aren’t I/am I not

The expression aren’t I is often used in place of am I not, particularly in conversational speech.

Example 1 (incorrect usage): I’m going with you on vacation, aren’t I?

Although the use of this phrase is widespread, it is atrocious English that could be considered equivalent to you is, a phrase which most educated people abhor (although for some reason, these same people have no qualms about saying aren’t I). The correct form of the sentence in Example 1 is as follows:

Example 2 (correct usage): I’m going with you on vacation, am I not?

If you read this sentence aloud, it probably sounds awkward and formal, perhaps even a bit hoity-toity. However, it is correct English. If the phrase aren’t I is converted from a question to a statement, I aren’t, it becomes obvious that it is indeed grammatically incorrect.

Posted in Grammar.

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  1. Charan, India says:

    “Am I not” is a strong phrase and is supposed to be used only by very powerful or highly respected people. It reflects the authority and self esteem of the person using it. You need to be absolutely sure that the opposite person is far below in status when you use this term.
    Else it is an arrogant and impolite way of conversing.

    The only people who can use “Am I not” phrase without contemplation are:
    1. Pope of Rome
    2. President of United States
    3. Queen of the British Royal Family

    For all others, you need to be very judicious when using this phrase.
    “Aren’t I” is a safe and polite way of communicating.

    Grammatically, “Am I not” is the correct phrase
    whereas “Aren’t I” is an accepted way of conversing.


  2. Chris says:

    Well iyz iz sayin dat , proper English should be spoken as clearly and as naturally as possible lest, diz lang. iz gonna go lyke titz up yo; logical scientifically spoken responses will be rendered unreadable to the masses creating a large divide between the population, den itz iz gonna lyke mess up all dat werk weez ‘as dun 2 , remove stereotyping and labeling of others due to popular trends and cultural behaviour . ALSO our culture would become looked upon as sloppy, anz dis-res-pek-tful yo

  3. gene says:

    ZAT YOU BRO?.,;’/><

  4. Ron Powers says:

    We’s be thinkin he don’t know nuttin bout inglish. Why does we need grammer? Evrybody know what I be sayin, so we doesn’t need no rules.

  5. Rob Devereux says:

    The assertion that “aren’t I” is “atrocious English” shows that the writer knows nothing about language, linguistics or language change and development. All languages change over time and this process never stops. That’s why we say “you are” and not “thou art”; that’s why “nice” now means “pleasant” rather than “stupid” or “clumsy”. And we no longer say things like, “Yesterday is he to the forest gone.” Language changes and usage dictates how and when today’s slang will become “standard”.

    • Earl Atta-Fynn says:

      Thank you Rob for pointing that out. In addition I would like to add that trying to impart a moral sense to language with judgments such as “atrocious English” is socially elitist and discriminatory. The term “correct grammar” is nothing but a euphemism for the language spoken by social elites (largely educated whites) which in and of itself serves no other purpose apart from its role as a social signal for wealth, status and education.

      “Educated” people can abhor the usage of “you is” and “aren’t I” as much as they want, it doesn’t make it wrong English, the only thing that renders language wrong is if it is unintelligible to speakers of the same dialect.

      Please step off your pedestal.

      • Rob Devereux says:

        I couldn’t agree more, Earl – and I’ll use your last sentence (with acknowledgement) in future discussions … or “arguments”, to use the technical term!

        As you’ll know, what is considered to be the “correct” form of a language is merely the dialect that is perceived as having the most clout; in the case of English, this was the East Midlands dialect. If my county of Suffolk had been the power base of the ruling class, today’s royals and other “nobs” would be speaking like me (i.e., in what is considered to be a country bumpkin vernacular). Conversely, those speaking what we in Britain now call “The queen’s English” or “BBC English” would be looked on as peasants. I think the aphorism that “a language is a dialect with an army” is spot on.

      • gene says: