Ending a sentence with a contraction

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Aidanriley, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    If someone can find a previous topic on this, please point me to it (because I couldn't find one).

    Some sentences sound and look so wrong to me when they end in certain contractions, example:

    How lucky you're! (Sounds awful to me.)
    I hope you aren't. (Sounds fine to me.)

    Is there some kind of rule to this, or am I just losing it?
     
  2. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I tried to find a rule but I can't.
     
  3. MJRupeJM Senior Member

    USA
    English- U.S.
    I'm sure there is some rule, but I only have a problem if the contraction is a form of "to be"; he's, she's, you're, we're...all sound very strange.

    EDIT: On second thought, all contractions sound strange at the end of a sentence except the negative contractions (n't).
     
  4. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    I have problems with that one especially, but many others:
    He won't do it, I'll.
    He hasn't done it, I've.
    ...
     
  5. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    Here is my first pass at a rule and an explanation.

    We don't end sentences in contractions of auxiliary verbs ~ or, we don't omit the main verb when we use a contraction. If you omit the main verb, you rely on parallel construction to supply the main verb. You can say:
    He won't do it; I will [do it]. :tick:
    In effect, the full auxiliary functions as a verb. If you want to omit the main verb, the contracted auxiliary verb is not strong enough set up the parallel, or to be read as a verb.
    He won't do it; I'll [?]. :cross:
    If you want to use a contraction, you need to provide the main verb.
    He won't do it; I'll do it. :tick:
    On the other hand, we do allow contractions involving the adverb "not" to end a sentence. My tentative proposal is that the negating force of not is easily recognizable even when contracted.
    He does it; I don't. :tick:
    One glitch in my explanation: "won't", in which the auxiliary will is affected by the contraction. Maybe that works because the negation outweighs the auxiliary will,
    He'll do it; I won't. :tick:
     
  6. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    I think you're on to something here :). I'll sleep better tonight anyway..
    Thanks Cagey.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK

    I don't think that is a glitch, Cagey. The reason that 'll etc are not strong enough to end the sentence is that you can't give them the stress needed to create end-weight. The negatives contractions won't don't can't etc can, in contrast, have strong syllabic stress.

    I think this is what you are saying:D
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    On the other hand, there are cases where you can give strong syllabic stress yet the contraction won't work.

    He hasn't been to Disneyland, but I've.:cross::thumbsdown:

    He hasn't been to Disneyland, but I have.:tick::)
     
  9. adno Junior Member

    Czech
    Thomas, do you perceive any difference in stress between I've and I'll?
     
  10. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    I've thought of an exception (I think) to the above rules. I think it's ok to say

    I haven't finished my essay yet but John will've.

    I know it looks strange in writing but I'm trying to represent the speech as opposed to "will have".

    Edit - similar point, "could've". "I wasn't able to phone her but Jack could've".
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  11. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    Two contributors have pointed out that contractions are ok if they involve a negative (doesn't, won't etc.).

    Are there any contractions possible without n't at the end of a sentence?
     
  12. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Yes - see my post immediately above yours.
     
  13. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    Ok! Perhaps I should ask are there any contractions apart from n't and 've?

    A double contraction is tsnat (it's not) in AE, but it still ends in not.
     
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Yes, that's why I mentioned it.
     
  15. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I think that we pronounce the contraction 've as of, or what is sometimes represented as a ~ I didn't, but I coulda / could of.

    I think (perhaps) the reason we can end the sentence with a contracted "could've" ~ whatever the pronunciation ~ is that could functions as a verb, and thus is a comfortable ending to a sentence. The contractions that follow pronouns (I've) leave us hanging, waiting for a verb to follow.
    John hasn't won the lottery, but I've. :cross:
    John hasn't won the lottery but I have. :tick:
    John didn't win the lottery, but he could've. :tick:
    I think.
     
  16. Natalisha Senior Member

    Russian
    At the end of a clause an auxiliary verb after nouns and pronouns is stressed and a contraction is not possible. But in negative contractions an auxiliary verb is always stressed (that's why we can use them).
     
  17. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    I'm confused what you meant by this?
     
  18. spodulike

    spodulike Senior Member

    Brighton, England
    English - England
    But that´s not quite true. We can say

    John hasn't won the lottery but I have

    but we can also say

    John hasn't won the lottery but I have

    In the second case, it is possible almost to make "have" inaudible (and yet not be contracted)
     
  19. spodulike

    spodulike Senior Member

    Brighton, England
    English - England
    He means that if you pronounce the word tsnat it is equivalent to it´s not without the initial "i". This is the American pronunciation of not as nat of course!

    tsnat ... ´t´snot
     
  20. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Biber, Conrad & Leech in the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (2002) have this paragraph on verb contractions (the relevant bit in colour):

    They don't give a reason. The could've example shows that this is an over-generalisation. Cagey's reasons still sound pretty convincing to me - the final auxiliary has to take the place of the main verb and therefore cannot be contracted. And of course there is no problem contracting not, as it's not the verb.
     
  21. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    Does "it's not" not exist in the UK? I never realized that, to you guys, we sound like we're saying "nat" when we say "not."
     
  22. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hi Aidan,

    Certainly we say it's not. We also say it isn't.
     
  23. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    English
    I wanted to bring up something that the last post on the first page explained (I just hadn't realized it until someone did it in one of our chats):



    This also means right before a comma, or a semi-colon, not just at the end of a sentence.
    I will, but...
    I'll, but..

    I'm sure that these follow Cagey's rule in the same way. (Thanks again Cagey, I show this thread to a lot of people..)

     
  24. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    The negative verbs are actually inflections of the verb, not contractions of two words, so the word isn't can end a clause just as the strong form is can. (The phenomenon under discussion is one of the pieces of evidence for their status as negative verbs.)

    After an auxiliary, the form of have is a weak form [əv] or [həv], not a true contraction, which is why what is written could've can end a clause. As evidence for this, consider may've: this is pronounced with an extra syllable, [mei əv]; it's not a fully contracted [meiv].

    This distinction between weak form and what I'm calling a 'true' contraction is illustrated best by pronouns: after a vowel-final pronoun the true contraction is just a non-syllabic consonant: she'd, I've, they've, they'll. However, after any other noun phrase, the contracted form is syllabic, which means it can be regarded as a weak form of a separate word: Mary'd, Sandra'll, Tom and Jerry've. In my speech at least these are always [əd], [əl], [əv]. This also happens after a coordinated noun phrase ending in a pronoun: in Mary and I've the (careful, anyway) pronunciation is with [ai əv], not fully contracted [aiv].

    That's not a proper explanation, because the weak form can't end a clause in I haven't seen it but Tom and Mary've whereas it can in but I could've. So there is also the factor that the preceding auxiliary is there to take the stress.

    I think this can all be summed up by saying that some verb must take the stress, and isn't is a strong form of a verb and could've contains a strong form.
     

Share This Page