In spoken English, is there a clear preference for using contractions? Does it depend on the locale? I am mostly interested in Midwestern and Northeastern USA, but I would also care to know how it is in England and Great Britain.

Even if there is a preference, does it sound awkward or stilted when people avoid using them? Or, on the contrary, does it signal a higher register? I'm talking about contractions like you're, they're, haven't, we'll, etc.

1 Answer 1


There is a clear dispreference for using contractions in term papers and journal publications, and a clear preference for using 'em in ordinary conversation. There's an extremely strong dispreference for contracting future will when the point is to deny a claim that some event won't happen, so it would be bizarre to say "No, he'LL bring it back". In mixed style writing (e.g. SE), you'll find both outcomes, and I doubt that you will find a consistent pattern.

This paper looks at effect of word frequency on contraction, and happens to include ample references to quantitative studies and factors influencing contraction (phonology of preceding word, syntactic nature of following comp, word length of subject NP, information load). This blog might be informative as well, from a historical perspective (did we used to not contract in American English?), and there's a dissertation here on yet another aspect of contraction. I don't know of an experimental study that asks listeners to attitudinally judge spoken English samples as "educated", "stilted", "ignorant", "awkward", "pretentious", "sloppy" and so on, as a function of contracting vs. not contracting.

  • Does it sound awkward when people don't use them in conversation?
    – ktm5124
    Oct 3, 2017 at 21:52

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