I often hear in English conversation or movies the contraction "ain't" (for "isn't"), but I am more surprised to see it in writing (and I am not referring to a novel, where I can understand its usage: convey common oral expressions in a text)

See this question (on a technical forum) for instance:

There ain’t ListBox.SelectionMode=“None”, is there another way to disable selection in a listbox?

Is it appropriate in that context (formal written technical question)?

  • 8
    I think that is an inappropriate use of ain't since it doesn't add any value to the sentence but rather makes you wonder why he used it in a context in which one expects a higher register of correct written language. A more appropriate use would be to e.g. express stubbornness, e.g. "that dog just ain't gonna budge, is he?" Commented Aug 7, 2010 at 23:36
  • 1
    The simple answer is in that context it is not appropriate.
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 19:44
  • Of course, one of the most famous lyrics from the most erudite America lyricist of the 20th century uses it: TEXT OF THAT
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


"Ain't" is generally pretty stigmatized; it is widely used in African American Vernacular English and Southern English. If someone uses it in a more formal context, it is likely that they want to convey a casual or insouciant attitude. However, any native English speaker knows what it means, so there should be no issue in terms of communication. On the other hand you might justify not using it on the grounds that it might give non-native speakers some trouble.

  • 2
    Plus, it was originally the contraction for "am not," so even if someone insists it's not obsolete, it still can't replace "isn't."
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 7:28
  • 1
    It's always made me awfully said that amn't isn't a word, and that I can't use ain't either.
    – Charlie
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 16:16
  • @itrekkie: Awfully "said?" Yes, it is quite depursing. ;-o Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 22:03
  • 6
    @kitukwfyer: The original words making up the contraction don't prove anything about grammaticality or correctness though. As one example, just look at the fact that we happily use the construction "aren't I" in place of "am I not", and this is standard.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Charlie Wonderful news: "amn't" is a word. It is accepted by both Oxford Living Dictionary and Merriam Webster, although The Collins Dictionary labels it informal, But it is a contraction of "am not." If you object to using "ain't" to mean" is not", why don't you object to using "aren't" to mean "am not?' I'm right aren't I, you don't object to using aren't as a contraction of am not? The word "amn't" is used chiefly in Ireland and Scotland, but as you observe there is a need for this word, and I hope its use will spread.
    – Airymouse
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 3:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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