I read this in a product review, and it has been bugging me all day.

Three words: it's really cheap.

"It's" is obviously a contraction of two words, but does it count as one or two words?

  • Pick a definition of word (or look up "it's" in a dictionary). If it's a word then 1, if not then 2. – Mitch Sep 4 '12 at 17:56
  • I'd count "it's" as one word. It may be a contraction of two, but that contraction still forms a single word. According to NOAD's definition of a word, "it's" would pass the single-word test. – J.R. Sep 4 '12 at 18:11
  • 9
    If you're counting words in something you've written and you get paid by the word, it's two. Otherwise, it's one. – Jay Sep 4 '12 at 19:03
  • +1 that would bug me all day too. It IS going to bug me all day. – JAM Sep 4 '12 at 19:08
  • @Jay Although your comment is amusing, I feel compelled to point out that it is not actually correct. – tchrist Sep 5 '12 at 16:05

MS Word and the concordoncer I’m using count them as one. Some dictionaries may count them as two. It all depends on what your purpose is in counting.

  • Barrie, what is a "concordoncer"? I looked it up in two online dictionaries and on Google and could not find an obvious definition. – JAM Sep 5 '12 at 16:07
  • @JAM lextutor.ca/concordancers What else is Google for, ha! – Kris Sep 7 '12 at 6:39
  • @JAM: It's software that allows an electronically stored corpus to be interrogated for lexical and grammatical features. – Barrie England Sep 7 '12 at 6:45

According to your question, "It's" is obviously a contraction of two words

... into one, right?

Where's the doubt, then?

In the given context, it is beyond question that "It's" is one word.

In a different context where you may be concerned with serious lexical parsing, you may need to treat it as two words, though.

  • 1
    I have indeed seen lexical analysers that have an apostrophe-s token. – tchrist Sep 5 '12 at 17:44
  • It could be a contraction of two words, as in, another way of showing two words that are still two words. But the "into one" part doesn't have to be a part of the definition of a contraction, the way it has to be a part of the definition of "compound word." – Daniel Mar 4 '15 at 3:33

If it has spaces or other punctuation around it, it is one word, just as hyphenated words and compound words are. Each of these list items is a single word:

  • won’t, he’ll, oughtn’t, ’tisn’t, I’d’ve, couldn’t’ve, o’rreaching, mine’ll, ain’t, durstn’t
  • big-hearted, teeter-totter, to-morrow, now-a-days, snarf-n-barf, wine-colored, re-elect, vis-à-vis, tête-à-tête, air-cushioned, arch-enemy, salpingo-oöphorectomy
  • cannot, tomorrow, yesterday, nowadays, windshield, Christmas, Halloween, Michaelmas, elsewhither, grandmother, crosswalk, corkscrew, overdiversified, overreaching, breastfeed

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