How to Use the English Word AIN'T

Written by
Tony Kaizen

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Ain't is a confusing and controversial English word with multiple definitions. This article is a quick explanation of each definition and how to use the word ain't just like a native English speaker.

Intro

  1. First, I’m gonna teach you all the ways we use this word and in which contexts. 
  2. I’ll show you some real-world examples of people using this word (on the podcast)
  3. I’m gonna teach you about the cultural aspect of this word and other words like it.

How to use the word AIN'T

AM NOT / IS NOT / ARE NOT

Am not

I am not your daddy → I ain’t your daddy

I am not the one to play with → I ain’t the one to play with

I am not tripping → I ain’t tripping

Is not

It is not that big of a deal → It ain’t that big a deal

He is not going to want to do it → He ain’t gon wanna do it

She is not the type to just sit around and do nothing → She ain’t the type to just sit around and do nothing.

Are not

You are not the one with the problem, I am! → You ain’t the one with the problem, I am!

You are not the boss of me! → You ain’t the boss of me!

You are not shit (You are not worth anything) → You ain’t shit

HAS NOT / HAVE NOT

Has not

He hasn’t been himself lately —> he ain’t been himself lately

She hasn’t even called him yet —> She ain’t even called him yet

It hasn’t even been 5 minutes —> it ain’t even been 5 minutes

Have not

I have not seen you in a while → I ain’t seen you in a minute

You have not done it since last week → You ain’t done it since last week

They have not called me yet → They ain’t called me yet

DO NOT / DID NOT

Do not

I do not have time for this → I ain’t got time for this

I do not have any money → I ain’t got no money

Did not

I did not ask for that —> I ain’t ask for that

We didn’t know what to do —> we ain’t know what to do

NOBODY

No one called you! —> Ain’t nobody call you! 

No one wants to hear that! → Ain’t nobody tryna hear that!

No one is concerned with or paying attention to you → Ain’t nobody worried about you

Linguistic characteristics

Now let me tell you about the linguistic characteristics of this word. This is probably the most important part of this episode, because there’s a lot of conflicting information about the word ain’t and whether it’s grammatically correct or incorrect. I think this excerpt from wikipedia perfectly summarizes the linguistic characteristics and social stigma of the word ain’t.

Linguistically, ain't is formed by the same rule that English speakers use to form aren't and other contractions of auxiliary verbs. 
Linguists consider usage of ain't to be grammatical, as long as its users convey their intended meaning to their audience. In other words, a sentence such as "She ain't got no sense" is grammatical because it generally follows a native speaker's word order, and because a native speaker would recognize the meaning of that sentence. 
Linguists draw a distinction, however, between grammaticality and acceptability: what may be considered grammatical across all dialects may nevertheless be considered not acceptable in certain dialects or contexts.The usage of ain't is socially unacceptable in some situations.
Functionally, ain't has operated in part to plug what is known as the "amn't gap" – the anomalous situation in standard English whereby there are standard contractions for other forms of the phrase ‘to be not’ (aren't for are not, and isn't for is not), but no standard contraction for am not. 
Historically, ain't has filled the gap where one might expect amn't, even in contexts where other uses of ain't were disfavored. Standard dialects that regard ain't as non-standard often substitute aren't for am not in tag questions (e.g., "I'm doing okay, aren't I?"), while leaving the "amn't gap" open in declarative statements.

Stigma and social markers

The usage of ain't is a continuing subject of controversy in English. Ain't is commonly used by many speakers in oral and informal settings, especially in certain regions and dialects. Its usage is often highly stigmatized and it can be used by the general public as a marker of low socio-economic status or education level. Its use is generally considered non-standard by dictionaries and style guides except when used for rhetorical effect. 
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, published in 1961, went against the then-standard practice when it included the following usage note in its entry on ain't: "though disapproved by many and more common in less educated speech, used orally in most parts of the U.S. by many cultivated speakers esp. in the phrase ain't I." 
Many commentators disapproved of the dictionary's relatively permissive attitude toward the word, which was inspired, in part, by the belief of its editor, Philip Gove, that "distinctions of usage were elitist and artificial".

Another thing I wanna say about the social aspect of this word is that if you wanna speak an informal dialect of English or you wanna use slang just like a native, you’ve gotta remember that it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. In fact, how you say it is really what makes all the difference.

This is why I’m always teaching you how we really speak but reminding you that you don’t have to speak the same way. Many times, you might end up sounding even more unnatural because you’re so determined to use slang and idioms but you only know the definitions of the words and phrases, you still don’t know how to express them like a native does.

So just take some time to really understand the culture of the people like whom you’re trying to speak, and what makes their way of communicating unique. And as always, practice, practice, and practice some more. And once you’re done practicing, practice a little more.

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