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More about the Omission of Words in American English

In an earlier discussion, I went over how in informal American English one can drop subjects pronouns in sentences in certain contexts like you can in languages like Spanish. For instance, saying "Sorry. Had to get a drink." instead of "Sorry. I had to get a drink." when you are talking to someone on Skype and leave the computer for a minute without telling them before leaving. See that discussion for more examples of this and set phrases in American English that exhibit this.


Anyhow, I caught myself doing something else in informal spoken American English with my niece Ashlyn on the phone this morning. I was in a rush and needed to speak to my mom. I didn't really have time to speak to my niece so I said, "Hey, Ash. Grandma there?" She responded with "Hi, Shawn. One minute." and got my mother on the phone. Note that I asked, "Grandma there?" and not "Is grandma there?" I totally dropped the verb "is" in informal speech here. This actually is allowed in the context of being in a rush, however, the odd thing is that it would sound a little strange if I had been speaking to Ashlyn for a while and then said it. So, you should really only do this when someone picks up the phone and says hi. Don't tell them about your day and then abruptly say "Grandma there?" Hahaha 


I find this aspect about informal American English kind of fascinating actually. I mean, think about it. By dropping the verb, English is taking on the grammar of some Asian languages which don't use the verb "to be" to indicate location and instead literally ask "person there?"" :)

May 11, 2014 4:47 PM
Comments · 45

I grew up in NY and at a very early age I decided that I didn't like the way my family spoke and I was going to speak like they do on the news instead. How I knew to do that I don't know but it changed my life.

I met a fellow in Spain from the Bronx with the most horrible grammar and pronunciation and you know what his job was? ESL teacher! Those poor students. That kind of accent is fine for someone FROM the Bronx but his poor Spanish students sounded ridiculous.

Just because someone is a teacher or your husband or because everyone else around you does the same thing doesn't mean you have to do it too if you don't want to.

Make sure that the person or people that you are learning English from are WORTH EMULATING! Would other English speakers want to speak that way? Would an educated English speaker use that language and pronounce that word in that way? Do you like how it sounds?

I know it's not easy to figure out, but it can make all the difference in the world who you decide to imitate.

May 14, 2014

Another point is that some natives are uneducated and speak their own languages in ways that are embarrassingly bad. I have cousins that never learned to read or write and use English in the most atrocious ways! They mispronounce words and use words incorrectly and some of their pronunciations... Ouch! I will however NEVER correct them. They HATE to be corrected. They don't want to know. They don't care if they will never get out of working at a factory or never get a promotion or say sometimes the opposite to what they mean. When my cousin says, "I aksed her" instead of "I asked her" or says, "I don't know where it's at" instead of "I don't know where it is" I won't say a word about it because my cousin is not trying to learn (although perhaps she should be!) but if you Kara said "aksed" or "where it's at" I would correct you because I know you are trying to learn. Your husband might have some bad habits or speak with a strong dialectical influence. The question is, do YOU want to speak that way? Do you know the difference? Listen carefully to how you hear news reporters say things and compare it to how your husband says things. That's one way to know what things might be just his dialect. Then you can choose which one you like better.  



May 14, 2014

You make a very good point here, but teaching this to speakers of other languages will only confuse matters more. This is definitely jargon of natural native speakers that non-natives can acquire with a lot of practice.

May 11, 2014

I'm glad it was helpful to you NoAgenda. :D 

There are many things that some groups in America say consistently that other groups will consider to be the mark of being uneducated. Where's it at? is definitely one of them. It makes you sound like you didn't go to school. Like Shawn said, there are many common writing mistakes that Americans make that also make them seem like they never had anyone correct them properly or that they just weren't smart enough to grasp like his example of lay and lie and there, their and they're. I would add to that list: it's and its and lose and loose! There are so many! :D One of the things that people say in New York that makes them sound unintelligent is "yous" (sounds like yooz) by which they mean the plural of "you". That one thing can get you in trouble in all sorts of places across the USA! There is no plural of you in English so different areas make them up. In Texas they say y'all and it can make you sound like a hick if used in the wrong setting or in another area of the United States. In New York they will say "you guys" which isn't terrible but "yous" is really bad. In English if you want to stress that you are talking to more than one person the only way to do it and be safe from sounding like you haven't been to school is you all. A foreigner saying y'all or yous would sound just bizarre. These are things that no one should be teaching you to say! I think that as a foreigner it's better to sound a little "stiff" in certain groups than uneducated, rude, crude or dumb in others. 


May 15, 2014

I admit I had to look up what an 'ocker' is, as I'd never heard it before.

In England, we wouldn't usually correct a native speaker using a regional accent or dialect, but would be more likely to correct someone for whom English is not their first language. I imagine it is similar in all countries and languages.

May 12, 2014
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