What does 'em abbreviation mean?


I saw a phrase of the song of LP which contains 'em

So smoke 'em if you got 'em

Cause it's going down

All I ever wanted was you

Lost on you - LP- lyrics

Judicious Allure

Posted 2016-10-12T17:22:33.137

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Question was closed 2016-10-12T22:38:46.173

2It is a shortened form of "them". It is how some speakers say the word in casual conversation. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-10-12T17:29:21.720

2In context, *'em = them* probably means *[tobacco] cigarettes*, but sometimes it might mean, for example, *reefers (marijuana "joints")*, or it might feasibly be a far more metaphorical usage (Do whatever you want / whatever turns you on, if you've got the wherewithal). Equivalent in the military to, say, Stand easy, men! or At ease! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-10-12T17:35:53.933


Possible duplicate of what is the difference between 'em and them

– P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-10-12T19:34:31.483



'Em is the same as the pronoun them; it is never used in stressed positions and it is somewhat colloquial, such that you will often find it in popular music but not in scientific articles.

Although it may seem so, 'em is not an abbreviation of them. These words have different origins: 'em comes from Old English whereas them comes from Old Norse.

J. Siebeneichler

Posted 2016-10-12T17:22:33.137

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Not an abbreviation of "them", huh? I did not know that. Really interesting. source

– Andrew – 2016-10-12T17:35:11.290

I wouldn't have known this myself, but the Wiktionary entry for 'em says: *From earlier hem, from Middle English hem, from Old English heom ... Now often treated as a form of them, which however derives from Old Norse rather than Old English.* But for all the "historical interest" there, in practice 'em today almost always means them in the minds of actual native speakers, so that's probably all a learner needs to know too. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-10-12T17:45:59.823

2I just don't buy it. In colloquial English, 'em is them. It is always colloquial. The reason for it probably is phonetic/phonemic: it's takes more effort to say: if you GOT THEM, over if you've got 'em. This is similar to: If I see ya for you. Ya is one syllable and you is two. Spoken and colloquial speech does this all the time. Where'd ya think the contractions come from? – Lambie – 2016-10-12T18:32:28.017

2I don't buy that "'em is not an abbreviation of them". In practice, it is nothing other than an abbreviation of them. It does not have a separate existence, as it were, and the one-time existence of hem has no relevance to current usage and is of interest only to linguists and historians. – stangdon – 2016-10-12T19:31:05.380

I was among the non-buyers long ago, believing that the colloquial 'em is the result of apheresis of the voiced dental fricative /ð/ ... but a couple of linguists and phonologists convinced me strenuously that this really is a surviving OE dative, and this is accepted by OED and every other authority. The word is noted continuously since the time of Æthelred the Unready. There's an interesting piece on such OE/ME survivors here.

– P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-10-13T02:45:28.003


'em is the short form of the word "them".

According to en.oxforddictionaries.com' 'em is defined as:


‘let 'em know who's boss’

short for them, especially in informal use

It has also a mention about its origin: Origin Middle English: originally a form of hem, dative and accusative third person plural pronoun in Middle English; now regarded as an abbreviation of them.

The sentence posted in question may be expanded as "So smoke them if you got them" (though we are not clear about the context)

Hope it helps.

Vanpram P

Posted 2016-10-12T17:22:33.137

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