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The other day I saw the following (written) phrase being used in an American TV series episode:

"Why aren't I on the list?"

Even though I know this "sounds right" (I'm a relatively fluent, although not native, English speaker), this struck me as weird, since "am" is the normal form for "I" in all/most other situations ("I am", "you are", "he/she/it is" etc), i.e. without abbreviation being used, the correct phrasing would be "Why am I not on the list" (rather than "Why are I not on the list").

So, what is the origin of this strange special case, and are there also other similar ones like it in the English language (i.e. where the abbreviated word is at the same time replaced by a completely OTHER word or word form, effectively not just being abbreviated, but rather also substituted at the same time)?

marked as duplicate by Robusto, choster, Kris, Scott, tchrist Dec 10 '18 at 0:42

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    I don't think this is really a duplicate. That question doesn't ask about the origin of aren't I, only whether it's acceptable. Only one answer there addresses origin at all, and it merely quotes a brief passage from Wikipedia. It seems likely that this question could generate more comprehensive answers. – 1006a Dec 5 '18 at 5:17
  • "likely that this question could generate more comprehensive answers" provided it's backed by the asker's own homework. – Kris Dec 5 '18 at 5:52
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    I agree with @1006a and I think the New Contributor has done all that might be expected. +1. This is interesting. – Nigel J Dec 5 '18 at 8:50

For first person singular pronoun, I, there is no contraction with the verb to be + not. (“Amn’t” is not a word in English.) Therefore, in casual speech and writing, English speakers use aren’t, with exception of formal occasions.

  • This answer is terribly wrong. There is nothing “subjunctive” going on here at any level whatsoever. – tchrist Dec 10 '18 at 0:42

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