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Serious or friendly? You decide…

2 years ago
Why does this ...
“I would not have done that if I had known.” Or, “He will have gone by now.”

... sound more serious (possibly even quite strict) than this:
“I wouldn’t’ve done that if I’d known.” And, “He’ll’ve gone by now.”

These phrases are examples of contracted forms and they are commonly used in conversation at speed. (They may not always be written like this, but you will hear them contracted in this way.)

It can be hard to understand them, particularly in British or Australian English because we often speak faster and with more squashed together words than in the US or Canada.

Why do ‘contracted forms’ matter?
If you say a sentence such as, “I would not have done that if I had known” in a word-by-word, perfectly individually pronounced way, you may seem like rather a serious person. Imagine a conversation in your native language. If you heard someone say, “To. Víš. Že. Jo.” instead of ‘To víš že jo!” in Prague, or “Je. Ne. Sais. Pas.” instead of “je sais pas” in Paris, the separated out phrases would sound mildly ridiculous, whereas the smoothly liaised phrases would sound natural and more like a native speaker. The same goes for English, and particularly for certain phrases like the ones below.

Give it a try yourself - contract these phrases to make them sound conversational:
  1. He would have told you before, but you had already left.
  2. What will I do if you do not get back in time?
  3. I would go out and get groceries but there is no point. The shop will have closed by now.
  4. My feet will get wet because these shoes have got holes in.
  5. It would be good to see you.
  6. Hannah has phoned to say she is not ready to go yet, but she will call again when she is.
  7. I would have bought some more tea bags if I had known we had run out.
  8. There is no sugar left, but this will do instead.
  9. Those are too big, but these will fit.
  10. It is too late to call. They will have finished by now.
Using contracted forms will bring a friendlier tone to your speech.
Have you already noticed this when you overhear conversations among native English speakers? Tell me some examples you’ve heard in the comments below…