I'm writing my thesis and I have a problem analysing this sentence:

"Ain't got no use for no coal company" (Grisham, 2014: 157).

I know there's no subject - is it therefore an ellipsis? I don't think so... What is the noun that is missing? If a context would help, here it is:

"Any idea what the land is worth?"

Mrs. Crump crunched her dentures and said, "A lot more than anybody knows. You see, the coal company came out last year and tried to buy the land, been trying for some time, but I ran 'em off again. Ain't selling to no coal company, no ma'am. They're blasting away not far from my land, taking down Cat Mountain, and it's a real shame. Ain't got no use for no coal company."

Carter and McCarthy (2006) provided me with terms such as multiple negation and ain't as a negative contraction

  • 4
    Yes, ellipsis. I ain't selling to no coal company...I ain't got no use for no coal company. (I have no intention of selling my land to a coal company. I want to have nothing to do with a coal company.)
    – TimR
    Mar 26, 2016 at 19:03
  • 1
    @Tim Romano: Erm... I'll take that as a no, then. Or should that be a no, No, No! NO! Mar 26, 2016 at 19:17
  • 6
    It’s vernacular for, “[I] haven’t got any use for a coal company.”.
    – Jim
    Mar 26, 2016 at 20:23
  • 1
    What is your thesis on?
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2016 at 20:53
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: Mrs Crump ain't never had no money, and she don't want none of their money, and she ain't paid no coal company no nevermind.
    – TimR
    Mar 26, 2016 at 21:48

2 Answers 2

  • Ain't got no use for no coal company

This sentence has been done several things to.

The first thing is removing the subject "I" by Conversational Deletion.

The second thing is using idiomatic got to mean have.

The third thing is using ain't (instead of haven't) as a negative of got in this sense.
(actually, that's two things - ain't is dialectal, and be is the wrong auxiliary verb anyway)

The fourth thing is applying Negative Concord instead of Negative Polarity.
That means using extra, non-cancellable negatives to emphasize negation, instead of NPIs like any.

Many dialects of American English, including AAVE, use ain't with got, and use negative concord for emphasis. So it's grammatical, but it's not standard. It's local, and therefore more heartfelt.

  • 2
    This sentence has been done several things to. Was that an attempt at some sort of vernacular?
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 27, 2016 at 2:32
  • Merely treating a VP with an object and a preposition as a transitive V undergoing Passive. Mar 27, 2016 at 11:37
  • 2
    People have been hanged for less (assuming 'Sherlock' is a reality series). Oct 9, 2020 at 15:58
  • The noun phrase reality series is a wonderful oxymoron I hadn't considered before. Thanks. Oct 9, 2020 at 19:26

The use of "no use for no coal company" is a classic example of a double negative resulting from a attempt to be emphatic.

The subject is an implied "I", and a more grammatical version would be, "I haven't any use for the coal company.", since only a single coal company has been showing interest in her land. A more emphatic and general version, reflecting her disdain for coal mining in general would be "I haven't any use for any coal company".

Well, actually it might be considered grammatical, since it's actually a triple negative, rather than a double negative, and so the negative overall meaning is preserved.

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.