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I am a beginner. I learnt that "Je suis un homme" translates to "I am a man", but to say "I write", I should use "J'écris". Is "j'" a contracted form of "je" like "don't" for "do not"?

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J' is a Je indeed, but it is not the same as the do not/don't contraction.

In the case of do not/don't, you contract because you want to save some effort/time by biting one syllable.

In the case of je/j', you don't get to choose whether you contract or not. It is a matter of pronunciation: when je is followed with a word beginning with a vowel, instead of pronouncing the e then the vowel, you eliminate the hiatus by removing the e.

In formal language, this is the only case when the e should disappear. In spoken French (or transcriptions, for books for instance), it is sometimes ignored nonetheless, and phrases like je suis are often pronounced chuis and transcripted as j'suis.

  • Is it a matter of pronunciation if formal French does not follow spoken French? And then, there is the problem of semi-vowels which can go both ways with different verbs je ouate [ʒəwat] vs j'ois [ʒwa] or with the same verb je huile vs j'huile... – GAM PUB Sep 3 '15 at 19:59
  • Cases like j'suis are informal: the elision is not here to avoid two vowels causing a hiatus. The rules for elision are clearly described. The case for ouater/ouïr is interesting, but I suppose this comes from the infinitive form or an evolution of pronunciation. Some sounds avoid elision (as in English: you say a uniform, not an uniform). There are precise rules (which I cannot find), and there are the cases outside those rules, which are common in spoken French (like j'suis) or just plain mistakes. – Chop Sep 4 '15 at 5:09
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Yes, "J'écris" is the contraction of je and écris. Unlike in English, contracted forms in the French language are mandatory.

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