thought of interchangeably. Hence my first comment. You haven't responded to my second, main one! Dec 13, 2022 at 18:48
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. This is not "to be" used as an auxiliary, but "to be" used as a copular verb, are you wide awake? The syntactic function of pro-form is the same, but stress being on a different element there is no question about contraction, it is possible as in most cases; it is "are" as "re" which is still the pro-form.
    – LPH
    Dec 13, 2022 at 18:57
  • Whether a copula or not, be is an auxiliary verb (outside of the ultra-rare cases of lexical be, such as If you don't be careful... or Why don't you be more careful?). The idea of helper verb is defunct in modern speech science ;) In any case, the syntactic function of be in each case is Head of a VP! Dec 13, 2022 at 23:48

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