Canadianism: I’m done this blogpost

I love finding out about Canadianisms that go beyond the obvious – eh, aboot, ketchup chips, etc.  This one is huge.

Yesterday Libby informed me that for the past YEAR she has thought that I had some grammar problem because I kept saying I was done things… “I’m done work,” I’m done my sandwich,” I’m done Bossypants so now you can take it”, etc.  Apparently she didn’t want to point it out lest she embarrass me, until the other day when she heard another Canadian interviewed who kept saying the same thing.  (btw for everyone who has no clue what’s wrong with these quotes, apparently most people would say “I’m done with work” “I’m done with my sandwich”

Not using with is evidently the most egregious “mistake” that Canadians make. Here are some comments I’ve found replying to how wrong dropping the “with” is:

Sounds and is totally wrong grammatically. However, many communities appear to have errors in their modern day speech and are either oblivious to it or use it as some sort of badge!  One that springs to mind is the gang infested hoods of parts of LA etc.

—————-

“It looks like a contraction of “I’m done with my homework” and a mix-up with “I’ve done my homework”.  It is hard to tell however if this is an example of imperfectly learned English in a ghetto environment or whether it was largely artificially perpetrated by a few people trying to be humorous.

So I mean…this isn’t just a cute mispronounciation like “aboot”, this is yet another sign of the gang culture infiltrating Canada!

This blogpost is very likely the first website to write anything about the issue.  All I’ve managed to find is a lot of arguing on various forums on whether it should be “I’m done dishes” or “I’m done with homework.”  The forums confirm that this is Canadian and common to some parts of the East Coast – NJ, New Hampshire, Philadelphia.

A Quebecois guy confirms this on one forum:

dans certaines régions (dont le Québec et l’Ontario) on peut utiliser le verbe “be” avec cette structure (pour quelques personnes c’est seulement avec un des deux, mais bon…) même lorsqu’il y a un objet :

I’m done my homework.
I’m finished my report.

Il faut noter que cette structure n’est pas considérée comme “standard” et elle serait incompréhensible pour la plupart des Américains (sauf dans les zones américaines où la structure existe, comme Philadelphie et l’ouest de l’état de New York), mais ça s’entend souvent au Canada. Ailleurs, on dirait plutôt :

I’m done with my homework.
I’m finished with my report.

A few things of note:

  1. Americans are CRAZY when it comes to defending their grammatical style.  I have seen every explanation of why they are right for using with and everyone else is ghetto…or an alien.  A lot of the counter examples don’t even make sense.  One person said “I’m done my homework only works if your name is done my homework”.  So when I say “I’m hungry” I’m temporarily changing my name to hungry.  Then there’s people arguing with all these participle rules that don’t make sense to me and I can’t be bothered to read them. Mainly because English has so many exceptions to everything it seems weird to cite a rule and then decide an entire country must be wrong.
  2. Many people said what my cousin said, which is using “with” seems way too emphatic.  Like “I’m DONE WITH YOU!” or even “I’m DONE WITH THE DISHES!” meaning like… I’m never washing dishes again.  STUPID DISHES! From now on I am JUST eating straight off the table!!

While I’m at it, why do some people find it SO HARD to understand how to use “eh” in context?  It’s the easiest thing ever.  Even Libby can explain it to you! Although she is now the master of converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius as well… so she is officially bilingual.  Soon she’ll be saying “I’m done my homework.”

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10 Comments

  1. Kedar

     /  June 11, 2011

    First, it’s “pronunciation,” not “pronouciation.”

    Second, everything sounds dramatic when you put it in all caps. Try saying “I’m done with the dishes” in a quiet, sing-song voice. See? Not dramatic at all. The “many people” who think using the word “with” is dramatic are clearly unable to express different tones and moods by regulating the pitch of their vocal delivery.

    Third, you should properly study grammar (especially prepositional phrases, which is the heart of this blog post). If you’re an engineer, you should love grammar, because it’s the rules of our language; English sentence structure and grammar is NOT laden with exceptions (you’re probably thinking of conjugation, spelling and pronunciation, which DO have many exceptions, and are not so rigid in their requirements). Once you know your grammar, you will understand why Canadians sound ridiculous when they drop the word “with.”

  2. Libby

     /  June 13, 2011

    I will never say, “I’m done my homework”!!!!!! :)

  3. Shubha

     /  June 13, 2011

    haha ok I agree with you on it being about tone… also I can’t think of a case when anyone would say “I’m done with you” and not have it be dramatic, whether Canadian or American.

    But if you google English grammar exceptions you get a billion pages. Here, for example, is the first citing many common grammar exceptions – http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa102697.htm

    I haven’t looked very hard yet for the grammar rule behind done, but I will say that it seems to be mainly American (or colloquial, or uneducated) to even use the word “done” the way that it’s used. Apparently it should be finished for people or have done, never am/are done. This doesn’t seem that antiquated and apparently am done sounds really wrong to many British people and many older people. It appears to be an example of grammar changing over time..

  4. Lars

     /  June 13, 2011

    The example of “I’m Hungry” is an interesting one because it is probably more appropriate to say, “I have hunger” similar to a skin condition or a wound.

  5. Vanya

     /  February 4, 2012

    I can confirm it is common in New Hampshire – which means it is the Gold Standard for American speech.

  6. GbryceYukon

     /  February 7, 2012

    “I’m done the dishes, Mum” (or Mom, if you listen to US TV and movies) or “She’s done her homework” are perfectly normal in Canadian English. (OK, I haven’t lived everywhere in this country.

    I spent the first 27 years of my life in Toronto, and have spent the last 38 years 3,450 miles to the northwest, in the Yukon Territory. I don’t think anyone has ever commented on my use of those constructions.

    You can read a 2012 discussion of the topic here and a lengthy 2004 discussion here.

    I might say “I’m done my sandwich” and am much more likely to use it only with a task as the object, such as “the dishes” or “my homework.”

  7. MiriamL

     /  August 17, 2012

    I am so glad to find this blogpost! I am a linguistics student and I started noticing that my friend from Baltimore uses this construction all the time. I realized when I went home with her, that her friends and siblings use it too. I also found that a friend of mine from New Jersey who went to school in Baltimore uses it, as well as a friend from Quebec. Just today I heard Ira Glass of This American Life (an NPR radio show) use it, and he is also from Baltimore.

    I know this sounds silly but I’m interested in documenting grammatical diversity and it looks like you’ve gotten a lot of examples. If you’d be willing to get in touch with me, I’d love to talk with you.

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