is + contraction - my nationality's

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Eeva, May 1, 2013.

  1. Eeva

    Eeva Junior Member

    Ciudad Real, España
    Castellano, España
    The other day my students asked me if they could say: My nationality's Spanish. It just didn't sound good to me and I told them not to contract it. But they asked me for the rule, if there's any. Could you help me with this? Thanks.
     
  2. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    For me it depends on emphasis. If the emphasis is on nationality, I would not contract is; but if the conversation is already about nationalities, so that the emphasis falls only on my, then I might contract it. I would not contract it in formal, nonconversational writing.
     
  3. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    I think that contraction is only common with the small words: he, she, there, it ...

    (sorry for the term small words; I couldn't find anything better:eek:)
     
  4. Eeva

    Eeva Junior Member

    Ciudad Real, España
    Castellano, España
    That's what I thought too, but then they came with very obvious examples, like:
    My name's....
    My father's an electrician.
    so my question is: is there a rule for this type of contraction? Or can you always contract "is"?
     
  5. JennyTW Senior Member

    Córdoba, Spain
    English - UK
    As far as I'm aware you can always contract "is", even with "long words", except if the word finishes in an "s" sound (s, sh, ch, x etc) or if "is" is the last word in the sentence (yes it is. I'm not happy but he is.)
     
  6. JennyTW Senior Member

    Córdoba, Spain
    English - UK
    Another thing, Eeva. We would never say "my nationality's/ is English." We would just say "I'm English"
     
  7. Wandering JJ

    Wandering JJ Senior Member

    England
    British English
    I'd go a step further and answer simply 'English' or 'British' without 'I'm' if asked what my nationality was. As you say, it's not something normally said, rather used in filling out an immigration form when visiting the US or other foreign country.
     
  8. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    When you contract you eliminate letters that can be dispensed with as they are not relevant for communication — and are consequently not stressed.
    In "yes it is. I'm not happy but he is" you don't contract the forms of "be" because they are always stressed.
    Also, I'd add that the relative length of words is irrelevant.

    GS :)
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  9. Eeva

    Eeva Junior Member

    Ciudad Real, España
    Castellano, España
    In fact, they were filling in a form. Thank you all!
     
  10. Wandering JJ

    Wandering JJ Senior Member

    England
    British English
    Y por qué no nos lo dijiste desde el principio? Tú – una profesora! :D
     
  11. Eeva

    Eeva Junior Member

    Ciudad Real, España
    Castellano, España
    Pues sí, vaya fallo :p
     
  12. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Never say never. :)

    If a group were discussing nationality as a topic, the above sentence would be perfectly natural.

    -A person's nationality is part of what defines him.
    -No, to me you are just an an American.
    -But my nationality's Spanish, and I relate to that.
    etc.

    I agree with what Forero has said about emphasis and formality, but I could easily imagine myself saying the phrase in question (if I were a Spaniard, that is).
     
  13. JB

    JB Senior Member

    Santa Monica, CA, EEUU
    English (AE)
    I would just add that in oral use (as opposed to writing) you need to be aware of the possibility of ambiguity from sibiliant sounds running together.
     
  14. aztlaniano

    aztlaniano Senior Member

    Lavapiestán, Madrid
    English (Aztlán, US sector)
    I agree that there is nothing wrong with this. By itself it doesn't sound terribly natural, but it would be appropriate, for example, when contrasting "my nationality" with something else.
    Ej
    My nationality's Spanish, but I have French residency.
    My nationality's Spanish, but my wife's (nationality) is Portuguese.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  15. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Hullo.

    I really can't see the difference between, say, The cat's on the table and My nationality's Spanish.

    Could it be a matter of relative frequency of the two sentences?

    GS :)
     
  16. aztlaniano

    aztlaniano Senior Member

    Lavapiestán, Madrid
    English (Aztlán, US sector)
    There's no difference.
    In both cases, if someone had just claimed the contrary (the cat's not on the table, you are not a Spaniard) then you would definitely avoid the contraction in your rebuttal (the cat is (so) on the table, my nationality is Spanish ...).
    "My nationality's Spanish" may sound a bit odd because most people would express that in some other way, eg:
    I'm a Spanish citizen, I'm a citizen of Spain, I hold a Spanish passport, I have Spanish citizenship, I'm a Spanish subject, my citizenship is Spanish.
     
  17. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    I think there may be a difference between a contraction and a phonetic representation of common speech patterns. Is "nationality's" really a contraction, or is it just a written representation of the eliding that happens in everyday speech? I would never write "nationality's" unless I was trying to imitate speech.
     
  18. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Part of the issue, besides stress, and besides the /z s/ sequence, is that nationality is esdrújula. Cat is not.
     
  19. JennyTW Senior Member

    Córdoba, Spain
    English - UK
    I think we're splitting hairs here. "Nationality's" IS a contraction, and contractions are what are often used in speech and are best avoided in formal writing.
     
  20. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Hola, Forero.

    Isn't Elizabeth also esdrújula? :)

    GS
     
  21. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Hola, Giorgio.

    Yes...

    In the spriit of this forum, we are splitting hairs. But there are reasons why a contraction can be valid English but sound just a little bit odd to us natives, especially when taken out of context.

    The stress pattern and word emphasis, the sibilants coming together, the topic of conversation, ambiguity, and redundancy (why not just "I'm Spanish"?) are all things that affect whether or not we reduce is to 's.

    "My nationality's Spanish" and "My Elizabeth's Spanish" are both valid sentences, but they cry out for context. And by itself "Elizabeth is Spanish" sounds more balanced to me than "Elizabeth's Spanish" because of the stress pattern, the sibilants, and the need to slow down such a short sentence.
     
  22. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Contractions in English can be rather inconsistent, too. Just last night I realized this in a conversation with my son.

    Son: Mom's not coming in.
    Me: No, she isn't.
    Son: No, she's not.

    The last two mean exactly the same thing, and there is no real reason to choose one over the other. My son was just reiterating what I said, to show that he already knew what I had said. We both could have changed to the other form, with no difference in meaning or emphasis.
     

Share This Page