Everything English

Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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Common Contractions in the English Language

Following is a list of commonly used contractions, their full form, and an example sentence showing their use:

Contraction——–Full form————-Example

Aren’t—- ———-Are not————– They aren’t coming with us to the store.

Can’t—————Cannot—————They can’t come with us to the store.

Didn’t————–Did not—————She didn’t want to come with us.

Don’t—————Do not————— Don’t you want to come with us?

Doesn’t————Does not————- He doesn’t have time to come along.

Hadn’t————-Had not————– They hadn’t been to this store before today.

Hasn’t————-Has not—————She hasn’t made up her mind yet.

Haven’t————Have not————-I haven’t decided whether I will go or not.

Isn’t—————-Is not—————- He isn’t planning to come along.

Mustn’t————-Must not————-You mustn’t stay up past your bedtime.

Needn’t————-Need not————-You needn’t worry about your friend.

Shouldn’t———–Should not———–Children shouldn’t walk to the store alone.

Wasn’t————– Was not————-Tom wasn’t planning to go with us.

Weren’t————-Were not————You weren’t at the store when we got there.

Won’t————— Will not————- Barbara won’t miss us while we are gone.

Wouldn’t————Would not———-Grandpa wouldn’t let us walk to the store alone.

Let’s—————–Let us————– Let’s go to the store.

I’m—————— I am—————- I’m ready to go now.

I’ll—————— I will—————-I’ll go to the store tomorrow.

I’ve—————– I have————– I’ve been to the store already.

I’d—————— I had or I would—-I’d already been by the time she came or I’d like to go.

She’ll/He’ll———-She/He will——— She’ll go, too.

She’s/He’s———- She/He is or has— He’s going to come or She’s been gone for a while.

She’d/He’d———-She/He had or would————-She’d like to come or He’d been gone for a long time.

You’re————– You are————- You’re welcome to come along.

You’ll————— You will————- You’ll see her when we go to the store.

You’d————— You had or would– You’d been there before, right? or You’d better leave.

You’ve————– You have————You’ve been a blessing throughout this situation.

We’re————— We are————- We’re leaving now.

We’ll—————- We will————- We’ll go to the store later.

We’d—————- We had or would— We’d been down that road before or We’d love to come!

We’ve————— We have————We’ve enjoyed your company.

They’ll————– They will————They’ll enjoy going along.

They’re————- They are————They’re planning to make the trip.

They’d————– They had or would—They’d been there before or They’d enjoy seeing it again.

They’ve————- They have———- They’ve enjoyed the trip so far.

It’s—————— It is—————– It’s a joy to travel with my kids.

It’ll—————— It will————— It’ll be a nice experience for them.

It’d——————It had or would—–It’d been the fastest trip yet or It’d be nice to go along.

There’ll————–There will———- There’ll be great joy when it is over.

There’s————- There is or has—– There’s my mom or There’s been a feeling of joy with this trip.

There’ve————There have———-There’ve been a few problems along the way.

That’s————— That is————– That’s my son!

That’d—————That had or would–That’d been the focus of the trip or That’d be my answer, too.

That’ll—————That will————-That’ll be the day!

How to Say Hello

What’s the proper way to address an English speaker? Here are some common spoken greetings (in American English):


  • “Hi”
  • “Hello”
  • “Hey”
  • “[Name of person being greeted]!” (Very informal; said enthusiastically)
  • “It’s nice to meet you” Or “Nice to meet you” (If meeting someone for the first time)
  • “Pleased to meet you” Or “It’s a pleasure” Or “The pleasure is mine” (This last is only used in response to “Pleased to meet you”)

In casual settings – as when greeting friends, neighbors, classmates, or equals,  for example – all of these are appropriate. In more formal settings – as when greeting, for example, work superiors or some relatives, “hi” and “hello” are still appropriate, but “hey” is not. However, the use of any expression should always be judged in context – that is, case by case. If you’re good friends with your boss or buddy-buddy with your relatives, “hey” may be perfectly fine.

You may also use time-specific greetings

  • “Good morning” (Used often and comfortably amongst friends, family, and acquaintances alike)
  • “Good afternoon” (Not used often and especially not used familiarly, e.g., amongst friends)
  • “Good evening” (Not used often and especially not used familiarly; used somewhat more often in slightly more formal settings, as in a public address or when greeting a host/hostess at a restaurant)

Time-specific greetings are excellent openers to public addresses (i.e. when speaking to crowds), as is the phrase “ladies and gentlemen”. Often, such greetings are followed by a thank-you to the listeners for attending the address.

Common conversation starters

  • “It’s great to see you”
  • “It’s very good to see you”
  • “Nice to see you” (If a lot of time has passed since seeing the person being greeted, this could be accompanied by: “After so long”)
  • “It’s been quite awhile” Or “It’s been awhile” (If a lot of time has passed)
  • “It’s been so long” Or “I can’t believe it’s been so long” (If a lot of time has passed)
  • “How long has it been?” (If a lot of time has passed)
  • “I’m glad we’re doing this” (Where “this” refers to meeting up)
  • “I’m glad we have the chance to get together”
  • “Glad we were able to work this out” (Where “this” refers to getting together)
  • “Did you have an easy trip?” (If the person being greeted traveled to the meeting place)
  • “How was the trip?”
  • “How was your trip?”
  • “Did your trip go okay?” Or “Trip go okay?” Or “Trip was fine?”
  • “How was traffic?” (If the person drove)
  • “How were the roads?” (If the person drove)
  • “How was your flight?” (If the person flew)
  • “Was your flight on time?” (If the person flew)
  • “Was your train on time?” (If the person came by rail)
  • “How are you?”
  • “How are you doing?” Or “How you doin’?” Or “How ya doin’?” Or “How doing?” (The last three are very informal)
  • “What’s going on?” (Mostly familiar)
  • “What’s happening?” (Mostly familiar)
  • “What’s up?” (Very familiar)
  • “What’s up with you?” (Also very familiar)
  • “What’s the latest?” (Implies: “What’s new in your life?”)
  • “How is everything? “(Similar to “What’s the latest?” Implies that the person asking isn’t totally up to date on what’s going on in the life of the person being asked)
  • “How are things?”
  • “How’s things?” (This is not correct grammar, but it’s part of the English vernacular)
  • “How’ve you been?” Or “How have you been?” (Appropriate for all levels of familiarity)

Try these out, then check back later for more conversation tips and conversation closers!

Learning English like a Native

Learning a second language is almost universally difficult, but in my view, there are strategies that anyone can use to make it easier:

Let me give you my opinion … An intellectualized, classroom approach alone never works. Language is a behavior, and, as such, it must be practiced. How did you learn your primary language? Trial and error and practice. Children learn to intuit language. Hence, gaining a “sense” of English is as important as knowing the rules of the English language.

Learn and then forget: Do you continue to use a map long after you’ve memorized a route? The rules of grammar are a guide. Do not expect to learn grammar rules and apply them in “if-then” fashion for the rest of your life. Aim to reach a point at which you just know where to go. How to reach this point? I can’t speak for everyone, but what has worked for me is paying attention to patterns (within sentences, within clauses, within words) and matching patterns of sounds to rules. Eventually, the brain gets good at recognizing or anticipating certain patterns of sounds, to which it attaches a type of grammatical meaning. There’s no longer a need to consciously remember the rule that explains the pattern, in order to understand.

Language is lyrical: My frank opinion is that the early Modernists were on to something when they said that music was, fundamentally, the purest form of expression. Different tones and notes have common meanings across cultures (e.g. low = brooding, melancholy, dissonant = threatening or dolorous). At the same time, it is extremely easy to pick up tunes. How often have you found yourself humming a tune you weren’t aware that you were listening to (e.g. a commercial jingle)? Try thinking of language as music. Hear syllables as their own notes. Play over the ways that consonants, vowels, and syllables are arranged. Think about words and phrases in English the same way you think about music. I.e. Repeat! Look for musicality. Then, see if your brain doesn’t remember words the way it remembers songs and tunes – spontaneously.

Go with what you know: Practice with yourself before you practice with anyone else. Start deliberately, and use whatever you know at the moment. For instance, while walking down the street, say in your mind or under your breath, “That is a tree. The tree is tall and has a lot of leaves.” I’ll admit that this may sound incredibly silly, but it prepares your mind to think, again, spontaneously, and that’s the key to fluency. As you learn new words, incorporate them into your dialogues. “That is a sycamore tree. The sycamore is seven meters tall and has a broad, drooping canopy.”

Watch TV: There’s never been a better excuse to watch TV! I like watching TV with subtitles and matching what I hear to what I read, to see if I heard correctly. This can be confusing, at first, and you may not understand anything. But eventually, you get used to hearing certain words and constructions over and over, and you learn to separate words and sentence clauses (e.g. dependent from independent clauses). Being able to separate words and clauses also allows you to identify words you don’t know and to match them to subtitles, to figure out what they mean. You may not remember new meanings immediately, but at least your mind is “primed” to learn them again. Streaming rights are restricted for some shows in certain countries, but a reliable source of captioned English-language TV is the Voice of America’s YouTube channel.

Get variety: Don’t just watch TV. Listen to music in English. Learn the lyrics. Keep a diary. If you’re geeky, like me, keep a grammar diary, where you figure out grammatical patterns and try to put them to use. Join an English club. If you can, visit an English-speaking country – but otherwise, try as much as possible to immerse yourself in the language the way that native-speakers would.

I am a native English speaker, but I have achieved a high degree of proficiency in other languages using these techniques. Hope they work for you, too! Please feel free to leave comments and questions in response to this post, and I will address them in future posts.