Contraction distractions

apostrophe

When you read English for fun you might see some words you cannot find in the dictionary. Some of these have apostrophes (‘). This means they may be contractions, words made shorter by missing out letters and replacing them with apostrophes.

Ol’

‘Ol’‘ just means ‘old’, doesn’t it? Yes, but not in the way you might think. There is the usage of ‘old’ to mean ‘not young’ and there is also another usage of ‘old’ to mean ‘dear, having sentimental value or being familiar’. It is mainly American, common in the Southern states and is heard a lot in country music.

“This ol’ town feels like home.”

This could mean the town is old or dear to the speaker.

“Silly ol’ me. I should have gotten up earlier for school, I guess.”

The speaker here is not old but is familiar with himself or herself.

Li’l

Li’l‘ is easy. It simply means ‘little’.

“This crazy li’l thing called love.”

“A li’l bird told me a secret.”

Colloquial Pronouns

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Everybody knows the ordinary ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, and ‘me’ pronouns. However, there are other more colloquial pronouns that native speakers use which can be a little tricky for non-natives.

The first-person singular ‘us’

This is pronounced as /uz/ and is used in place of ‘me’. It is used throughout Britain, though not as much in Southern England. In books it is sometimes written as ‘us’, ‘uz’ or ‘ays’, the last one especially in Scottish literature.

“Lend us a pen. Mine’s run out.”

‘Me’ as a possessive pronoun

In colloquial British English and English in some of the former colonies, especially Australia and New Zealand but also Jamaica, ‘me’ is used in place of the Standard English ‘my’. In Caribbean literature and some British literature it is sometimes written as ‘mi’. Americans think that only pirates speak like this.

“Me mum says I have to go home.”

‘Y’all’ and ‘youse’, the second-person plurals

The American ‘y’all’ is used mainly in the South of the USA and by some African Americans. It is used in place of the plural ‘you’.

“Y’all have to do what I say. I’m the boss.”

The British ‘youse’ or ‘yous’ is used in the same way. It is used in Australia, New Zealand and Britain. In Scottish literature ‘yiz’ is often written.

“Youse have to do your homework or the teacher’ll be cross.”

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