English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

As far as I understand, "ain't" can mean either "isn't" (ain't no sunshine) or "hasn't" (you ain't seen nothing yet).

Are there any rules when "ain't" is used? Does it have a different meaning than "isn't" or "hasn't"?

Edit: Maybe asking for rules was not the best idea. A better question would have been: when do you use "ain't" instead of "isn't"/"hasn't"?

share|improve this question
You could start here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t#Ain.27t – Unreason Jun 14 '11 at 8:18
@Unreason: thanks! – M4N Jun 14 '11 at 8:35
Ain't love grand? – Joe Blow Jun 14 '11 at 11:13
In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, Ain't I a stinker? – MT_Head Jun 19 '11 at 21:56
It's only a contraction of haven't or hasn't when have is being used as an auxiliary verb. – Peter Shor Mar 24 '12 at 10:46

Ain't is used as a regular negated form of be or have, and supposedly sometimes do:

  • I ain't no tractor. = I am not a tractor.

  • I ain't got no tractor. = I haven't got any tractor.

It's also used like there isn't, by common omission of there from there ain't.

  • Ain't no tractor here. = There isn't any tractor here.

And in case you hadn't guessed, dialects that use ain't stereotypically use negative concord as well.

share|improve this answer
It doesn't always have to be used with negative concord: "It ain't that kind of party." "I ain't sure which one I want." "Ain't that a shame." And so on. – Robusto Jun 14 '11 at 9:13
@Robusto: Of course. I was just having some fun. :P – Jon Purdy Jun 14 '11 at 20:56

I was taught that "ain't" is a contraction of "am not." Its wide misuse has caused it to be considered slang.

share|improve this answer

In response to your edit, the best time to use ain't is to catch attention or to gain emphasis.

share|improve this answer

protected by choster Feb 25 at 22:11

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.