There's & There're

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Paul Whybrow

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In full dither mode, as I avoid studying helpful articles about self-promotion, querying and Amazon, I've been re-reading short stories and novellas that I wrote in 2013 and 2014.

I haven't looked at them for three years since I uploaded freshly edited versions with new covers onto Amazon and Smashwords. It's been an enjoyable experience, like catching up with friends I haven't seen for a while.

My writer's eye also spotted preoccupations, recurring themes in my stories, that I wasn't totally aware of while creating them. I edited out a load of wordy garbage, which I missed in 2015. It's satisfying and embarrassing to strike out twenty-four words and say what I meant in just five words! :rolleyes:

One tricky dilemma that I wrestled with back then, still bothers me a bit...the use of there's and there're. It's discussed in this thread on the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange website:

Is "there're" (similar to "there's") a correct contraction?

As one contributor says, strictly speaking, there's, for there is, shouldn't be used when referring to a plural, yet in everyday conversation people commonly say it. They also make an elision of there are dropping the letter a and turning it into there're—but somehow that word looks wrong in print!

I previously pondered the pain of contractions in an old thread and the tussle between being grammatically correct and making our characters sound believable continues. I've found there're used in only a few novels that I read this year, usually recently published crime stories. In my own writing, I've sometimes used there're in speech, especially if the speaker expresses themselves colloquially. I wouldn't use it in the narrative where I'm describing a series of events.

It's a neurotic writer quandary to have, but what do you think?

Are there any contractions that bother you?

Eek! I'm adding to the existing confusion over their, there and they're...

5031192_orig.png
 
'There're' is widespread in speech but I've never seen it in print. We want to make our characters sound natural, but 'there're' would probably have the unintended effect of making readers pause, which defeats the purpose.

As a Scot, I'd say 'amn't I?' in speech, as in 'am I not?'. It's logical. I've honestly never heard anyone from these parts utter the words 'aren't I?', except in the most formal speech. 'Aren't I?' makes no sense and is really quite annoying. However, best not to fash yersel, as we say here. :)
 
As an added bonus, you can use 'amn't' in speech where 'aren't' is grammatically incorrect. As in 'I amn't going,' (you wouldn't say 'I aren't going'). Great contraction. Any converts?
 
I regularly use there's in writing & speech, I don't see any problem with it.

I've never used there're and I wouldn't recommend it. In speech you are basically pronouncing the same sounds as if you'd said 'there are' and written the repeated re just looks confusing and disrupts the flow. I'd stick to there are.

Although don't use there's all of the time. You have to consider the flow of the sentence/speech.

E.g. if a character says "There's no butter", there's clearly works better there than there is. There is sounds too formal and it slows the speech down, you'd expect a character to say 'there's' not 'there is'.

There is, is better when you want a sentence to sound definitive. In this circumstance 'There is no hope' reads better than 'There's no hope'. Although this is quite subjective, so I'd always go with what feels right to you as the writer.
 
Another one that constantly trips me up is here's and here're/here are. I use "here is" a lot in list blogs (here is a list of 5 things/here are 5 things etc etc). I always have to remember to go back an make sure I've not let a singular "here's" slip in when it should have been "here're/here are". I don't use here're for the same reason I avoid there're. It might be technically correct, but it looks very odd.
 
I think "there's" works better in dialogue than "there're" even when not grammatically correct e.g. "There's a million reasons why." Unless of course your character is a stickler for good grammar.

However, if your characters speak the way most people do, I'd recommend the advice of Elmore Leonard regarding contractions. I also like his suggestion of incomplete sentences.
 
I write what sounds right and try not to worry too much about rules. When I start to worry about colloquialisms, I remember Irvine Welsh.

My writer's eye also spotted preoccupations, recurring themes in my stories, that I wasn't totally aware of while creating them. I edited out a load of wordy garbage, which I missed in 2015. It's satisfying and embarrassing to strike out twenty-four words and say what I meant in just five words!

I'm just about to look over a novel I wrote a long time ago, wondering if it's up to entering in a competition curently running. Said novel got me an agent for a short time, so as close as getting published as I've come, so it must be OK. But I'm dreading looking at it again now because I'm sure and certain it's going be horrid pants. :D
 
I avoid contractions in the narrative, but use whatever sounds "natural" in dialog including such terms as "'tis", "gonna", and "somethin'" depending on the character's dialect and background. Can't say I've ever used "there're" though. Just sounds a little bit too awkward to me. Why would it be more natural to say that than "there are"?
 
I'm currently reading Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage: Volume 1 of a trilogy called The Book Of Dust. The 11-year-old protagonist, Malcolm, is the son of inn-keepers in Oxford, a bright boy who's not had a formal education. He's got book learning, aided by a female scientist who lends him books.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman | Waterstones

Pullman indicates his accent with lots of contractions, including we're, 'em and d'you. One that grates a bit every time I read it is 'spose' for 'suppose.' It might be how people pronounce suppose when making an elision, but it really looks wrong on the page!
 
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