AEE 1184: Is Ain’t Always the Wrong Word to Use?

Have you heard people use the word “ain’t” in everyday English conversation?

You may wonder if this is acceptable, since you’ve heard us say that this is not an appropriate word.

Is there ever a good time to use “ain’t” in English?

We wanted to revisit this question because we have a great question from a listener.

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Hello Lindsay,

I love your podcast and I’m planning to get pregnant soon so I love hearing Michelle’s stories about her newborn–big congrats to Michelle! I think I heard at one point on your podcast that ain’t is not a good expression. However a lot of my native friends use it often in their text messages.

They may send me a text that says something like “ain’t that the truth”. This is confusing to me because I thought that this was a bad or incorrect expression to use.

Can you help me to understand this phrase and when or if it’s okay to use?

Thank you so much,

Catalina Perea Buitrago

Looking At This Type of Expression

So in our previous episode about ain’t, we said that ‘ain’t’ really isn’t a good word to use.

We said there are expressions with ain’t and also a lot of songs that use it, but overall it doesn’t sound professional.

It sounds like our listener has friends who use this phrase- this does NOT mean they are uneducated.

It could be a matter of where they are from, their upbringing as we discussed in our episode about nuance in English.

It can also showcase personality because it’s a sort of slang that can be fun and playful.

In this situation however, you might see ain’t used as part of a commonly used phrase like “ain’t’ that the truth!”

This is another phrase that shows that there are in fact exceptions to the rule.

Breaking Down A Common But Confusing Phrase

We told you not to use it, but there are certain phrases which can showcase a fun and gutsy personality.

It’s not proper English so to speak, but it does fit into certain phrases that you may use on a daily basis.

These phrases are ones that you may hear and like to try using to really speak like the natives.

  • “Ain’t that the truth” : This is a saying that you would say in an exaggerated or slightly sarcastic way. It means that you agree with the person totally. It means that you are on the same side or that you are accentuating that point. “I really need to wear bug spay tonight. Ain’t that the truth, I always get mosquito bites at this time of year!”
  • “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” : This is a conversational phrase that means you don’t want to change something if it’s working. There’s no reason to change anything up if it’s working just fine. That’s what this phrase means, and it’s universally known. “You could try to change the schedule, but if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it!”
  • “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” : This means that the best is yet to come. This is a common phrase to say that you have more to come or that things will get even better than they are right now. It means that there are good things coming ahead. “I can’t believe you ran that mile in 8 minutes. Oh yeah, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
  • “It ain’t over til it’s over” (or until the fat lady sings): It means that even if something seems like it is over there can always be a change. You might think that things are behind you, but there may very well be more to come. “I’m not going to win that award, I just know it. Oh it ain’t over until it’s over!”

These phrases show that using the word “ain’t” can sometimes have its place.

This is all part of a common lingo or slang that you will hear natives use–try it out for yourself!

Takeaway

“Ain’t” is usually not a good word to say in general.

There are however always exceptions to the rule, particularly when it comes to common phrases.

As you can see, there are instances in everyday conversations when the word “ain’t” may have a place–just be sure not to make it part of your regular vocabulary.

We aren’t going back on the other episode, but there are phrases that you can throw in here and there to add some spunk to your English!

If you have any questions, please put them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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