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Practice in Forming Contractions in English

A Word-Combining Exercise


This exercise will give you practice in forming 20 common contractions in English.

In each of the ten passages below, there are two pairs of words that can be combined in a common contraction. Working alone or with others, first identify those word pairs. Then, guided by our List of Standard Contractions in English, turn each pair of words into a contraction, deleting one or more letters and replacing them with an apostrophe.

Here's an example:

Original passage:
I will try harder to do what is right.

Rewritten with contractions:
I'll try harder to do what's right.
When you're done, compare your answers with those on page two.

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  1. "For weeks, our only relaxation came at night, when we were sure the bus could not or would not come."
    (Dave Eggers, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, 2006)

  2. "She had tried to keep her voice light, as if she were just expressing a preference, a slight wish. He listened and said he would do what he could. He said you never know how things will work out, and then, she was sure, he forgot all about it."
    (Tova Mirvis, The Outside World, 2004)

  3. "The Orcs yelled and jeered. 'Come down! Come down!' they cried. 'If you wish to speak to us, come down! Bring out your king! . . . We will fetch him from his hole, if he does not come. Bring out your skulking king!'"
    (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 1954)

  4. "'We must trust Master?' said Gollum doubtfully. 'Why? Why not go at once? Where is the other one, the cross rude hobbit? . . .'

    "'Away up there,' said Frodo, pointing to the waterfall. 'I am not going without him. We must go back to him.' His heart sank. This was too much like trickery."
    (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 1954)

  5. "I will attempt to answer the question, what is the purpose of education? . . .

    "Education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere. It is not enough to have the power of concentration, but we must have worthy objectives upon which to concentrate."
    (Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Purpose of Education," January 1947)

  6. "Sometimes I rise above my level, sometimes I fall below it; but always I fall short of the things I dream. The human shape I can get now, almost with ease, so that it is lithe and graceful, or thick and strong; but often there is trouble with the hands and the claws."
    (H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau, 1896)

  7. "They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters."
    (Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club, 1989)

  8. "Let us now kill a pirate, to show Hook’s method. Skylights will do. As they pass, Skylights lurches clumsily against him, ruffling his lace collar; the hook shoots forth, there's a tearing sound and one screech, then the body is kicked aside, and the pirates pass on. He has not even taken the cigar from his mouth."
    (J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan, 1911)

  9. "They have chased away the Czar and toppled the old government. But what good has it done? The poor peasant did not get any land. The great lords are still sitting on their estates amongst their huge fields and their barns filled to bursting."
    (Berta Lask, Liberation, 1924; translated by Agnes Cardinal)

  10. "A man who can hit a soda-water bottle at the distance of a few yards can brain a lion or a bear or an elephant at that distance . . .. All he has to do is to shoot as accurately as he would at a soda-water bottle; and to do this requires nerve, at least as much as it does physical address. Having reached this point, the hunter must not imagine that he is warranted in taking desperate chances."
    (Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography, 1913)

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