Please help me to ask the sentence below properly.

to what word the contraction "d" refers to in "he'd"

Thanks in advance.

  • 3
    What is the "'d" (read apostrophe-d) in "he'd" short for? Dec 14, 2013 at 18:00
  • Thank you very much Damkerng T. Is my sentence wrong? would please improve the sentence that I have suggested?
    – user3214
    Dec 14, 2013 at 18:04
  • 1
    To keep it as close as your sentence as possible, I believe you can say "To what word does the contraction "'d" in "he'd" refer?" or "What word does the contraction "'d" in "he'd" refer to?". (And actually, I think your sentence works just fine.) Dec 14, 2013 at 18:10
  • 3
    It can be difficult to read "'d", especially if your eyesight isn't so good. On Stack Exchange, you can instead write 'd, which is easier to read.
    – user230
    Dec 14, 2013 at 21:12
  • 2
    You might also consider the simplest form: "What is he'd a contraction of?" You don't have to call out the 'd portion. The answer to that question would be "he had", not just "had", but... You still get the answer you want.
    – WendiKidd
    Dec 19, 2013 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


I take it you mean

In the contraction he’d, what word does the ’d represent?

I put the written elements you refer to in italics rather than quotes because that is the convention here, and generally in linguistic studies. I also boldfaced these elements, partly to make them stand out and partly because the marks of punctuation in the face employed here are not very legible.

If you are asking that question (and not just how to ask it) ... it varies. It’s always an auxiliary, but which auxiliary is apparent only in context.

I went to find Jim—I hoped he’d tell me where I could find the Blakely file—but he’d already gone.

The first he’d here is parsed he would. It is followed by a ‘plain’ form, here an unmarked infinitive, so the modal auxiliary is required.

The second is parsed he had. It it is followed by the past participle gone, which takes the auxiliaries have and be. Be has no -d forms, so it must be had.

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