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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"?

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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
There ain't no rules? –  RedGrittyBrick Jun 14 '11 at 17:10
In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, Ain't I a stinker? –  MT_Head Jun 19 '11 at 21:56

3 Answers 3

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.

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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.

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

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