#153 - How to Use the Word AIN'T

September 28, 2022

The word ain't is not only confusing, but also controversial. Some people think it's not a real word and whoever uses it is uneducated and low-class. Others think of it as standard English vocabulary. So in this episode, I'm gonna teach you the various ways in which we use this word, as well as the cultural aspect and how you will be perceived when using it.

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Tony Kaizen: [00:00:00] What's up, Life in English family? Y'all have been asking me to make an episode about the word "ain't" for a very, very long time, and it's finally here. Okay, I'm going to deliver this episode in three parts. First, I'm going to teach you all the ways we use this word and in which context. Second, I'll show you some real world examples of people using this word, and we'll test your English comprehension to see how well you understand what's being said. And finally, I'm going to teach you about the cultural aspect of this word. So let's take a look at the various meanings of this word.

Tony Kaizen: [00:00:39] The first one or the first way we use this word is in place of the verb "to be", right? So the word "ain't" can mean "am not" or "is not" or "are not" and "am", "is", and "are" are conjugations of the verb "to be", right? So let's start with "am not". Here's some examples. Number one, "I am not your daddy." "I am not your daddy." We can say that in a different way, or we can say that same phrase in a different way by saying, "I ain't your daddy", so "I am not your daddy" becomes "I ain't your daddy." Same thing. Okay, next example. "I am not the one to play with." A more natural way to say that at least where I'm from is "I ain't the one to play with." And it's the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:01:29] Another example. "I am not trippin." Or "I ain't trippin." Same thing, okay? Now let's look at some examples of "is not". The first one. "It is not that big of a deal." "It's not that big of a deal, man." Another way to say that using the word "ain't" is "It ain't that big of a deal. Chill, man, it ain't that big of a deal. Relax. Relax, bro." Alright, another example. "He is not going to want to do it." I could also say "He ain't gonna want to do it." Same thing. Another example. "She is not the type to just sit around and do nothing." I could also say "She ain't the type to just sit around and do nothing," and I'd be saying the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:02:17] So now let's take a look at some examples of "are not". Number one. "You are not the one with the problem. I am." Or I could say "You ain't the one with the problem. I am." Okay? Another example. "You are not the boss of me." Or I could say "You ain't the boss of me." Same thing. Alright, another example. Last one. "You are not shit." We would never say this naturally in casual conversation. The version of this phrase using the word "ain't" is what we would say. So I'll say that now, "You ain't shit." Technically, you're saying "You are not shit," but that sounds weird. But when I say "You ain't shit," that sounds natural to me and that expression just means you're not worth anything. Similar to saying that somebody is a piece of shit. So if somebody says "Man, you ain't shit," it's like, depending on who says it in the context, it could be a joke or it could be a bad thing that means you're just worthless. You're a worthless human being. Alright.

Tony Kaizen: [00:03:19] But anyway, that is "am not", "is not", and "are not", okay? Another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "has not" and "have nots". So let me give you some examples starting with "has not". Number one, "He hasn't..." or "He has not been himself lately." I could also say "He ain't been himself lately," and it's the same thing. Another example, "She hasn't..." or "She has not even called him yet." "She hasn't even called them yet." Or I could say "She ain't even called him yet." Alright. Another example. "It hasn't even been 5 minutes." Or "It ain't even been 5 minutes." Alright. Now, here are some examples of "have not". Number one, "I have not seen you in a while." Or "I ain't seen you in a while." Same thing. Okay, another example. "You have not done it since last week." Or "You ain't done it since last week, bro." Alright. Another example. "They have not called me yet." Or "They ain't called me yet." Same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:04:35] Now, another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "do not" and "did not" in specific cases. So let me give you some examples for "do not". "I do not have time for this." "I do not have time for this." Another way I can say that is "I ain't got time for this," and it's the same thing. Alright. Another example. "I do not have any money." Or "I ain't got no money." And it's the same...I'm saying the same exact thing, okay? Now, some examples of "did not". Number one. "I did not ask for that." Or "I ain't ask for that." Okay? Another example. "We didn't know what to do." "We didn't know what to do." Or "We ain't know what to do." The same thing as saying "We did not know what to do."

Tony Kaizen: [00:05:25] Okay, now the last way we can use this is not necessarily a definition, but we often use the word "ain't" in sentences that involve "nobody". So let me give you an example. In standard English, you might say something like, "No one called you," right? Maybe somebody walks into the room and says, "Hey, did you call me?" "No, no one called you." Right? Another way I could say that is, "Ain't nobody call you." Like "Nah. Ain't nobody call you, bro. Relax, ain't nobody call you." And I'm...what I'm saying is "Nobody called you." Or "No one called you." Another example. "No one wants to hear that." Maybe your music is trash or you're just...you're complaining, you're whining, something like that. Something that nobody wants to hear. You can say "Nobody wants to hear that." Or "No one wants to hear that." Or you could say, "Ain't nobody trying to hear that, bruh." "Ain't nobody trying to hear that."

Tony Kaizen: [00:06:23] So it's just an informal dialect of English and I'm just trying to get you to understand that it's the same thing as saying "No one wants to hear that." It's just a different way of speaking and I won't get into the details of that way of speaking in this episode, because this episode is about the word "ain't" so let's stay on topic. Next example, "No one is concerned with..." or "paying attention to you." That's a standard English phrase. But I could also say, "Ain't nobody worried about you, bruh." So alright. So "No one is concerned with you." "No one is paying attention to you." Or "Ain't nobody worried about you." It's the same thing, just a more informal way of saying it, okay? Now, we've gone over all the definitions and uses, or at least the basics of the definitions and uses of the word "ain't". Now we are going to test your English, my friend, and see how much you can actually understand when you hear real people using this word. So let's take a look at the first example.

First Example (woman): [00:07:23] "Um, this whole, you know, sort of finding compassion and common ground with your enemies thing is kind of like a political, spiritual practice for me. And I ain't the Dalai Lama."

Tony Kaizen: [00:07:37] Alright. So did you hear what she said? She said, "I ain't the Dalai Lama." Now, what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "I'm not the Dalai Lama" or "I am not the Dalai Lama." So "I am not" becomes "I ain't". And just in case you're sitting there wondering, "What is a Dalai Lama? What is that? How do you even spell that?" Well, Dalai Lama in English is spelled D-a-l-a-i, Dalai...L-a-m-a, Lama, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing that incorrectly. I don't know how you actually say that, but in standard American English we say Dalai Lama. And the way I understand it, if I'm not mistaken, this is what they call the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, just in case you were wondering. But let's move on to the next example.

Second Example (man): [00:08:30] "Well, well, that's it. I mean, why why undergo..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:32] "The mayor...mayor..."

Second Example (man): [00:08:34] "...the scrutiny and the brickbats and the disrespect and everything else? I mean, that takes a certain type of psychological makeup to, you know, want to withstand..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:45] "It's what Sanders says really, is you need a revolution."

Second Example (man): [00:08:48] "Yeah, but you ain't getting a revolution."

Tony Kaizen: [00:08:54] Alright. So did you guys catch that one? The woman said, "You need a revolution." And the man said, "But you ain't getting a revolution. You ain't getting one." Right? So how would you say that in standard English? I would say, "You are not getting a revolution." "You are not getting a revolution." "You ain't getting a revolution, my friend." Same thing. So "you are not" becomes "you ain't." Alright, next example.

Third Example (man): [00:09:22] "And then finally, licenses and approval. So you have a license to do something that is not many people can do or an approval that is a pretty solid economic moat. Casinos, not easy to get a casino license here. Six of them in Macau. That's it. They ain't giving out anymore."

Tony Kaizen: [00:09:40] Alright. So hopefully you guys caught that. This guy is talking about...He's really talking about...Excuse me...He's talking about different businesses and he ended by talking about casinos, right? Apparently, you need a license to open a casino, and the man said, "They ain't giving out anymore." So how would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "They are not giving out anymore." "They are not" becomes "they ain't." And you might be asking yourself, "What does giving out mean?" Well, in this context, it means "to distribute", okay? So basically what he's saying is they're not distributing or they're not issuing or "giving out" more casino licenses so you cannot attain one anymore. That's the basic idea of what he was saying but the focus is on the word "ain't" so hopefully you understood that part. So let's move on to the last example.

Last Example (man): [00:10:33] "This is going really, really, really focused on money, on your relationship with money, and it teaches a system of how to manage money because the theory is when you get to the point where you're able to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, right? You manage the budget and you manage what little you have coherently, then the magic of the universe is that when we prove we can manage some, we will get more."

Tony Kaizen: [00:10:55] Alright. So in that clip, he was talking about money, managing money, and he said something like, "Once you learn how to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, even if you ain't got none..." So what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "Even if you don't have any," because remember, we're talking about money. So once you learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none," then you will get more. That's the idea. And this is an example of a super common sentence structure, right? "Ain't got no." It's really, really common in some places here in the US, and remember, this just means "does not have" or "do not have". It's the same thing. So the idea here is that you need to learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none", and you will receive more. Alright?

Tony Kaizen: [00:11:51] So, my friend, now, let me tell you about the linguistic characteristics of this word. And 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. Now, linguistically, "ain't" is formed by the same rule that English speakers use to form "aren't" and other contractions of auxiliary verbs like "isn't" or "won't" or "doesn't", etc.. Now linguists consider usage of the word "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 grammatically correct because it generally follows a native's word order...a native speaker's word order, I mean. And because a native speaker would recognize the meaning of that sentence, it's grammatically correct, you see?

Tony Kaizen: [00:12:40] But linguists draw a distinction, however, between grammatically "correct" and "acceptable", you see? What may be considered "grammatically correct" across many dialects may nevertheless, or may still be considered unacceptable in certain dialects or certain contexts, right? The usage of the word "ain't" is "socially unacceptable" in some situations, but it's not "grammatically incorrect". Right? Because natives actually use that word in a logical way. Their sentences follow an actual pattern. There's a real structure there that they use and understand so it's correct to them, and I should say "us", because I'm talking about us, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:13:19] Now, the usage of the word "ain't" is a continuing subject of controversy in the English language and the English education industry, if we can call it that, right? Now, "ain't" is commonly used by many native speakers in oral and informal settings, especially in certain regions or dialects of English. Now it's usage is often highly stigmatized, and it can be used by the general public as a marker of low socioeconomic status or education level, right? It's generally used or it's not used...it's generally considered nonstandard English in most dictionaries. But in my humble opinion, trying to classify people by the way they speak is an elitist's way of segregating and judging people based on something that doesn't say anything about a person's character, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:04] Like there isn't a right or wrong way to speak. There isn't a high or low class way of speaking. There are simply different ways of speaking. And people from different regions speak in different ways. And just because people in my city speak differently from the people in New York City doesn't mean one of us is speaking incorrectly. Everyone in my city understands me perfectly, so I'm obviously speaking correctly. It's all subjective, which is exactly why it makes no sense to try to determine what the correct way of speaking is because it doesn't exist. If the sentence follows the typical pattern of speech that a native will use, then it's grammatically correct. If a native understands it but simply thinks you shouldn't say it, that doesn't mean it's incorrect. It means that person thinks what you said was unacceptable. So always try to remember there's a difference between those two things.

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:57] But why do I think that understanding the social aspect of this word is so important? It's because after teaching English for a few years, I met a lot of people who pride themselves on knowing things about slang, informal dialects and what they know of as "Black English". But most of them don't really understand why we say the things we say. People will hear a native say something and simply repeat it. And of course, that's normal. I'm just saying that it's important to truly understand what it is you're saying and why you are saying it. It's important to understand how a community of people will see and interpret your words and behavior when you speak a certain way or use certain words, and you don't have to care, but you should understand.

Tony Kaizen: [00:15:39] So in this particular case, with the word "ain't", you need to understand that there are a lot of elitist and snobby people who are going to look down on you for using words like "ain't" or speaking some informal dialect of English. There are people who would think you're of low class or you're uneducated or you're from the streets, or you grew up on a farm somewhere in the country. But the reality is people of all colors, classes, and ages use this word in daily conversations. It just depends on where you're from and the context of the situation. So once you understand this word and how to use it, feel free to use it in any informal conversation.

Tony Kaizen: [00:16:17] Now, another thing I want to say about the social aspect of this word is that if you want to speak an informal dialect of English or you want to use slang just like a native, you've got to 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. That's 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 just 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.

Tony Kaizen: [00:17:08] Now, if you find this episode helpful, please take the time to share it with someone that you think would appreciate it. Also, if you'd like to join a growing community of English learners from around the world and learn some real English with some real people, consider joining the Life in English community. You'll get access to our private conversation group on Discord and transcripts and vocabulary guides for all the podcast episodes to make sure you understand and internalize every single word. Alright? We're really trying to have a positive impact on the way the world learns English and with your support, we can grow our team, produce a lot more content, and help a lot more people. So for more information about how you can join the community, check the links in the description of this episode, or just visit lifeinenglish.net/community. And as always, thank you so much for your time and your attention. I really hope you enjoyed and learned from this episode. My name is Tony Kaizen and this is the Life in English podcast and I will talk to you soon. Peace!

[END OF EPISODE]

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Tony Kaizen: [00:00:00] What's up, Life in English family? Y'all have been asking me to make an episode about the word "ain't" for a very, very long time, and it's finally here. Okay, I'm going to deliver this episode in three parts. First, I'm going to teach you all the ways we use this word and in which context. Second, I'll show you some real world examples of people using this word, and we'll test your English comprehension to see how well you understand what's being said. And finally, I'm going to teach you about the cultural aspect of this word. So let's take a look at the various meanings of this word.

Tony Kaizen: [00:00:39] The first one or the first way we use this word is in place of the verb "to be", right? So the word "ain't" can mean "am not" or "is not" or "are not" and "am", "is", and "are" are conjugations of the verb "to be", right? So let's start with "am not". Here's some examples. Number one, "I am not your daddy." "I am not your daddy." We can say that in a different way, or we can say that same phrase in a different way by saying, "I ain't your daddy", so "I am not your daddy" becomes "I ain't your daddy." Same thing. Okay, next example. "I am not the one to play with." A more natural way to say that at least where I'm from is "I ain't the one to play with." And it's the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:01:29] Another example. "I am not trippin." Or "I ain't trippin." Same thing, okay? Now let's look at some examples of "is not". The first one. "It is not that big of a deal." "It's not that big of a deal, man." Another way to say that using the word "ain't" is "It ain't that big of a deal. Chill, man, it ain't that big of a deal. Relax. Relax, bro." Alright, another example. "He is not going to want to do it." I could also say "He ain't gonna want to do it." Same thing. Another example. "She is not the type to just sit around and do nothing." I could also say "She ain't the type to just sit around and do nothing," and I'd be saying the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:02:17] So now let's take a look at some examples of "are not". Number one. "You are not the one with the problem. I am." Or I could say "You ain't the one with the problem. I am." Okay? Another example. "You are not the boss of me." Or I could say "You ain't the boss of me." Same thing. Alright, another example. Last one. "You are not shit." We would never say this naturally in casual conversation. The version of this phrase using the word "ain't" is what we would say. So I'll say that now, "You ain't shit." Technically, you're saying "You are not shit," but that sounds weird. But when I say "You ain't shit," that sounds natural to me and that expression just means you're not worth anything. Similar to saying that somebody is a piece of shit. So if somebody says "Man, you ain't shit," it's like, depending on who says it in the context, it could be a joke or it could be a bad thing that means you're just worthless. You're a worthless human being. Alright.

Tony Kaizen: [00:03:19] But anyway, that is "am not", "is not", and "are not", okay? Another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "has not" and "have nots". So let me give you some examples starting with "has not". Number one, "He hasn't..." or "He has not been himself lately." I could also say "He ain't been himself lately," and it's the same thing. Another example, "She hasn't..." or "She has not even called him yet." "She hasn't even called them yet." Or I could say "She ain't even called him yet." Alright. Another example. "It hasn't even been 5 minutes." Or "It ain't even been 5 minutes." Alright. Now, here are some examples of "have not". Number one, "I have not seen you in a while." Or "I ain't seen you in a while." Same thing. Okay, another example. "You have not done it since last week." Or "You ain't done it since last week, bro." Alright. Another example. "They have not called me yet." Or "They ain't called me yet." Same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:04:35] Now, another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "do not" and "did not" in specific cases. So let me give you some examples for "do not". "I do not have time for this." "I do not have time for this." Another way I can say that is "I ain't got time for this," and it's the same thing. Alright. Another example. "I do not have any money." Or "I ain't got no money." And it's the same...I'm saying the same exact thing, okay? Now, some examples of "did not". Number one. "I did not ask for that." Or "I ain't ask for that." Okay? Another example. "We didn't know what to do." "We didn't know what to do." Or "We ain't know what to do." The same thing as saying "We did not know what to do."

Tony Kaizen: [00:05:25] Okay, now the last way we can use this is not necessarily a definition, but we often use the word "ain't" in sentences that involve "nobody". So let me give you an example. In standard English, you might say something like, "No one called you," right? Maybe somebody walks into the room and says, "Hey, did you call me?" "No, no one called you." Right? Another way I could say that is, "Ain't nobody call you." Like "Nah. Ain't nobody call you, bro. Relax, ain't nobody call you." And I'm...what I'm saying is "Nobody called you." Or "No one called you." Another example. "No one wants to hear that." Maybe your music is trash or you're just...you're complaining, you're whining, something like that. Something that nobody wants to hear. You can say "Nobody wants to hear that." Or "No one wants to hear that." Or you could say, "Ain't nobody trying to hear that, bruh." "Ain't nobody trying to hear that."

Tony Kaizen: [00:06:23] So it's just an informal dialect of English and I'm just trying to get you to understand that it's the same thing as saying "No one wants to hear that." It's just a different way of speaking and I won't get into the details of that way of speaking in this episode, because this episode is about the word "ain't" so let's stay on topic. Next example, "No one is concerned with..." or "paying attention to you." That's a standard English phrase. But I could also say, "Ain't nobody worried about you, bruh." So alright. So "No one is concerned with you." "No one is paying attention to you." Or "Ain't nobody worried about you." It's the same thing, just a more informal way of saying it, okay? Now, we've gone over all the definitions and uses, or at least the basics of the definitions and uses of the word "ain't". Now we are going to test your English, my friend, and see how much you can actually understand when you hear real people using this word. So let's take a look at the first example.

First Example (woman): [00:07:23] "Um, this whole, you know, sort of finding compassion and common ground with your enemies thing is kind of like a political, spiritual practice for me. And I ain't the Dalai Lama."

Tony Kaizen: [00:07:37] Alright. So did you hear what she said? She said, "I ain't the Dalai Lama." Now, what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "I'm not the Dalai Lama" or "I am not the Dalai Lama." So "I am not" becomes "I ain't". And just in case you're sitting there wondering, "What is a Dalai Lama? What is that? How do you even spell that?" Well, Dalai Lama in English is spelled D-a-l-a-i, Dalai...L-a-m-a, Lama, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing that incorrectly. I don't know how you actually say that, but in standard American English we say Dalai Lama. And the way I understand it, if I'm not mistaken, this is what they call the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, just in case you were wondering. But let's move on to the next example.

Second Example (man): [00:08:30] "Well, well, that's it. I mean, why why undergo..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:32] "The mayor...mayor..."

Second Example (man): [00:08:34] "...the scrutiny and the brickbats and the disrespect and everything else? I mean, that takes a certain type of psychological makeup to, you know, want to withstand..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:45] "It's what Sanders says really, is you need a revolution."

Second Example (man): [00:08:48] "Yeah, but you ain't getting a revolution."

Tony Kaizen: [00:08:54] Alright. So did you guys catch that one? The woman said, "You need a revolution." And the man said, "But you ain't getting a revolution. You ain't getting one." Right? So how would you say that in standard English? I would say, "You are not getting a revolution." "You are not getting a revolution." "You ain't getting a revolution, my friend." Same thing. So "you are not" becomes "you ain't." Alright, next example.

Third Example (man): [00:09:22] "And then finally, licenses and approval. So you have a license to do something that is not many people can do or an approval that is a pretty solid economic moat. Casinos, not easy to get a casino license here. Six of them in Macau. That's it. They ain't giving out anymore."

Tony Kaizen: [00:09:40] Alright. So hopefully you guys caught that. This guy is talking about...He's really talking about...Excuse me...He's talking about different businesses and he ended by talking about casinos, right? Apparently, you need a license to open a casino, and the man said, "They ain't giving out anymore." So how would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "They are not giving out anymore." "They are not" becomes "they ain't." And you might be asking yourself, "What does giving out mean?" Well, in this context, it means "to distribute", okay? So basically what he's saying is they're not distributing or they're not issuing or "giving out" more casino licenses so you cannot attain one anymore. That's the basic idea of what he was saying but the focus is on the word "ain't" so hopefully you understood that part. So let's move on to the last example.

Last Example (man): [00:10:33] "This is going really, really, really focused on money, on your relationship with money, and it teaches a system of how to manage money because the theory is when you get to the point where you're able to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, right? You manage the budget and you manage what little you have coherently, then the magic of the universe is that when we prove we can manage some, we will get more."

Tony Kaizen: [00:10:55] Alright. So in that clip, he was talking about money, managing money, and he said something like, "Once you learn how to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, even if you ain't got none..." So what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "Even if you don't have any," because remember, we're talking about money. So once you learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none," then you will get more. That's the idea. And this is an example of a super common sentence structure, right? "Ain't got no." It's really, really common in some places here in the US, and remember, this just means "does not have" or "do not have". It's the same thing. So the idea here is that you need to learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none", and you will receive more. Alright?

Tony Kaizen: [00:11:51] So, my friend, now, let me tell you about the linguistic characteristics of this word. And 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. Now, linguistically, "ain't" is formed by the same rule that English speakers use to form "aren't" and other contractions of auxiliary verbs like "isn't" or "won't" or "doesn't", etc.. Now linguists consider usage of the word "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 grammatically correct because it generally follows a native's word order...a native speaker's word order, I mean. And because a native speaker would recognize the meaning of that sentence, it's grammatically correct, you see?

Tony Kaizen: [00:12:40] But linguists draw a distinction, however, between grammatically "correct" and "acceptable", you see? What may be considered "grammatically correct" across many dialects may nevertheless, or may still be considered unacceptable in certain dialects or certain contexts, right? The usage of the word "ain't" is "socially unacceptable" in some situations, but it's not "grammatically incorrect". Right? Because natives actually use that word in a logical way. Their sentences follow an actual pattern. There's a real structure there that they use and understand so it's correct to them, and I should say "us", because I'm talking about us, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:13:19] Now, the usage of the word "ain't" is a continuing subject of controversy in the English language and the English education industry, if we can call it that, right? Now, "ain't" is commonly used by many native speakers in oral and informal settings, especially in certain regions or dialects of English. Now it's usage is often highly stigmatized, and it can be used by the general public as a marker of low socioeconomic status or education level, right? It's generally used or it's not used...it's generally considered nonstandard English in most dictionaries. But in my humble opinion, trying to classify people by the way they speak is an elitist's way of segregating and judging people based on something that doesn't say anything about a person's character, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:04] Like there isn't a right or wrong way to speak. There isn't a high or low class way of speaking. There are simply different ways of speaking. And people from different regions speak in different ways. And just because people in my city speak differently from the people in New York City doesn't mean one of us is speaking incorrectly. Everyone in my city understands me perfectly, so I'm obviously speaking correctly. It's all subjective, which is exactly why it makes no sense to try to determine what the correct way of speaking is because it doesn't exist. If the sentence follows the typical pattern of speech that a native will use, then it's grammatically correct. If a native understands it but simply thinks you shouldn't say it, that doesn't mean it's incorrect. It means that person thinks what you said was unacceptable. So always try to remember there's a difference between those two things.

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:57] But why do I think that understanding the social aspect of this word is so important? It's because after teaching English for a few years, I met a lot of people who pride themselves on knowing things about slang, informal dialects and what they know of as "Black English". But most of them don't really understand why we say the things we say. People will hear a native say something and simply repeat it. And of course, that's normal. I'm just saying that it's important to truly understand what it is you're saying and why you are saying it. It's important to understand how a community of people will see and interpret your words and behavior when you speak a certain way or use certain words, and you don't have to care, but you should understand.

Tony Kaizen: [00:15:39] So in this particular case, with the word "ain't", you need to understand that there are a lot of elitist and snobby people who are going to look down on you for using words like "ain't" or speaking some informal dialect of English. There are people who would think you're of low class or you're uneducated or you're from the streets, or you grew up on a farm somewhere in the country. But the reality is people of all colors, classes, and ages use this word in daily conversations. It just depends on where you're from and the context of the situation. So once you understand this word and how to use it, feel free to use it in any informal conversation.

Tony Kaizen: [00:16:17] Now, another thing I want to say about the social aspect of this word is that if you want to speak an informal dialect of English or you want to use slang just like a native, you've got to 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. That's 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 just 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.

Tony Kaizen: [00:17:08] Now, if you find this episode helpful, please take the time to share it with someone that you think would appreciate it. Also, if you'd like to join a growing community of English learners from around the world and learn some real English with some real people, consider joining the Life in English community. You'll get access to our private conversation group on Discord and transcripts and vocabulary guides for all the podcast episodes to make sure you understand and internalize every single word. Alright? We're really trying to have a positive impact on the way the world learns English and with your support, we can grow our team, produce a lot more content, and help a lot more people. So for more information about how you can join the community, check the links in the description of this episode, or just visit lifeinenglish.net/community. And as always, thank you so much for your time and your attention. I really hope you enjoyed and learned from this episode. My name is Tony Kaizen and this is the Life in English podcast and I will talk to you soon. Peace!

[END OF EPISODE]

Writing prompts

  • In your country, is language used as a way to determine your social class? What do you think about that?
  • Write 3 example sentences using the word ain't in each of the contexts from this episode.
  • What do you think is more important: what you say, or how you say it? Why?
Key Vocabulary & Grammar Guide
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Key Vocabulary Guide

Transcript

Tony Kaizen: [00:00:00] What's up, Life in English family? Y'all have been asking me to make an episode about the word "ain't" for a very, very long time, and it's finally here. Okay, I'm going to deliver this episode in three parts. First, I'm going to teach you all the ways we use this word and in which context. Second, I'll show you some real world examples of people using this word, and we'll test your English comprehension to see how well you understand what's being said. And finally, I'm going to teach you about the cultural aspect of this word. So let's take a look at the various meanings of this word.

Tony Kaizen: [00:00:39] The first one or the first way we use this word is in place of the verb "to be", right? So the word "ain't" can mean "am not" or "is not" or "are not" and "am", "is", and "are" are conjugations of the verb "to be", right? So let's start with "am not". Here's some examples. Number one, "I am not your daddy." "I am not your daddy." We can say that in a different way, or we can say that same phrase in a different way by saying, "I ain't your daddy", so "I am not your daddy" becomes "I ain't your daddy." Same thing. Okay, next example. "I am not the one to play with." A more natural way to say that at least where I'm from is "I ain't the one to play with." And it's the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:01:29] Another example. "I am not trippin." Or "I ain't trippin." Same thing, okay? Now let's look at some examples of "is not". The first one. "It is not that big of a deal." "It's not that big of a deal, man." Another way to say that using the word "ain't" is "It ain't that big of a deal. Chill, man, it ain't that big of a deal. Relax. Relax, bro." Alright, another example. "He is not going to want to do it." I could also say "He ain't gonna want to do it." Same thing. Another example. "She is not the type to just sit around and do nothing." I could also say "She ain't the type to just sit around and do nothing," and I'd be saying the same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:02:17] So now let's take a look at some examples of "are not". Number one. "You are not the one with the problem. I am." Or I could say "You ain't the one with the problem. I am." Okay? Another example. "You are not the boss of me." Or I could say "You ain't the boss of me." Same thing. Alright, another example. Last one. "You are not shit." We would never say this naturally in casual conversation. The version of this phrase using the word "ain't" is what we would say. So I'll say that now, "You ain't shit." Technically, you're saying "You are not shit," but that sounds weird. But when I say "You ain't shit," that sounds natural to me and that expression just means you're not worth anything. Similar to saying that somebody is a piece of shit. So if somebody says "Man, you ain't shit," it's like, depending on who says it in the context, it could be a joke or it could be a bad thing that means you're just worthless. You're a worthless human being. Alright.

Tony Kaizen: [00:03:19] But anyway, that is "am not", "is not", and "are not", okay? Another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "has not" and "have nots". So let me give you some examples starting with "has not". Number one, "He hasn't..." or "He has not been himself lately." I could also say "He ain't been himself lately," and it's the same thing. Another example, "She hasn't..." or "She has not even called him yet." "She hasn't even called them yet." Or I could say "She ain't even called him yet." Alright. Another example. "It hasn't even been 5 minutes." Or "It ain't even been 5 minutes." Alright. Now, here are some examples of "have not". Number one, "I have not seen you in a while." Or "I ain't seen you in a while." Same thing. Okay, another example. "You have not done it since last week." Or "You ain't done it since last week, bro." Alright. Another example. "They have not called me yet." Or "They ain't called me yet." Same thing.

Tony Kaizen: [00:04:35] Now, another way we can use the word "ain't" is in place of "do not" and "did not" in specific cases. So let me give you some examples for "do not". "I do not have time for this." "I do not have time for this." Another way I can say that is "I ain't got time for this," and it's the same thing. Alright. Another example. "I do not have any money." Or "I ain't got no money." And it's the same...I'm saying the same exact thing, okay? Now, some examples of "did not". Number one. "I did not ask for that." Or "I ain't ask for that." Okay? Another example. "We didn't know what to do." "We didn't know what to do." Or "We ain't know what to do." The same thing as saying "We did not know what to do."

Tony Kaizen: [00:05:25] Okay, now the last way we can use this is not necessarily a definition, but we often use the word "ain't" in sentences that involve "nobody". So let me give you an example. In standard English, you might say something like, "No one called you," right? Maybe somebody walks into the room and says, "Hey, did you call me?" "No, no one called you." Right? Another way I could say that is, "Ain't nobody call you." Like "Nah. Ain't nobody call you, bro. Relax, ain't nobody call you." And I'm...what I'm saying is "Nobody called you." Or "No one called you." Another example. "No one wants to hear that." Maybe your music is trash or you're just...you're complaining, you're whining, something like that. Something that nobody wants to hear. You can say "Nobody wants to hear that." Or "No one wants to hear that." Or you could say, "Ain't nobody trying to hear that, bruh." "Ain't nobody trying to hear that."

Tony Kaizen: [00:06:23] So it's just an informal dialect of English and I'm just trying to get you to understand that it's the same thing as saying "No one wants to hear that." It's just a different way of speaking and I won't get into the details of that way of speaking in this episode, because this episode is about the word "ain't" so let's stay on topic. Next example, "No one is concerned with..." or "paying attention to you." That's a standard English phrase. But I could also say, "Ain't nobody worried about you, bruh." So alright. So "No one is concerned with you." "No one is paying attention to you." Or "Ain't nobody worried about you." It's the same thing, just a more informal way of saying it, okay? Now, we've gone over all the definitions and uses, or at least the basics of the definitions and uses of the word "ain't". Now we are going to test your English, my friend, and see how much you can actually understand when you hear real people using this word. So let's take a look at the first example.

First Example (woman): [00:07:23] "Um, this whole, you know, sort of finding compassion and common ground with your enemies thing is kind of like a political, spiritual practice for me. And I ain't the Dalai Lama."

Tony Kaizen: [00:07:37] Alright. So did you hear what she said? She said, "I ain't the Dalai Lama." Now, what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "I'm not the Dalai Lama" or "I am not the Dalai Lama." So "I am not" becomes "I ain't". And just in case you're sitting there wondering, "What is a Dalai Lama? What is that? How do you even spell that?" Well, Dalai Lama in English is spelled D-a-l-a-i, Dalai...L-a-m-a, Lama, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing that incorrectly. I don't know how you actually say that, but in standard American English we say Dalai Lama. And the way I understand it, if I'm not mistaken, this is what they call the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, just in case you were wondering. But let's move on to the next example.

Second Example (man): [00:08:30] "Well, well, that's it. I mean, why why undergo..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:32] "The mayor...mayor..."

Second Example (man): [00:08:34] "...the scrutiny and the brickbats and the disrespect and everything else? I mean, that takes a certain type of psychological makeup to, you know, want to withstand..."

Second Example (woman): [00:08:45] "It's what Sanders says really, is you need a revolution."

Second Example (man): [00:08:48] "Yeah, but you ain't getting a revolution."

Tony Kaizen: [00:08:54] Alright. So did you guys catch that one? The woman said, "You need a revolution." And the man said, "But you ain't getting a revolution. You ain't getting one." Right? So how would you say that in standard English? I would say, "You are not getting a revolution." "You are not getting a revolution." "You ain't getting a revolution, my friend." Same thing. So "you are not" becomes "you ain't." Alright, next example.

Third Example (man): [00:09:22] "And then finally, licenses and approval. So you have a license to do something that is not many people can do or an approval that is a pretty solid economic moat. Casinos, not easy to get a casino license here. Six of them in Macau. That's it. They ain't giving out anymore."

Tony Kaizen: [00:09:40] Alright. So hopefully you guys caught that. This guy is talking about...He's really talking about...Excuse me...He's talking about different businesses and he ended by talking about casinos, right? Apparently, you need a license to open a casino, and the man said, "They ain't giving out anymore." So how would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "They are not giving out anymore." "They are not" becomes "they ain't." And you might be asking yourself, "What does giving out mean?" Well, in this context, it means "to distribute", okay? So basically what he's saying is they're not distributing or they're not issuing or "giving out" more casino licenses so you cannot attain one anymore. That's the basic idea of what he was saying but the focus is on the word "ain't" so hopefully you understood that part. So let's move on to the last example.

Last Example (man): [00:10:33] "This is going really, really, really focused on money, on your relationship with money, and it teaches a system of how to manage money because the theory is when you get to the point where you're able to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, right? You manage the budget and you manage what little you have coherently, then the magic of the universe is that when we prove we can manage some, we will get more."

Tony Kaizen: [00:10:55] Alright. So in that clip, he was talking about money, managing money, and he said something like, "Once you learn how to manage your money, even if you ain't got none, even if you ain't got none..." So what does that mean? How would you say that in standard English? Well, I would say, "Even if you don't have any," because remember, we're talking about money. So once you learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none," then you will get more. That's the idea. And this is an example of a super common sentence structure, right? "Ain't got no." It's really, really common in some places here in the US, and remember, this just means "does not have" or "do not have". It's the same thing. So the idea here is that you need to learn how to manage your money, even if "you don't have any" or even if "you ain't got none", and you will receive more. Alright?

Tony Kaizen: [00:11:51] So, my friend, now, let me tell you about the linguistic characteristics of this word. And 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. Now, linguistically, "ain't" is formed by the same rule that English speakers use to form "aren't" and other contractions of auxiliary verbs like "isn't" or "won't" or "doesn't", etc.. Now linguists consider usage of the word "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 grammatically correct because it generally follows a native's word order...a native speaker's word order, I mean. And because a native speaker would recognize the meaning of that sentence, it's grammatically correct, you see?

Tony Kaizen: [00:12:40] But linguists draw a distinction, however, between grammatically "correct" and "acceptable", you see? What may be considered "grammatically correct" across many dialects may nevertheless, or may still be considered unacceptable in certain dialects or certain contexts, right? The usage of the word "ain't" is "socially unacceptable" in some situations, but it's not "grammatically incorrect". Right? Because natives actually use that word in a logical way. Their sentences follow an actual pattern. There's a real structure there that they use and understand so it's correct to them, and I should say "us", because I'm talking about us, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:13:19] Now, the usage of the word "ain't" is a continuing subject of controversy in the English language and the English education industry, if we can call it that, right? Now, "ain't" is commonly used by many native speakers in oral and informal settings, especially in certain regions or dialects of English. Now it's usage is often highly stigmatized, and it can be used by the general public as a marker of low socioeconomic status or education level, right? It's generally used or it's not used...it's generally considered nonstandard English in most dictionaries. But in my humble opinion, trying to classify people by the way they speak is an elitist's way of segregating and judging people based on something that doesn't say anything about a person's character, right?

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:04] Like there isn't a right or wrong way to speak. There isn't a high or low class way of speaking. There are simply different ways of speaking. And people from different regions speak in different ways. And just because people in my city speak differently from the people in New York City doesn't mean one of us is speaking incorrectly. Everyone in my city understands me perfectly, so I'm obviously speaking correctly. It's all subjective, which is exactly why it makes no sense to try to determine what the correct way of speaking is because it doesn't exist. If the sentence follows the typical pattern of speech that a native will use, then it's grammatically correct. If a native understands it but simply thinks you shouldn't say it, that doesn't mean it's incorrect. It means that person thinks what you said was unacceptable. So always try to remember there's a difference between those two things.

Tony Kaizen: [00:14:57] But why do I think that understanding the social aspect of this word is so important? It's because after teaching English for a few years, I met a lot of people who pride themselves on knowing things about slang, informal dialects and what they know of as "Black English". But most of them don't really understand why we say the things we say. People will hear a native say something and simply repeat it. And of course, that's normal. I'm just saying that it's important to truly understand what it is you're saying and why you are saying it. It's important to understand how a community of people will see and interpret your words and behavior when you speak a certain way or use certain words, and you don't have to care, but you should understand.

Tony Kaizen: [00:15:39] So in this particular case, with the word "ain't", you need to understand that there are a lot of elitist and snobby people who are going to look down on you for using words like "ain't" or speaking some informal dialect of English. There are people who would think you're of low class or you're uneducated or you're from the streets, or you grew up on a farm somewhere in the country. But the reality is people of all colors, classes, and ages use this word in daily conversations. It just depends on where you're from and the context of the situation. So once you understand this word and how to use it, feel free to use it in any informal conversation.

Tony Kaizen: [00:16:17] Now, another thing I want to say about the social aspect of this word is that if you want to speak an informal dialect of English or you want to use slang just like a native, you've got to 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. That's 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 just 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.

Tony Kaizen: [00:17:08] Now, if you find this episode helpful, please take the time to share it with someone that you think would appreciate it. Also, if you'd like to join a growing community of English learners from around the world and learn some real English with some real people, consider joining the Life in English community. You'll get access to our private conversation group on Discord and transcripts and vocabulary guides for all the podcast episodes to make sure you understand and internalize every single word. Alright? We're really trying to have a positive impact on the way the world learns English and with your support, we can grow our team, produce a lot more content, and help a lot more people. So for more information about how you can join the community, check the links in the description of this episode, or just visit lifeinenglish.net/community. And as always, thank you so much for your time and your attention. I really hope you enjoyed and learned from this episode. My name is Tony Kaizen and this is the Life in English podcast and I will talk to you soon. Peace!

[END OF EPISODE]

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