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. Very interesting discussion on the original and development of I am and Am I Not. (my own favourite way of expressing this is “Amn’t I?” I’ve expressed it this way since 1st year in primary school and was never corrected. I knew from 1st year in primary school that Aren’t I was incorrect.
    Aren’t you is correct of course, as it’s plural.

    I come from Glasgow, Scotland where some lesser educated individuals express “I am” as (phonetic) “Am ur” (virtually, “I am are”) the negative of this is “Am urny” (virtually, “I am are not”)

    Looking forward to welcoming you to Glasgow then in the near future.

  2. Hana says:

    After reading you guys opinions I’ve seen that there are many problems in English we’ll have to deal with……….T_T

  3. veronica says:

    Mira ya para esto de saber ingles casi nop l entiendo pero creo k es nesesario saber todo lo de uso correcto felisidades x la pagina <3 <3 šŸ˜›

  4. Xavier says:

    You are not the ones who wrote the bible. Therefore, you can’t make any modifications.

    Aren’t I is commonly and strongly recommended on TAG QUESTIONS.
    So it’s a must to follow that rule.

    You write: I am right. Aren’t I?
    Since the other person will answer: Yes, you are. OR, No, you are not.

    • Larry says:

      To which bible do you refer when you claim ‘It is what it is?’

      The Greek original? The ubiquitous-for-centuries Latin? The German or British English of the Reformation? King James?

      Just to name a few.

      Which is IT?

  5. charin .w says:

    That was an interesting subject, I liked it.
    am I not
    arn’t I or ain’t
    I’m still learning….. OLOLOLO
    I like the way it sounded. I’m going with you on vacation.Am I not?

  6. JJM says:

    Along with that poor old Rodney Dangerfield of contractions “ain’t”, “aren’t” arose as a more manageable alternative to the clumsy alliteration of “amn’t I”.

    “Aren’t I” is perfectly good English so don’t fight the problem and just accept it.

    The people have (quite literally) spoken!

  7. Aned says:

    There is no explanation for using “Aren’t”; just the “Common use” is not enough.

    Why use “Aren’t I” when there is already a proper form.

    How can anyone explain why “Aren’t I” is correct?

    What is the justificacion for its usage?

    I don’t believe that just because a group of stubborn writers insisted on making it “formal” and decided to follow an error is enough to stamp it as “Proper English.”

  8. Daniel says:

    I don’t think “aren’t I?” is incorrect. As I’m an English student, I’ve seen this structure in many coursebooks (and it’s regarded as grammatically correct).

    I agree with other users that “am I not?” is slightly formal and non-standard.

    Finally your blog is very useful and interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write your entries.

    • terry says:

      I strongly agree with you. Many coursebooks do say that the appropriate tag is aren’t I in colloquial spoken language.
      Am I not is also mention as a correct formal way of using it.

  9. detsouli says:

    It’s a rich topic . In my viewpoint , “aren’t” was created to make social differebces hence dialect communities .When we hear ‘ain’t I” the connotation has a tendency belonging to the poor social rank.

  10. someone says:

    According to “Michael Swan” in the Practical English Usage by Oxford, fully revised edition page 471 grammatical point number 488-1 ” the question tag for I am is aren’t I?”. an the example of the book is ” I’m late, arent’ I?”

  11. susan rooney says:

    Which of the sentences below is correct?

    He went to town, didn’t he?


    He went to town, did he not?

    • Myself says:

      Both are correct – didn’t he is a contraction of did he not. However, ‘aren’t I’ is a contraction of ‘are I not’, which doesn’t make grammatical sense. This article isn’t suggesting we remove the use of contractions, simply that we use the correct form of ‘to be’ with the subject – in this case ‘I’.

  12. Prashant says:

    Wow! After listening to so many Americans use “aren’t I” in sentences where I thought “am I not” was appropriate, I was beginning to think I was wrong. I’ve got to start trusting my own knowledge more.

  13. King V says:

    James says:
    September 30, 2011 at 12:18 am
    Just say: ā€œI am going on vacation with you. Right?ā€

    Problem solved.

    Well, that what it might sound like, but you’d write it like this:

    “I am going on vacation with you, right?”

  14. James says:

    Just say: “I am going on vacation with you. Right?”

    Problem solved.

  15. Matthew Ward says:

    Benjamin is correct here. In a lifetime immersed in English grammar (strict high-school English-teaching father/majored in English and then in TESOL/20 years of English teaching experience), this is the first time I’ve ever heard “aren’t I?” classified as a grammar error. Some of the history above is correct: the original form was “ain’t I?” but people starting using “ain’t” in all positions (I ain’t/she ain’t/you ain’t), and the whole form became suspect in the minds of educated English speakers. Hence we lost the contraction of “am not,” and in tag questions, speakers replaced it with “aren’t.” This has become almost universally used in the English language, and as such, is not only “correct” in terms of descriptive grammar, but is also accepted even by old-time prescriptivist grammarians like my father. “Am I not?” is fine for formal English, but sounds rather awkward in most registers. Calling “aren’t I?” “atrocious” is odd–it is, after all, the only way to make a contracted tag question for “I am” that exists in the English language.

  16. Navee says:

    Good information thanxx.

  17. bra genie says:

    LMAO I can’t believe you said that!

  18. Kitty says:

    I believe “ain’t” was originally a contraction of “am not.” This would explain “Ain’t I?” We were all taught that “ain’t” is poor English, but if it’s a contraction of “am not,” then it’s better form than “aren’t I,” which drives me mad.

    I know a woman from England who uses “I aren’t” consistently as opposed to “I’m not.”

    My three-year-old grandson is now saying, “I are,” instead of “I am,” but not saying, “She are.” I speculate that he is pulling the conjugation from constantly hearing people say, “Aren’t I?” In a sense, he is dealing with a confusion in the conjugation. His extrapolation of the grammar makes perfect sense in practice. Poor kid!!

  19. ritika says:

    I got good site to read small errors that sometime we do in english.thanks

  20. prashanth says:

    Thank you David for giving valuable information..

  21. Jafar says:

    This is my first time of visiting this web site but it the best web site ever visited.

    • Claudia says:

      “This is my first time of visiting this web site but it the best web site ever visited.”

      Clearly by reading this sentence, you should visit here more often!
      This is the firt time I’ve visited this website. It is the best website I’ve visited.

      • Nate says:

        woosh. That went right over your head.

      • Jody says:

        Clearly, you should have more compassion for someone learning English. Jafar is obviously trying, and searching for informative websites. If it is your goal to instruct, perhaps less snide remarks would be more helpful in the future. I am attempting to learn another language, and it is difficult. I appreciate it when people correct me, but only when done with a kind heart.

        • Kimberly says:

          Thanks for sharing this. I do agree that when teaching or learning any language, less snide remarks would be very helpful. It is difficult enough to learn/teach the language most especially as/to beginners. On the other hand, advance English speakers should just be humble and generous to share their knowledge. Same goes with English learners, if you want to learn more, listen and be open to criticisms. They will make you a better if not the best English speaker. Good day everyone!

      • Prashant says:

        Ha ha! You made a mistake too! You spelled ‘first’ wrong! šŸ™‚

      • Amy says:

        Her sentence was perfectly fine minus the small error of the missing comma. If you’re going to correct someone, then you should at least be correct yourself.

  22. Benjamin says:

    Are “won’t” and “shan’t” also “incorrect” grammar then? “aren’t” is much easier to say than “amn’t”, so “aren’t” is used instead; this sort of development of language has been commonplace since time immemorial.

    A similar change happened in our pronunciation of the “-ed” at the end of past participles. This used to be pronounced as a separate syllable, until the “incorrect” contracted form became common.

    The language that you and I speak is undoubtedly one that has lost much of its complexity. If only, for example, nouns still had different case endings depending on their function in the sentence (Proto-Indo-European, our ancestor, had eight), and there was a distinction between the singular familiar “thou” and more formal or plural “you”. If only we had different verb endings for different persons. As you can see from these examples, our ancestors were “shortening and blunting ideas” long before the advent of the Internet. Not that that had a really detrimental effect on our language – we found other ways to express the things that had been eroded, e.g. word order and prepositions replaced case endings.

    Grammar only comes into being through usage, so “aren’t I?” is perfectly correct.

  23. Rachel V. says:

    I think the sentence should read: “I thought today is Friday.” Thought is past tense, but since you’re referring to Friday as being the current today, I believe is (present tense verb) would be the correct choice.

    (Your question is off topic for this post, so in the future you might want to send a private message with your questions.)

  24. David says:

    There’s an interesting explanation about the origin of “aren’t I” in Patricia T. O’Conner’s book, Origins of the Specious, p. 49:

    As it happens, “aren’t I” didn’t even exist until the early twentieth century, when British writers started using it to reproduce the way upper-class speakers pronounced “ain’t I.” (In the mouth of an old Etonian, “ain’t” rhymed with “taunt” rather than “taint.”)

  25. Anthony says:

    Aren’t = Are not
    Amn’t = Am not

    Aren’t I? = Are I not?
    Amn’t I? = Am I not?

    Iā€™m going with you on vacation, are I not?
    Iā€™m going with you on vacation, am I not?

    Interesting how “aren’t” has become a homonym replacement for “amn’t”. Perhaps this phenomenon has to do with anti-intellectualism in America. Do you think so? That would be my best educated guess.