Dictionaries say ain't is a contracted form of am not, is not, are not, has not, or have not.

The Cambridge Dictionary gives the following example sentences as well.

  1. He ain't going.

  2. "Can I have a cigarette?" "I ain't got none left."

  3. I ain't done nothing wrong.

  4. Lend me a fiver - I ain't got no money right now.

Example sentences 2-4 have negative words none, nothing, no respectively in them, even though ain't is already there to make them negative. Why this double negative ?

Isn't the sentence 1 negative without another negative word in it?

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How is double negation interpreted in English? Nov 22 '19 at 13:35
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    2, 3, and 4 are colloquialisms which taken literally mean the opposite of what is actually meant. This double usage is meant to reinforce the negative, not negate it. Language isn't always logical, I'm afraid. Nov 22 '19 at 13:36
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    Example #1 is "standard" logic (it's just the use of a contracted form that's "colloquial"). The others are examples of highly informal / non-standard "double negation" - a stereotypically "uneducated" informal usage whereby the two negatives convey emphasis (they don't "cancel each other out", as in mathematical notation). Nov 22 '19 at 13:41
  • @FumbleFingers +1; Thanks. So, it's only a matter of emphasizing the intention. After all, its usage is non-standard and slangy. Nov 22 '19 at 13:50
  • The average speaker likely to come out with I ain't done nothing wrong probably wouldn't think that was a particularly "emphatic" way of expressing himself (true emphasis for such speakers would probably involve adding a few coarse expletives! :) Just think of it as "The way some uneducated Anglophones speak", accept the superficially illogical intended meaning, and avoid copying it yourself. Nov 22 '19 at 13:57

"Ain't" is generally considered sub-standard English. Those who generally use sub-standard English are unlikely to worry about the proper use of double negatives. For that small minority who are well versed in received English but use "ain't" as a contraction for "am not," they would be very unlikely to say "I ain't got none" because the proper auxiliary is "haven't" and the double negative is not proper.

In short, to avoid being thought ignorant or pretentious, avoid "ain't."

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