I've noticed many native speakers omit the verb To Be in some sentences such as ''where you from?'', ''what you on about?'', ''what you doing?'', etc. Is it standard or just a regional thing? I know speakers of African American English often omit their ''be's'', but I've seen people of all races and backgrounds do it too.

  • The phenomenon is called copula deletion or zero copula, if you want to look it up. (Copula is a fancy way of saying "the verb to be".) – stangdon Mar 29 '18 at 18:12
  • Sometimes the "to be" might not be omitted so much as it is "swallowed" in pronunciation, especially if it's the verb "are" in contraction. So "Where're you from?" sounds like "Where you from?" just because the r sound in where has completely absorbed the r sound of 're. – Canadian Yankee Mar 29 '18 at 21:56

This is atrocious English

But you're correct, it has become common in colloquial speech, especially among some subcultures. The tendency to drop the verb "to be" and its counterpart behavior, the tendency to never conjugate the verb, stem from U.S. subcultrues in the 1970s, which were derived from the "Jive" lingo from the African-American jazz culture of the 1930s and 1940s. Both behaviors are ungrammatical (unless the world today has decided to become accommodating, language is fluid).

An example of dropping the verb comes from the 70s popular TV situation comedy, "Diff'rent Strokes."

What you talkin' 'bout Willis?

An example of not conjugating the verb comes from a more recent experience. While helping a friend prepare to test for his commercial driving license, he would chant through the pre-drive test and check procedures like this:

We be looking at the tire guage depth...

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    "Ungrammatical" and "atrocious" are very loaded terms of opinion. Different dialects do things different ways. Also we be looking isn't "not conjugating the verb" any more than "Should you be wondering" is; it's an example of the invariant be. – stangdon Mar 29 '18 at 18:11
  • @stangdon, can provide a link to documentation demonstrating that these examples are grammatical and not atrocious? This site serves no purpose if such judgements are never warranted. Worse still, the invariant be is merely a title used to describe the ungrammatical use of the verb in subcultures. It is not a defintion of acceptable grammar. Or do you propose there are no longer rules of grammar, merely explanations of usage, no matter what that usage may be? – JBH Mar 29 '18 at 18:22
  • 4

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.