Today, we answer a question from our reader Miguel. He writes:
Why is it wrong to answer a question like this: “Yes, I'm” or “Yes, it's” or “Yes, he's” ?
Thank you. – from Miguel
Thank you for your question. Your examples use short answers that include what grammar experts call “weak” forms. When a speaker uses a contraction, or shortened word, the sound of the vowel almost disappears. An example is the word “I’m.” In this contraction, the /ae/ sound in “am” is harder to hear. This happens because the speaker uses less force to say the vowel sound. There are two rules that apply to these forms. These rules help explain why you cannot answer “Yes, I’m.”
The first rule has to do with an answer that leaves out part of a thought. Here is an example.
Is that your dog?
Yes, it is.
After “it is,” we understand that the words needed to make a complete thought are “my dog.” The speaker does not need to say “my dog” because the listener understands what they are talking about. But the speaker cannot reduce this answer to “Yes, it’s.” So the rule is that when something is left out at the end of a statement, you cannot end the statement with a weak form.
But this is not true when the short answer is “No.” In that case, the negative word “not” follows directly after the verb. So the weak form is not at the end of the statement. Here is an example:
Are you ready?
No, I’m not.
There is still something missing at the end of the statement – the word “ready.” But the statement does not end with the weak form “I’m.”
The second rule has to do with stress, the loudness or force a speaker uses on different sounds in a sentence. Listen to the stress pattern here:
Will we all GO?
I think we WILL.
The speaker says the words “go” and “will” with more force or stress. If a word is stressed, English does not permit reduced or weak forms. So you cannot say *”I think we’ll.”
However, a speaker can stress the negative form, “I think we won’t.”
I hope this helps you understand, Miguel. Thank you for the question.
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
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I’m Jill Robbins.
And I’m Greg Stachel.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
vowel – n. a sound made with the mouth open, like a, e, i, o or u.
negative – n. a word or statement that means “no” or that expresses a denial or refusal
pattern – n. the regular and repeated way in which something happens or is done
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