Possible Duplicate:
Is there some rule against ending a sentence with the contraction “it’s”?

Earlier today while writing a very informal email, I expressed:

If you don't do it, I will.

Upon looking at it, I realized that "I will" could be contracted to "I'll", however, this is completely unheard of and feels quite awkward. I am now quite curious, is there a reason why ending a sentence with "I'll" feels (or is) so inappropriate?

I understand that the use of contractions is generally an informal use of language so rules of usage can be a bit loose. Therefore, this is a case that to me doesn't make logical sense and I'm a bit confused. Why does it feel wrong when an "I'll" is placed at at that end of a sentence, even though such an expression is informal and not, technically, an incorrect usage of the contraction "I'll?"


1 Answer 1


Contractions can only be used in English when the thing they're contracting does not have any sentence-level stress. (Sentences have stress in them much like words do.) In this sentence, the word I carries a heavy stress:

If she doesn't do it, I will.

Because of this, I cannot contract with any of its neighbors. The same thing explains why we don't use contractions in sentences of the following sort:

Do not go in there.

I would go to the store, but I have to study.

  • 1
    I get it. That makes perfect sense, however, "Don't go in there." doesn't at all feel incorrect. This is probably because I was born and raised in the South-East US where if you can contract it, you should at least try to. ;)
    – RLH
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 13:09
  • 1
    I don't think that this has anything to do with sentence stress, just the stress patterns in the sentences in the answer. "Don't go in there" means exactly the same thing as "Do not go in there": stress is on the negative. And "I'd go to the store, but..." means the same thing as "I would go..., but...", but the stress is on "I" more than on "would" in the contracted form, so the sentence is responding to a different complaint: "Why do I have to go?" instead of "Why don't you go to the store (now)?"
    – user21497
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 13:18
  • 3
    @BillFranke Actually your second example suggests that this answer isn't quite right. In the case of "I'd go...", you can indeed stress the contraction I'd and get emphasis on the "I". So why doesn't that apply to I'll? Well, it does at the beginning of a sentence ("I'll go..."). So it looks like it's really to do with sentence location that causes the problem, not the contraction.
    – Jez
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 13:23
  • 1
    @StoneyB: "He has, but I haven't" seems fine to me. "He isn't, but I'm" is impossible.
    – user21497
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 14:40
  • 1
    @BillFranke: So, you wouldn't say, "He isn't, but I'm"? Perhaps you wouldn't, but I'd. (just kidding, of course; I'd not say either of those, except to provide another example)
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.