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Melisande
12-21-2007, 07:33 AM
This is my question;

I've noticed that people say "I'm ..., aren't I?" and "If I were..."

Now, this is confusing to me, especially when writing, because my poor old brain keeps wanting to say "I'm ..., am I not?" and "If I was...".

I am still trying to learn this beautiful and interesting language, and I have no schooling whatsoever, hence my confusion.

Are there any rules about this?

andrewhollinger
12-21-2007, 08:01 AM
You are correct. The better phrase is "I'm ..., am I not?" and "If I was..."

These other usages have crept into the language because American English encourages contractions, and "amn't" doesn't fly. The language also encourages flow and sound, so we get the "I were" concoction.

Keep using the correct versions, but be prepared to overwhelmingly hear the wrong ones.

TheIT
12-21-2007, 08:41 AM
Agreed on "Am I not?", but in some situations, "If I were" can be correct. I believe "if I were" is the subjunctive form (not sure of the name), and indicates wishful thinking. For example, "If I were rich, I'd be happy."

andrewhollinger
12-21-2007, 08:59 AM
Agreed on "Am I not?", but in some situations, "If I were" can be correct. I believe "if I were" is the subjunctive form (not sure of the name), and indicates wishful thinking. For example, "If I were rich, I'd be happy."

Touché.

Flay
12-21-2007, 01:29 PM
More logical contractions for the negative 1st person might be "ain't I" or "amn't I". Neither can be used with serious intent without annoying a great many people. Use "am I not", or (who says English is a logical language?) "aren't I".

As has been said, "If I were" is another story entirely. It's the subjunctive mood. Many Brits, some Americans, & a few Canadians eschew it entirely. Whether you use it or not, try to be consistent.

Melisande
12-21-2007, 06:23 PM
Thanks you guys.

dobiwon
12-21-2007, 07:14 PM
More logical contractions for the negative 1st person might be "ain't I" or "amn't I". Neither can be used with serious intent without annoying a great many people. Use "am I not", or (who says English is a logical language?) "aren't I". I remember from 50 years ago, a teacher telling me that "ain't" is the proper contraction for "am not", so saying "ain't" isn't wrong if it's "I ain't", but is wrong as "you ain't" or "he/she/it ain't".

ColoradoGuy
12-21-2007, 07:45 PM
As has been said, "If I were" is another story entirely. It's the subjunctive mood. Many Brits, some Americans, & a few Canadians eschew it entirely. Whether you use it or not, try to be consistent.
Subjunctive is for "condition contrary to fact," as in not true. It can also be used for conditional, not for sure things, i.e. "were I to go, I would not wear that stupid hat."

reenkam
12-21-2007, 08:41 PM
The reason we don't say 'amn't' is because its two nasalized sounds next to each other, which we try to stay away from in English. (Think damn, which is pronounced without the 'n' even in damned). So, instead of saying something with 'mn' it changed to an't, which changed to ain't. So ain't is actually correct, linguistically, but colloquially it isn't. So it's better to use "am I not".

As for "If I were" as everyone has said, it's the subjunctive mood. Generally, use this after wishes and hypotheticals (IF statements). So "I wish I were" and "If I were" as well as "He wishes he were" and "If she were". There are other times we're supposed to use it, but those rules cover most instances that anyone would notice. (Remember, though...sometimes you won't say if even if it could be there, as in the sentence ColoradoGuy gave)

DeleyanLee
12-21-2007, 10:15 PM
From what I've researched, "amn't" is more of a Scottish-English tradition than anything else. Given some of the sounds that go together naturally in Gaelic, that makes sense.

My mother was a one-room school teacher before she got married, and she taught that "ain't" is a correct contraction of "am not" though my father's teachers didn't include that lesson. I've always considered it a loss for the language that a contracted form of "am not" has been stricken from common usage, personally.

Flay
12-21-2007, 10:52 PM
Amn't, ain't, an't, en't, & in't--with or without apostrophes--can all be found in written (particularly British) English from the 17th-18th C. All were commonly (but not exclusively) used with the first person singular. It might have been useful had one form been settled on as standard. Instead, they're all widely considered to be illiteracies when used outside of dialogue. It may be illogical, but logic has little to do with usage.

CoffeeBound
12-23-2007, 03:17 PM
The reason we don't say 'amn't' is because its two nasalized sounds next to each other, which we try to stay away from in English. (Think damn, which is pronounced without the 'n' even in damned). So, instead of saying something with 'mn' it changed to an't, which changed to ain't. So ain't is actually correct, linguistically, but colloquially it isn't. So it's better to use "am I not".

Thanks for the explanation on amn't. My 4-yr-old is very fond of using that word (much to her father's dismay, lol).

blacbird
12-27-2007, 11:12 AM
I am plural. Or, perhaps I should say, we are plural. I talked to me, just this evening, at some length. Unresolved issues we needed to address. Unfortunately, I got angry with me, and stalked off to the other room, leaving me all alone and desolate. So I have a glass of Glenlivet right now, and me can't have any.

caw

HeronW
12-27-2007, 02:29 PM
'If I were you' is common and sounds better than 'If I was you'. In the first does't the were work for the you, vs the second when the was works only for the I?

Shadow_Ferret
12-28-2007, 08:53 PM
I remember from 50 years ago, a teacher telling me that "ain't" is the proper contraction for "am not", so saying "ain't" isn't wrong if it's "I ain't", but is wrong as "you ain't" or "he/she/it ain't".Really? Because I was taught that "ain't" ain't a word 40-some years ago.