7.12 Vocabulary. ‘AIN’T’.

It ain’t half hot mum. (Famous situation comedy show on British TV.) This is a very colloquially way of saying ‘it’s very hot’. (The programme was about a British military squadron based in the Indian jungle.)

It ain’t nobody’s business. (Blues song and common cliché.) It isn’t anybody’s business.’

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. (Popular saying.) If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’

If you ain’t a farmer, you ain’t shit! (Rude tattoo on the arm of an American farmer.) This ironic (hopefully) tattoo should mean ‘If you aren’t a farmer, you aren’t anybody.’

‘What an ill-natured woman his mother is, an't she?’ (Quote from Nancy Steele, a character in Jane Austin’s novel Sense and Sensibility.) ‘…isn’t she.’


As you probably realise, question tags are very complicated, requiring considerable thought, not only by students, but, at times, by native speakers too. ‘Ain’t’ is a lazy man’s way of not having to think of the correct conjugation. It is commonly tagged onto the end of any sentence, but only by those who don’t understand even the most basic rules of English. Another slang question tag is ‘innit?’ This is an even uglier, more charmless word that might get a laugh, but shouldn’t be imitated either. 


‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog!’ (Line from Lieber and Stoller’s Hound Dog sung by Elvis Presley.) This phrase needs completely restructuring to make any sense in standard English, and sounds more ridiculous when said correctly. ‘All you are is a hound dog.’ / ‘The only thing you are is a hound dog.’

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. (Popular saying.) ‘There isn’t such a thing as a free lunch.’


‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Mark Twain) Difficult one this! ‘It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that isn’t so.’ Don’t worry. We don’t understand what the great man was talking about either.