I know we can use 'em as short form of them in informal English:

short form of them

Tell 'em to go away. Cambridge Dictionary

but the dictionaries don't mention when we can/cannot use them.

in the following example the author use 'em and in the same pargraph he use them.

Them shoe heels was so high they couldn't hardly stand up, much less walk in 'em. They must a-been three inches high, and them heels tapered down real keen at the bottom. Gratitude for Shoes

So, When shoud we use 'em and when shouldn't we?

  • I think you've answered your own question, use it in informal English. Feb 23, 2017 at 5:56
  • @user178049 the above paragraph is informal and he use "'em" and them. so why didn't he use "'em" in all situations?
    – Shannak
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:06
  • I'm not sure because I couldn't access the text, I think the author just want a litle variation in their writing. Feb 23, 2017 at 6:10
  • This isn't actually use of a word, it's a phonetic representation of speech. There are many words that are commonly mispronounced, or spoken in a characteristic way in certain areas or by certain groups of people. When writing, the author tries to help you visualize that action or capture the flavor by using phonetic representations like this. Sometimes common ones become accepted as words or word substitutes ('em is a common one, "wanna" is another).
    – fixer1234
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:20

1 Answer 1


Clearly from the book description, the author was in imitation of under educated speech.

them heels tapered down real keen at the bottom

"Them heels" is "those heels" in standard speech, so "'em" would not be appropriate. The speech the author imitates is literally backwards. It is older English, now mostly confined to isolated areas.
"'Em" is common in speech today, but is not used in formal writing except in quoting, or imitating common speech for some good reason, or to gain the reader's attention.
One should not write"'em" for "them" except as above.
Here is an example of getting the reader's attention:

The final examination will be 10 questions that require only a yes or no answer--get 'em right!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .