(grammar question) - aren't I

English translation: Aren't I? (only accpetable for question tags)

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:aren't I? (correct or incorrect)
English translation:Aren't I? (only accpetable for question tags)
Entered by: xxxEDLING
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07:36 Jan 31, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
/ english grammar
English term or phrase: (grammar question) - aren't I
i've heard/read things like 'oh, why arent' i a movie star' - but is it correct to say/write so? aren't = are not, and the pronoun 'i' is definetly not plural... and if it's not correct - what would be the right way of saying 'oh why aren't i a movie star'? :) 'why am i not'?
zmejka
Local time: 02:31
Aren't I? - only for question tags
Explanation:
that's what Michael Swan says in Practical English Usage, OUP, 1995.

The question should be asked: Why am I not a movie star?

However, it is quite common hearing the sentence as you mentioned above.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-01-31 09:56:32 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Question:

Why can we use \"aren\'t I\" in a tag, but not in any other utterance in the first person?

Answer:

You mean why can\'t we say \"I are,\" right?

The logical tag would be \"amn\'t I,\" since we say \"I am,\" not \"I are.\" However, in Southern British English both
\"amn\'t I\" and \"aren\'t I\" would be pronounced the same--as \"an\'t I.\" The /m/ and /r/ would both delete for syllable
structure simplification. \"Amn\'t I,\" spoken as \"an\'t,\" was reinterpreted as \"aren\'t I\" by most American and British
speakers early in the twentieth century. The natural development of \"amn\'t I\" to \"an\'t I\" to \"ain\'t I\" has been
rejected in the last stage. So, we are left with a logical absurdity, \"aren\'t I,\" to avoid the \"ear splitting\" \"ain\'t I.\"
By the way, many hardline prescriptivists would argue that you are wrong to say, and certainly wrong to write,
\"aren\'t I,\" unless you are representing in writing naturalistic dialogue. These hardline critics would prefer that you
say and write \"am I not,\" avoiding the contraction and the natural progression of phonological change altogether.

********************************************

English teachers also need to distinguish between grammatical errors and usage errors. Usage is a \"social\" issue: certain grammatical constructions or word uses are appropriate in one context but not another. It is fine and grammatical for someone to say \"She be working,\" or \"Me and him went fishing\" or \"Ain\'t I right?\" or \"He did it hisself,\" when sitting around the dinner table at home, assuming that these constructions are part of the person\'s dialect. But those expressions can be quite inappropriate in certain formal contexts, even if they represent a more consistent grammar than what is appropriate (be working is a consistently applied, durative form; ain\'t I may be more \"correct\" than aren\'t I, since the general rule for tag questions requires agreement between the verb and pronoun, and are doesn\'t agree with I; hisself is consistent with the possessive forms myself, yourself, ourselves, but formal usage calls for the \"ungrammatical\" object forms himself and themselves in the third person).


***************************************

Language change inevitably leads to variation, and variation within a speech community often leads to social valuation of particular features as \'good\' or \'bad\'. \'Good\' variants are typically believed to be characterized by logical superiority or venerability, or both; \'bad\' variants must then be illogical and/or recent inventions by the vulgar.

But neither logic nor great age plays a significant role in the labeling of variants. Consider \'ain\'t\', which may be the English word most despised by schoolteachers and pundits. Far from being illogical or recent, \'ain\'t\' is a legitimate phonological descendant of \'amn\'t\', which was the original contraction of \'am not\'. It isn\'t clear how \'ain\'t\' fell into disrepute, but once there, it left an awkward gap in the system of negative contractions: We have \"You\'re going, aren\'t you?\", \"She\'s going, isn\'t she?\", and so on, but surely no real person actually says \"I\'m going, am I not?\". Instead, people say \"I\'m going, aren\'t I?\", in part because they have been taught to avoid \'ain\'t\' like the plague; and here logic shudders, because while \"You are going, She is going,\" etc., are fine, \"I are going\" is impossible for native speakers of English. The point of this example is not to urge rehabilitation of ain\'t\'--legislating language change is generally a losing proposition--but to illustrate the linguistically arbrary nature of social valuation of the results of language change.


Selected response from:

xxxEDLING
Grading comment
Graded automatically based on peer agreement. KudoZ.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +6Normal usage
Refugio
3 +7Aren't I? - only for question tags
xxxEDLING
5 +3It is the normal spoken form
Chris Rowson
5Why am I not a film star?
Jamiewalke
4 -4"Am I not " is more conversational.
Shog Imas


  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +7
Aren't I? - only for question tags


Explanation:
that's what Michael Swan says in Practical English Usage, OUP, 1995.

The question should be asked: Why am I not a movie star?

However, it is quite common hearing the sentence as you mentioned above.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-01-31 09:56:32 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Question:

Why can we use \"aren\'t I\" in a tag, but not in any other utterance in the first person?

Answer:

You mean why can\'t we say \"I are,\" right?

The logical tag would be \"amn\'t I,\" since we say \"I am,\" not \"I are.\" However, in Southern British English both
\"amn\'t I\" and \"aren\'t I\" would be pronounced the same--as \"an\'t I.\" The /m/ and /r/ would both delete for syllable
structure simplification. \"Amn\'t I,\" spoken as \"an\'t,\" was reinterpreted as \"aren\'t I\" by most American and British
speakers early in the twentieth century. The natural development of \"amn\'t I\" to \"an\'t I\" to \"ain\'t I\" has been
rejected in the last stage. So, we are left with a logical absurdity, \"aren\'t I,\" to avoid the \"ear splitting\" \"ain\'t I.\"
By the way, many hardline prescriptivists would argue that you are wrong to say, and certainly wrong to write,
\"aren\'t I,\" unless you are representing in writing naturalistic dialogue. These hardline critics would prefer that you
say and write \"am I not,\" avoiding the contraction and the natural progression of phonological change altogether.

********************************************

English teachers also need to distinguish between grammatical errors and usage errors. Usage is a \"social\" issue: certain grammatical constructions or word uses are appropriate in one context but not another. It is fine and grammatical for someone to say \"She be working,\" or \"Me and him went fishing\" or \"Ain\'t I right?\" or \"He did it hisself,\" when sitting around the dinner table at home, assuming that these constructions are part of the person\'s dialect. But those expressions can be quite inappropriate in certain formal contexts, even if they represent a more consistent grammar than what is appropriate (be working is a consistently applied, durative form; ain\'t I may be more \"correct\" than aren\'t I, since the general rule for tag questions requires agreement between the verb and pronoun, and are doesn\'t agree with I; hisself is consistent with the possessive forms myself, yourself, ourselves, but formal usage calls for the \"ungrammatical\" object forms himself and themselves in the third person).


***************************************

Language change inevitably leads to variation, and variation within a speech community often leads to social valuation of particular features as \'good\' or \'bad\'. \'Good\' variants are typically believed to be characterized by logical superiority or venerability, or both; \'bad\' variants must then be illogical and/or recent inventions by the vulgar.

But neither logic nor great age plays a significant role in the labeling of variants. Consider \'ain\'t\', which may be the English word most despised by schoolteachers and pundits. Far from being illogical or recent, \'ain\'t\' is a legitimate phonological descendant of \'amn\'t\', which was the original contraction of \'am not\'. It isn\'t clear how \'ain\'t\' fell into disrepute, but once there, it left an awkward gap in the system of negative contractions: We have \"You\'re going, aren\'t you?\", \"She\'s going, isn\'t she?\", and so on, but surely no real person actually says \"I\'m going, am I not?\". Instead, people say \"I\'m going, aren\'t I?\", in part because they have been taught to avoid \'ain\'t\' like the plague; and here logic shudders, because while \"You are going, She is going,\" etc., are fine, \"I are going\" is impossible for native speakers of English. The point of this example is not to urge rehabilitation of ain\'t\'--legislating language change is generally a losing proposition--but to illustrate the linguistically arbrary nature of social valuation of the results of language change.




xxxEDLING
PRO pts in pair: 14
Grading comment
Graded automatically based on peer agreement. KudoZ.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Clair@Lexeme: yes, only for tags is what I would have said - glad to hear Mr Swan agrees with me !! :)
5 mins
  -> Thanks

agree  Domenica Grangiotti: agree, since amn't does not exist, whenever you want to use the contraction, you have to you aren't I
6 mins
  -> Thanks

agree  Yelena.
1 hr
  -> Thanks

agree  Fuad Yahya
1 hr
  -> Thanks

agree  John Bowden: Yes, it's normal usage - there's rarely any point in asking why any language isn't 100% "logical"!
3 hrs
  -> Thanks

agree  Jamiewalke: ain't I is, although common, considered to be incorrect even by the uneducated.
12 hrs
  -> Thanks

agree  Tanja Abramovic
22 hrs
  -> Thanks

neutral  Chris Rowson: According to comments on my proposal, Swan´s book does not say that "Aren´t I" is for question tags only, and in fact says that it is the normal form.
1 day 21 hrs
  -> Swan does not say it can be used in any other way.
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26 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +6
Normal usage


Explanation:
See discussion at
http://www.proz.com/?sp=h&id=324140&keyword=aren\'t I

It is used for questions such as:

Aren't I going to get any dessert? (not just tags at end)

Refugio
Local time: 16:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 485

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Chris Rowson
17 mins
  -> Thanks Chris

agree  jerrie: Why aren't I thin? Why aren't I a millionaire? Aren't I pretty?
36 mins
  -> Thanks Jerrie

agree  Sarah Ponting
42 mins
  -> Thanks Sarah

agree  Gayle Wallimann: Do look at the link above, it's very interesting. Nikki gave some other very iteresting links on it, too.
49 mins
  -> Yes, it is interesting, and I know that ain't I was once acceptable.

agree  Kardi Kho: yep, not only for question tags; it is used for negative questions as well. aren't I clever? ;)
2 hrs
  -> Thanks K

agree  John Bowden: Yes, it's natural usage- there's rarely any point in asking why any language isn't 100% "logical"!
3 hrs
  -> So true, thanks, John

disagree  Jamiewalke: It is neither common nor correct in Britain.
13 hrs
  -> Tsk, tsk. We are so non-u over here in the colonies. Glad to know someone is minding the store on your side of the pond.

agree  Tanja Abramovic: I'm not a native speaker, however after checking "Cambridge International Dictionary of English", I saw that you were right.
22 hrs
  -> Thank you, Olyx
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36 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
It is the normal spoken form


Explanation:
This is the normal spoken form. To say that it should be asked "Why am I not a movie star?" seems to me ridiculous. I was using this form before I could even read - was that "wrong"? Well people can call it wrong if they like, but the fact is that most English people speak like this.

THe form "Why am I not a movie star?", when spoken, is either very pretentious or extremely formal.

Writing is, of course, another matter. Then, if speech is being represented we would normally use the spoken form with "aren´t", but if someone writing a piece of prose poses the question "Why am I not ... " this is only moderately formal.

Exactly why we use "aren´t" rather than "amn´´t" I am not sure. The "amn´t" form is used in some dialects, and was probably more common in previous centuries. I think it comes from the awkwardness of pronouncing the "n" after the "m".

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-01-31 12:50:11 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Reading the question again, I see that the question is \"what is correct?\"

Well, of course, I haven´t the faintest idea. Like most English and Americans, I don´t read books about the language, I just speak and write it.

If you go to England or America you will hear people using \"Aren´t I ... \" all the time. Or you can just look at the native speaker comments to Ruth´s answer. But it seems we are all \"wrong\" because some Oxford professor has written a book saying the question should be asked as \"Am I not ...\".

But if you don´t want to sound silly, then say \"Aren´t I ...\". In writing, use \"Am I not ...\" for more formal and \"Aren´t I ...\" for less formal.

Chris Rowson
Local time: 01:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 243

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sarah Ponting
33 mins

agree  Refugio: Right, Why am I not a movie star? sounds ridiculous.
7 hrs
  -> I guess you could make it work, if you have blonde curls to toss, long eyelashes to flutter. And a good dramatic sniff to follow it with.

disagree  Jamiewalke: Totally disagree. I would never say 'aren't I' - to me this sounds extremely americanised English. I do not consider it pretentious to say 'Why am I not a movie star?', in fact I'm 100% sure that most of my friends and family would say this.
11 hrs
  -> I´m trying to guess your background, but can´t. When I grew up (Oxford area, middle-class, 50s/early 60s, classical education) there was no breath of American taint, but we all said "Aren´t I ...".

agree  Tanja Abramovic: Absolutely. I wrongly agreed with Edling without checking Michael Swan' s "Practical English Usage" first (OUP,1987): "(59) AREN'T I? This is the normal first-person form of BE in negative questions, in British English. e.g. Aren' t I clever?" /sic./
22 hrs
  -> Interesting - EDLING is quoting the 1995 version of the same book as saying this is wrong.

agree  Kardi Kho: No Chris, the second edition (1995) doesn't say that aren't I is only for questiion tags (as quoted by EDLING). It SAYS: 'The question tag for I am is aren't I'.
1 day 17 hrs
  -> Timeo Danaos et libros citentes
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38 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): -4
"Am I not " is more conversational.


Explanation:
Aren't I is more grammatical, and it's getting replaced by am I not.

Shog Imas
Canada
Local time: 19:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  Gayle Wallimann: On the contrary, am I not is more grammatical and it's usually replaced by aren't I.
30 mins

agree  Sarah Ponting: agree with Gayle - you've got it the wrong way round
31 mins

disagree  Steffen Pollex: The other way around
1 hr

disagree  John Bowden: Agree with Gayle, Sarah & Steffen
2 hrs

disagree  Refugio: The other way around
7 hrs

disagree  Tanja Abramovic: The other way round.
22 hrs
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Why am I not a film star?


Explanation:
In British English, you would rarely hear anyone say 'aren't I', and it would certainly not be written. If it were written in order to convey a particular manner of speaking, one might automatically assume that the character be American.

The British spoken equivalent would be 'ain't I' - which, although an integral part of many particular accents/dialects (cockney for example) is considered incorrect even by the least linguistically blessed.

'Why am I not a movie star?' sounds neither ridiculous nor pretentious in British english. It is the gramatically correct and most commonly used way of conveying this sentiment.

Jamiewalke
Local time: 00:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Refugio: The fact that the asker said 'movie star' rather than 'film star' would seem to indicate that the question applies to US usage.
5 hrs

neutral  Chris Rowson: My experience of England is different.
7 hrs
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