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How common is it for native English speakers to actively replace the past tense 'did' with the past participle 'done'? I used to think it was only really done in rather vulgar dialects, but I have increasingly heard this usage now by people who speak otherwise normal Received Pronunciation, or Standard American English:

I done the report. You done it yesterday. He done it already.

I can't help but interpret this replacement of 'did' as sounding somehow uneducated, but is it becoming a standard in some dialects? Is the word 'did' dying out? And do these speakers use the 'done' replacement when switching the word order around in a question; for example, would they say:

Done you do it today?

... or even:

Done you it today?

... instead of:

Did you do it today?

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Done is not perfect tense, it's a Past Participle. –  Alenanno Aug 14 '11 at 12:16
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Using done for did is definitely a hallmark of uneducated dialects of English, notably but not limited to rural Southern and Western American. But I have never heard anyone use that as "Done you do it today?" or "Done you it today?"

Nevertheless, there are some rather twisted and arcane constructions on record using done. Take for example the "crows" scene from Disney's 1941 movie Dumbo, a rather racist (cf. Jim Crow, a pejorative term for Negro) depiction of African-American dialect (which would have been an extension of the Southern American dialect). One of the lines in the song the crows sing (about 3:45 in the clip) is

Well I be done seen about everything
When I see an elephant fly.

That said, this depiction is also meant to represent uneducated speech.

Supplement:

You will sometimes hear this doubled up with did for emphasis:

I done did it.

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+1: Nice answer, although I wouldn't count on the authenticity of Disney's version of AAVE. –  Peter Shor Aug 14 '11 at 12:25
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In UK English using "done" like this definitely sounds childish or uneducated; in my opinion your comment on "vulgar dialects" is about right. I don't know if it's more prevalent in different regions, but I do hear it quite a lot in the north-east and it always sounds jarring.

I would strongly recommend sticking with

I did the report. You did it yesterday. He did it already.

As to your other questions, even those who do use done in this way would NOT say:

Done you do it today?

or

Done you it today?

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The NOAD reports that done is informally used:

  • as nonstandard past tense of do: "I done a lot of rodeoin'."
  • with a standard past tense verb to indicate absoluteness or completion: "I done told you to zipper your lips."

This means it is common enough to be considered by a dictionary.

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