The Vine: April 4, 2012
I have a friend who is fond of contracting "I have," but not when saying "I have done x" — he likes to contract "I have [a job]" into "I've [a job]," and seeing it in writing is driving me absolutely BATSHIT. My internet research thus far is coming up blank, but I just feel like using the possessive "have" in a contraction is incorrect. Oh, to have a copy of The Elements of Style by my side right now.
Is there any chance you know offhand whether this is an appropriate contraction, and I should just let it go (and possibly take a Quaalude), or whether I have a leg to stand on when explaining why this makes me so crazy? Thanks!
Offhand, I'd say that 1) it's an overcorrection or 1b) a British-Englishism, which therefore 2) sounds pretentious to you. To put it in context, members of a certain family may have announced their intentions to use the facilities with veddy grand phrasings like "I've to take a dump." "Have" as indicating ownership ("I have a dog") or obligation ("I have to walk the dog"), as opposed to the auxiliary-verb use we typically contract ("I have owned a dog for four years"), doesn't seem to indicate an "I've" in American English, and it can sound try-hard-y.
As for a definitive ruling, well, let's round up the usual suspects. Grammar Girl had an entry on troublesome contractions, but this particular issue only comes up in the comments, and I don't see anyone answering the question. I've got a tweet out to Herr Garner, so we'll see if he answers that, but in the meantime, let's see if his Modern American Usage has anything to add…and he doesn't. The entry on "Ill-Advised Forms" of contractions doesn't mention "I've"-ing "have" in this sense. Zinsser keeps his counsel on contractions short and doesn't mention this form of "I've" either. And the Chicago Manual has a graf specifically on "have" in its auxiliary form, but a) it doesn't mention the contraction and 2) that entire chapter was written…by Bryan A. Garner. Wherever you go, there you are. Love it.
A brief, baffled ransack of my bookshelves failed to turn up my copy of TEoS, so I don't know what it has to say, but various tweeps feel it's Britishy and not per se incorrect. If anyone can furnish a link, please do; otherwise, discuss/stand by for a response from The Man.
Tags: Bryan Garner grammar Strunk & White try-hards William Zinsser