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Whatever may be said against employing contractions in dignified discourse, their use in colloquial speech is too firmly established to justify our censure. But, in their use, as, indeed, in the use of all words, proper discrimination must be shown.
Just why haven't, hasn't, doesn't, isn't, wasn't, are regarded as being in good repute, and ain't, weren't, mightn't, oughtn't, are regarded with less favor, and why shalln't, willn't are absolutely excluded, it would be difficult to explain
Use determines the law of , whether for single words, grammatical forms, or grammatical constructions. Wherever a people, by common consent, employ a particular word to mean a certain thing, that word becomes an inherent part of the of that people, whether it has any basis in etymology or not. We must not wrest this law to our own convenience, however, by assuming that such words and phrases as are introduced and employed by the illiterate, or even by the educated, within a circumscribed territory, are, therefore, to be regarded as reputable words. The sanction of all classes, the educated as well as the uneducated, throughout the entire country in which the is spoken, is necessary and preliminary to the proper introduction of a new word into the ************
This word is a contraction of am not or are not, and can, therefore, be used only with the singular pronouns I and you, and with the plural pronouns we, you, and they, and with nouns in the plural
I am not pleased. I ain't pleased
You are not kind. You ain't kind
They are not gentlemen. They ain't gentlemen
These sentences will serve to illustrate the proper use of ain't, if it is ever proper to use such an inelegant word as that. "James ain't a good student," "Mary ain't a skillful musician," or "This orange ain't sweet," are expressions frequently heard, yet those who use them would be shocked to hear the same expressions with the proper equivalent am not or are not substituted for the misleading ain't
The expression ain't is compounded of the verb am or are and the adverb not, and by the contraction the three vocal impulses I-am-not, or you-are-not, or they-are-not, are reduced to two. By compounding the pronoun with the verb and preserving the full adverb, as in "I'm not," "You're not," "They're not," we also reduce the three vocal impulses to two, thus securing as short a contraction in sound and one that is as fully adapted to colloquial speech, and that is, at the same time, in much better taste.
The old form for ain't was an't, but this has now become obsolete. It will be a blessing to the English-speaking people when the descendant shall sleep with his father
Are not is sometimes contracted into aren't, but this form has not found much favor.
Can't and Couldn't
As cannot and could not may be used with pronouns of the first, second, or third person, in either number, and with nouns in both numbers, no error is likely to follow the use of their contracted forms
Why cannot is properly written as one word, and could not requires two, is not founded upon any principle of philosophy. The concurrent sanction of all classes in all parts of the English-speaking world establishes it as law. Observe that the a in the verb can't is broader in sound than the short a in the noun cant
't and Didn't
't is a contraction of do not. It is in very general use and in good repute. It may be employed wherever the expanded expression do not could be applied, and only there.
"One swallow don't make a spring" is equivalent to saying, "One swallow do not make a spring." We may say "I don't," "You don't," "We don't," "They don't," "The men (or birds, or trees) don't," but we must use doesn't with he, or she, or it, or the man, the grove, the cloud, etc
Unlike the verb do, its past tense form did undergoes no change in conjugation, hence the contraction didn't is also uniform
Haven't, Hasn't, and Hadn't
The verb have, like the verb do, has a distinct form for the third person singular. The same change affects the contraction. I haven't, you haven't, he hasn't. The construction hadn't undergoes no change
Haint is used indiscriminately for haven't and hasn't. Taint is used for tisn't. Their use is indicative of an entire lack of culture
No one need hesitate to use this word. It is smooth in utterance and contributes much to the freedom and ease of social intercourse. Its equivalent is too stately for colloquial forms of speech, and is often suggestive of pedantry. Compare "Isn't he an eloquent speaker?" "Isn't this a beautiful flower?" with "Is not he an eloquent speaker?" "Is this not a beautiful flower
Although not so elegant as the present tense form isn't, yet the contraction wasn't is in excellent repute. It is properly used only in the first and third persons singular. No one who makes any pretension to culture would be guilty of saying" You was my neighbor, but you wasn't my friend," "We was engaged in trade, and they wasn't of any use to us." Say we were or were not, but never wasn't or wa'nt
The forms aren't, and weren't do not have the sanction of the best speakers and writers, and should be used sparingly, if at all
Shouldn't and Wouldn't
These are frequently used in speech, but are not so common in writing.
Mustn't, Mayn't, Mightn't, and Oughtn't
Mustn't may be used in light conversation, but not in writing. The others should be avoided in speech and writing
I'm, You're, He's, She's, It's, We're, They're
The contractions formed by compounding the pronoun with the verb are very common, and tend to preserve conversation from becoming stiff and formal. Nouns in the singular are sometimes compounded in like manner; as, "John's going by the early train," "Mary's caught a bird." Not many verbs beside is and has are thus compounded, and the practice should be discouraged
Although mayst, canst, mightst, couldst, wouldst, and shouldst are contracted forms, the apostrophe is not employed to indicate the contraction
Dare not is sometimes contracted to daren't and durst not to dursent, but the practice should not be encouraged
While verbs are often contracted when compounded with pronouns, as it's, he's, I'm, you're, etc., the pronoun must not be contracted to form a combination with the verb. It may be a poor rule, but it will not work both ways. Let's should therefore be let us