More specifically, I want to know what is the single quotation(') in 'bout means. I know 'bout means about but does that mean we always can use a single quotation for words that start with a vowel? Or is it just some specific words?


It's not a "single quotation", it's an apostrophe, which is often used to indicate omitted letters.

'Bout' is not standard English, but occurs in some dialects.

There are some cases where two different forms of a word exist in standard English, such as round/around, and waken/awaken. In these, both are normal words, so there is not an omitted letter, and the shorter version is not written with an apostrophe.

But when a shortened version is not standard, then if people want to write it to reflect the way it is being spoken, they will usually write an apostrophe. You will often see this in dialogue when the ending -ing is pronounced as -in (non-standard, but common). This is usually written -in', with an apostrophe.

  • Thanks for answer! Just one more question: which words can you shorten? I mean, words like "zebra" won't be written " 'ebra ", right? So is there any kind of rule about when to shorten words? Oct 20 '21 at 5:18
  • No, if you leave out bits of words because you feel like it, you are likely to get misunderstood. Native speakers often leave out or slur sounds when speaking rapidly, but only particular sounds, according to the phonotactics of the language. Unstrressed syllables with central vowels (such as the initial a- in about) are most likely to be omitted. Consonants are rarely omitted except in clusters (eg for some speakers _tense and tents sound the same). Personally, I often omit the a- in about when it comes first in an utterance; but I'd never normally write it that way.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 20 '21 at 16:56
  • Oh, ok. Thanks for the explanation! Oct 20 '21 at 17:07

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