9

One can contract I have to I've when have is a helping verb, e.g.

I've got an octopus in my pants.

Is contracting the main verb technically incorrect or merely antiquated? My father loves to say,

I've a month-old smoked shoulder I can cook for dinner,

and he sounds like a crazy old man when he does. I would like to know if I can shut him down by informing him that he is incorrect. :)

  • 1
    Actually, for the first sentence, "got" can be considered superfluous. "I've an octopus..." is acceptable. It's a matter of ear; "I've to do it" just sounds... off. :) – user730 Dec 29 '10 at 9:54
  • @J. M.: But "I've yet to do it" sounds just fine. – Jon Purdy Dec 29 '10 at 10:13
  • 3
  • True, that. @Jon – user730 Dec 29 '10 at 12:59
  • 1
    I've half a mind to contract a main verb, just to demonstrate that it's grammatical. – user16269 Mar 30 '12 at 11:53
10

Contracting the main verb in a sentence is perfectly fine. It sounds awkward only when the pattern of prosodic stress falls on that word:

I have to do it.
* I've to do it.
I have yet to do it.
I've yet to do it.

But this is probably just because you can't use a contracted form in a grammatically stressed position, such as:

I don't know what it is.
* I don't know what it's.

But even then, there are sentences in which the stress falls on the contracted word and it doesn't sound awkward, showing that it's not ungrammatical except perhaps by the standards of a mad prescriptivist somewhere.

  • Considering that contracted verbs end up having no syllables of their own, I’d say you’re almost 100% sure to be wrong that there are sentences in which the stress falls on a contracted verb. There are sentences in which the stress falls on the pronoun that the verb has been contracted with, but that’s a different thing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 4 '15 at 20:20
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: You’re right, that’s what I meant to refer to—the word with which the verb has been contracted. – Jon Purdy Aug 4 '15 at 21:19
  • I am rather with @nohat's distinction of how this is not common in American English – Ustaman Sangat Mar 1 '18 at 20:45
12

In American English, the contracted form ’ve is only possible as an auxiliary verb. It is not grammatical as a main verb. This is not the case in British English, where it is grammatical, and this is one of the differences between British and American English

  • 3
    I've no problem with this answer. +1 – Robusto Jun 20 '11 at 12:30
  • @Robusto: I have reservations. Firstly because in my understanding you're an AmE speaker - so according to what nohat says, you should have a problem with your contraction there. But secondly because (BrE or not), I've got serious objections to the idea of contracting the verb in my first sentence here. – FumbleFingers Aug 4 '15 at 21:59
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    I almost never say "I've yet to do it" but then I always say "I'm here". So, it's odd that we treat "have" and "am" differently, despite the fact they can both also be auxiliary verbs. – Ustaman Sangat Mar 1 '18 at 20:47
2

Yes.

I'd not even consider it antiquated. The contraction that is - the shoulder's a different matter.

  • Ah, nice touch. :-) As you say, it's fine. He's right in saying what he does. – ShreevatsaR Dec 29 '10 at 11:50
0

I disagree. "I've a lovely bunch of coconuts" (contracting the main verb) may be unusual in AmE, with "I have" or "I've got" being more likely, but it's not ungrammatical here (in America).

  • Care to add some references backing that up? – Helmar Jul 30 '17 at 16:32

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