37

Recently I was exposed to a lot of uses of "She don't + infinitive" (3rd person singular + don't), instead of "she doesn't + infinitive" (3rd person singular + doesn't). I'm not sure if it is a mistake or just accepted usage sometimes.

I found it in a very famous songs such as:

"She don't know me" by Bon Jovi enter image description here

Also in Stan- by Eminem (in 3:04)

But she don't know you like I know you Slim, no one does
She don't know what it was like for people like us growin' up, you gotta call me man
I'll be the biggest fan you'll ever lose
Sincerely yours, Stan, P.S. we should be together too

You can find a lot more by searching in you tube "he don't" or "she don't".

63

You should understand that, in school, you will be taught a certain kind of "formal" (or "standard") English, much the same as what native English speakers are taught. This is not necessarily the same English that many people actually speak. A regional or cultural style of language that is different from the "standard" is called a vernacular.

Vernacular isn't wrong or bad English. It's just different English, although it may be associated with a particular social class, culture, or even a particular ethnic group, and it may not be appropriate to use in every situation.

"She don't" is one such example. To some people, this is perfectly normal English, and clearly it's OK to use it in music or poetry. But because it's not "correct" grammar, people who use it might be considered lower-class or uneducated. It's usually not OK to use it on a school paper, or in business, and definitely not OK to use it if you aren't familiar enough with the vernacular to make it sound natural.

Remember, there is a fine line between imitation and mockery.

Personally, I do not say "she don't" -- unless I am trying to imitate a particular vernacular that uses it. Naturally, it sounds better if you can also imitate (even exaggerate) the hallmark accent, tone, and colloquialisms used by that vernacular.

36

3d-person singular don't is quite common and unremarkable in speech communities where formal correctness is not held in particular esteem. It should not disturb you.

But it's not acceptable in communities where formal correctness is valued; and since doesn't will not mark you as a pedant or an outsider in any speech community, there is no reason why you should make any effort at all to emulate the informal use.

31

Your question is clear and concise, and warrants a clear and concise answer, without equivocation:

Is “she don't” sometimes considered correct form?

The answer to that question is:

No.

The construction she don't is never considered to be "correct form."

It may be acceptable, or part of a vernacular, or idiomatic in some communities (and employed both by those in whose dialect it is a natural utterance and by songwriters who pretend to be conversant with such dialects for financial reasons) but your question does not introduce any of these qualifications. You ask whether "she don't" is sometimes considered correct form.

The verb do is an irregular verb. While there are a multitude of idiomatic or vernacular conjugations of this (and of many other) English verbs, there is only one correct conjugation of do in the present tense, and it is:

I do
you (singular) do
he/she/it does
we do
you do
they do

Thus, the only correct negative form in the present tense with the feminine third person singular pronoun is:

She does not (doesn't)

  • It was an interesting discussion, but I think at this point it's just distracting from the answer, so it has been moved to chat. – ColleenV Nov 29 '16 at 23:07
  • Wouldn't it be appropriate in subjunctive? For example: "It is necessary that she do not tell him the truth.". – Milos Dec 15 '16 at 15:19
  • 4
    @Milos In the subjunctive, the do would properly be omitted: "It is necessary that she not tell him the truth." – P. E. Dant Jan 24 '17 at 4:04
12

What the other respondents fail to mention is that there is a whole dialect in American English (i.e., black inner-city English), that uses "don't" in the third person singular as a matter of course.

Although you can hear that, and things like it, in practically every rap or hip-hop track put down recently, and nearly every rock song since the '50s—including the one you cite—its pedigree goes back well before that. Here's a song from 1931 by Duke Ellington ("It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing") that perfectly illustrates the license that black English takes. And note that it has every right to do so.

There's more to English than sounding educated.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – snailboat Nov 5 '16 at 7:43
  • 1
    It's not really taking any license. That only makes sense if there's some standard, correct English it checked out a license from. – djechlin Nov 5 '16 at 17:54
  • I think calling this a feature of "black inner-city English" misses the mark slightly. "She don't" is also common among poor rural American whites, as reflected by its use in American country music and exemplified by this rural gun-toting Trump-supporting road worker. The common thing across English-speaking countries about grammatically-incorrect vernacular is that it is a class marker that signals the speaker's poor background. – Mark Amery Nov 6 '16 at 12:49
5

"She don't" would be vernacular and I think any English speaker understands it fine and many English speakers prefer to speak that way. However, it is not business English, and if you are a language learner I would not use it. I would not say it is "correct", i.e. it would be a mistake in any written English exam or paper.

The best way to understand how it is used is to listen to people who use it. Song lyrics are a start (but note there's a chance the songwriter just wants "don't" to fit the meter, and "doesn't" does not).

5

"She don't" is incorrect english grammar. It's true, as many have pointed out, that it's in use in many different contexts where correct grammar is unimportant. But the OP is trying to understand the language, not make value judgements. As a learner of Italian, I don't want to know about the dialects spoken by 70% of the population. I have enough trouble learning the primary language. But I do want to know when I hear things that sound wrong that they might be due to dialect influences. And I need to understand the difference.

protected by snailboat Nov 7 '16 at 11:49

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