If you check your dictionary, you will see that “Ain’t” is the short form of:
- Am not
- Is not
- Are not
- Has not
- Have not
And sometimes, in some dialects*, it can be used instead of:
- Do not
- Does not
- Did not
As you can see, “ain’t” is a really convenient word. You can say:
I ain’t tired. = I am not tired.
He ain’t tired. = He isn’t tired.
They ain’t tired. = They aren’t tired.
And according to the different Tenses of English, you can say:
I ain’t working. = I am not working.
He ain’t gonna join. = He isn’t going to join.
She ain’t arrived. = She hasn’t arrived.
We ain’t finished. = We haven’t finished.
Finally, to talk about possession or ownership, you can say:
I ain’t got money. = I haven't got money.
He ain’t got money. = He hasn't got money.
They ain’t got money. = They haven't got money.
But if you look closely, you will see that there is a short note about the usage of “Ain’t” in the dictionary. The dictionary says: “Not standard.”
What does this mean?
Well, to put it simply, this means that “Ain’t” is used in informal or casual English and it is generally viewed as a slang word.
“Ain’t” was first used around 1706. In the beginning, it was only the short form of “am not.”
And then, in the early 1800s, it began to be used as a substitute for other expressions such as “are not,” “is not,” “has not” and “have not.”
At that time, other short forms like “don’t” (do not) and “won’t” (will not) were also starting to become popular. “Don’t” and “won’t” became widely accepted in both spoken and written English. On the other hand, the use of “ain’t” was attacked by people because it didn’t have a fixed set of words for which it can be substituted.
Some people also connected the use of “ain’t” with the lower classes or the uneducated, despite the fact that in the past “ain’t” was also used by the upper classes.
The word “ain’t” has been on the hot seat of the English language for a long time now. Anyway, regardless of all the negative opinion against “ain’t,” to this day this word continues to enjoy wide use in spoken English.
Tag Questions and Ain’t
First, let’s have a quick lesson on Tag Questions.
Take a look:
He is ok, ____?
He isn’t angry, ____?
If you're already familiar with Tag Questions, you might know that the rule is “positive + negative” and “negative + positive.” Like this:
He is ok, isn’t he?
He isn’t angry, is he?
Try this one:
They like it, ____?
They don’t like it, ___?
Here are the answers:
They like it, don’t they?
They don’t like it, do they?
Now, how about this?
I am not late, ___?
I am late, ___?
The first one is easy:
I am not late, am I?
But the second one is difficult:
I am late, ___?
Here are some possible answers:
I am late, amn’t I?
= this is very rare and awkward in English
I am late, am I not?
= this has a formal tone
I am late, aren’t I?
= some people consider this wrong grammar
Historically, “ain’t” was supposed to be the short form of “am not.” But because “ain’t” was not socially accepted, one gap was left among the short forms of English.
“I’m not” doesn’t have a question form except “ain’t I?”
Finally, instead of "ain't I," we use "aren't I?"
Like in our second example above,
I am late, aren’t I? = Ok
Even though some people consider this wrong grammar, you can still use this. In fact, many grammar books recommend this.
You can use “ain’t” in casual spoken English. Aside from this, “ain’t” is also used in some set, idiomatic expressions.
In cases such as these, “ain’t” cannot be replaced with any other expression.
Ain’t it the truth!
That just ain’t so!
She ain’t what she used to be.
It ain’t funny.
Say it ain’t so.
You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That ain’t hay!
Two out of three ain’t bad.
Hope You Learned Something!