English Language Blog

Informal English Contractions Posted by on May 17, 2018 in Culture, English Language, English Vocabulary

Fotos de Ana Mari López Tamayo para Catedrales e Iglesias via Flickr CCO

Native English speakers can be very lazy with our own language. We create contractions based on the way we actually say things. In time, these contractions work their way into everyday speech. However, if you are learning our language and you hear one of these contractions, you can’t be faulted for wondering just what is being said. The fault, to paraphrase Shakespeare, lies in ourselves.

To contract something is to make it smaller or shorter. In language, a contraction is made by combining two or more words, then leaving some letters out, thus forming an entirely new word. Many of these contracted words have become widely accepted in our language. The contraction isn’t, for example, comes from combining the words is and not. Such contractions date as far back as Old English, between 450 and 1150 AD. It is very hard to complain about anything which has been around as long as that.

In the last century, though, there has been an explosion of informal contractions, particularly in American English usage. They aren’t technically slang, which are words and phrases unique to various specific groups. These are words which have come to us from a very casual approach to the way we speak. Whenever people try to write these down, they are written phonetically, meaning that they write them the way that they sound. They were never intended to be written, but continual use has prompted many authors to add them to dialogue in books, comics, songs, and plays. Many modern song lyricists, like rappers and hip-hop artists, introduced or adopted these contractions for their lyrics, and they have now become widely accepted.

Here is a list of some informal contractions which have found their way into common use in everyday language. You will note that they are distinguished from typical contractions by the lack of apostrophes.

  • Cuppa

A cup of – “I need a cuppa coffee.”

  • Dunno

Don’t know – “I dunno where I left my keys.”

  • Gimme 

Give me – “Give me a break, I just want to leave.”

  • Gonna 

Going to – “I’m just gonna get out of here.”

  • Gotta 

(Have) got a … – “My sister’s gotta car we can borrow.”

  • Gotta 

Got to – “We’ve gotta go soon.”

  • Imma

I have to, or I’m going to – “Imma leaving this here.”

  • Kinda 

Kind of – “I kinda need to talk to you about something personal.”

  • Lemme

Let me – “Lemme try to understand the situation.”

  • Oughta

Ought to – “You oughta get a new car.”

  • Outta

Out of – “I’m outta sugar, can I borrow some?”

  • Sorta

Sort of – “You sorta remind me of my old friend from high school.”

  • Wanna 

Want to – “I wanna believe you.”

  • Wanna

Want a … – “I wanna pizza tonight.”

  • Whatcha 

What are you …? – “Watcha doing tonight?”

  • Whatcha 

What have you …? – “Watcha got in your pocket”

  • Ya 

You – “Ya got any plans for tonight?”

These are not proper English words, and you should never use them in any kind of a formal situation, either speaking or writing. Nevertheless, they exist, and you likely will encounter them eventually. Just remember, if ya sorta gotta problem understanding the language, but ya dunno whatcha hearing exactly, you may wanna lemme know in the comments below. I’m gonna get back to ya.

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.


  1. Hikmatjon Tolibjonov:

    Great article!

  2. Hikmatjon Tolibjonov:

    I think it is a well-written article but still there are some drawbacks. For instance, the list of contractions is very short. I have come across a lot of contraction which don’t exist in this list before. It would be better for learners if you gave more examples and divided them into groups such as contractions with “have”, contractions with “you”, contractions with “to” and etc. Also, as these kinds of contractions are informal, they are not given in dictionaries. Learners may not have any information about pronunciations of these words. My suggestion is that next time if you write the same article you will demonstrate the words with some audio or video examples at least transcriptions.
    I look forward to these kinds of interesting articles from you and do hope that you take my comments into consideration next time.