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Are they here yet?

a. No, they're not.

b. Yes, they're.

I was told the answer is a. Why is it not b?

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    The answer is whichever one is true (!) - but (a) is idiomatic English and (b) isn't, for the reasons given below. Jul 24, 2023 at 8:14
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    "Yes, they're" doesn't work to my ear but "Yes, they're here" does, fyi.
    – J D
    Jul 24, 2023 at 20:23
  • To a native AmEn speaker, (b) sounds weird. Definitely wrong.
    – RonJohn
    Jul 25, 2023 at 8:15
  • Oddly for Kate, that's… uh… not strictly correct. Look rather to Maria A and for more detail to Gotube… Further, why not tell us why you doubt the Answer was not B? Jul 31, 2023 at 20:57

2 Answers 2

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Subject-aux contractions like "they're", "I'm", "we've", "they'd" and so on cannot be used as a complete clause. They must have something after, like a subject complement, a negation, a main verb, etc.:

Yes, they're here.
Yes, I'm a teacher.
No, we've eaten.
Most evenings, they'd read.

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    For those curious on a deeper explanation of why contractions like these can't be used in this way (though it goes beyond the scope of ELL), the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange has a good summary here: english.stackexchange.com/a/2547/293937
    – Idran
    Jul 24, 2023 at 18:18
  • I've seen a lot of questions on Stack Exchange such as "can I do X with this Y that I've?" Now I have a place to which I can send the people asking them.
    – phoog
    Jul 25, 2023 at 11:51
  • it goes beyond the scope of ELL - isn't the OP trying to learn English? Jul 26, 2023 at 9:01
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    @NickGammon I more meant that that level of linguistic detail and technical depth into the why isn't really needed for learning English, I just thought it might be of interest from pure curiosity. As-is gotube's answer is good.
    – Idran
    Jul 26, 2023 at 15:19
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Probably because in a such categorical short sentence we need to emphasize the word that carries the meaning (which in this case is "are") by accentuating it. The full word "are", albeit monosyllabic , can be accentuated. The weak form "'re", cannot. So you need to fully pronounce the word. Think of both the examples without the "yes/no", which could be omitted (- They are! / They are not).

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    But "No, they aren't" is fine too, despite the most important word being hidden in a contraction.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 24, 2023 at 18:44
  • Ben Voigt: True. But in "aren't", or "ain't", you can hear the stress on the "a", and it's felt as one word (with the negation incorporated). On the other hand, try to pronounce "they're" and you can only stress the pronoun rather than the verb containing the information (an affirmation), no?
    – Maria A.
    Jul 24, 2023 at 22:29
  • Ah, I may have misread "fully pronounce the word" as "to pronounce the full word".
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 24, 2023 at 22:53
  • @BenVoigt: An ending "T" can be stressed in ways than ending "R" cannot. On the other hand, negative contractions are weird. In the sentence "They can do this", stressing "can" less than the surrounding words, or much more than the surrounding words, would both be interpreted as postiive statements, but moderate stress would likely be perceived by US speakers as "They can't do this", without any pronounced "n't".'
    – supercat
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:29
  • @supercat that's because "n't" is often pronounced /n/ with a slight stress in rapid speech. Because "can" already ends with /n/, this means a "moderately stressed" "can" is actually a weakly stressed "can't".
    – No Name
    Jul 26, 2023 at 16:33

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