I don’t want to cause no more trouble

A: I don’t want to cause no more trouble.
B: It’s no trouble.

Is it okay to say that “I don’t want to cause no more trouble”? Is it proper?
What comes to my mind is “I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

Thank you!!!

You are right. It is a common, yet grammatically incorrect way of saying “I don’t want to cause any trouble”. It is common for less educated people to talk like this. Sometimes well educated people will still say things like this but I think it probably just because that is how they learned to talk when they were growing up.


Yep, as the poster above has said, it’s not a “proper” way of saying it but it’s used, and it’s quite colloquial. You’ll sometimes also hear:

“I don’t want no trouble.”

Meaning “I don’t want any trouble.”

You’ll hear this with other phrases too, like:

“I ain’t (haven’t) got no money.” To mean: I “haven’t got any money.”

I’m fairly sure this kind of colloquial construction is used in other languages too, and sometimes it’s even correct, like in the Spanish language.


This form of speaking is referred to as “Ebonics” It’s a type of ghetto talk or slang habitually spoken by African Amerricans.


To be fair, if this is African American Vernacular English (AAVE), it’s not fair to call it a slang - it’s a full dialect of English in its own right, with some interesting grammatical features that Standard English doesn’t have (for instance habitual ‘be’ - see Habitual be - Wikipedia )… and one of those features is the double negative.

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I would say it is just bad English. Not really slang but I don’t think you can call it a dialect just because a lot of people are bad at grammar. I would also say it is used just a frequently by lower class white people and used infrequently by upper class black people.


Whether it is proper depends on whether you are learning Standard English (which doesn’t use double negatives) or one of the many dialects of English that do use double negatives. In many regional varieties of English it is gramatically proper to say something like ‘I don’t know nothing’, ‘I ain’t never seen it’, ‘she hasn’t met no one’ etc … it’s just that none of them are the varieties of English that happen to be descended from the variety spoken around London which came to be chosen as the standardised registers of the language.

So although no native English speakers would be confused by this sentence, many would mark it down as wrong because it’s not part of the standard language. And I’m afraid that if you are learning English as a foreign language and you use that construction, probably more people will think that you just haven’t learned Standard English properly, than that you have properly learned a non-standard variety of English. So probably better not to use it yourself, but to understand what it means.


Thank you very much for the suggestion.

Ah yes, the dread double negative.

In the song Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis Presley sings, “I don’t want no other love.”

In the Rolling Stones song Satisfaction, Mick Jagger sings, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

In the Pink Floyd song Another Brick in the Wall, Roger Waters sings, “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”

And in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Pete Hogwallop, played by John Turturro, says, “That don’t make no sense.”

I’d say there ain’t nothing wrong with no double negatives and furthermore I would say that it’s not necessarily unacceptable.

Wait, what did I just say?

I don’t want to cause any more trouble. I don’t want to cause no more trouble.


Linguists would disagree with you: African-American Vernacular English - Wikipedia . AAVE is well recognised as a distinct dialect in its own right. It’s just that because it is a low-status dialect, people that use it tend to get less respect from broader society than if they modify their speech towards Standard English.

But I suspect that the character here is not trying and failing to speak correct Standard English. Developmentally normal people do not generally reach adulthood having failed to assimilate the full grammatical complexity of the local version of the language spoken by their peer group. What he says is wrong Standard English, but it is correct AAVE.

By analogy, how would you pronounce ‘135’? Or what would you call the thing that babies wear to catch the mess when they soil themselves? ‘One hundred thirty five’ and ‘diaper’ are correct Standard American English, but they would be wrong Standard British English, in which you would need to say ‘One hundred and thirty five’ / ‘nappy’. But I would not say that someone who said the American versions was using bad English just because they aren’t using my national standard language. And I would no more say that someone speaking one of the many English dialects where double negatives are gramatically correct is using bad English if it’s clear that they are using correctly a different version of English.


I think it might come down to semantics. I would say there is not a common consensus among linguists that AAVE is a legitimate dialect, but it doesn’t really matter either way. Language is so fluid and subjective that categorizing minor variations is basically just labeling commonalities. Based on that I can see why Ebonics or AAVE could be classified by some as a dialect. I believe that even if it is classified as a dialect it is basically just bad English spoken by a large group of people. But like I said it is very subjective. I think your position is just as valid as mine. I am just offering another point of view.


That’s right… just a tweak

Well, okay, but by the same token, Standard English is just bad Anglo-Frisian spoken by an extremely large group of people. I am not sure if anyone has any clear idea whether AAVE derives from African Americans learning a local dialect of English that did not have double negatives (and failing to pick up that aspect correctly), or a local dialect that already had double negatives and may have already had double negatives before it was brought to the Americas, and stretching back to before the elevation of the London-and-South-East-England varieties into official status as Standard English, but even then, this is clearly a language evolution that is no more ‘wrong’ than the fact that we no longer say the ‘k’ in ‘knife’ or ‘knee’, and, assuming everyone else in the community uses the same construction, no more likely to cause confusion and therefore no less effective as a means of communication than using the standard language equivalent. Calling it ‘bad English’ implies not just a difference of opinion about categorisation, but a value judgement (that the speaker is less able to communicate, or has made a mistake), and it’s that that I am pushing back on.

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I would say that the speaker did make a mistake. We are not going to agree but I believe Ebonics(AAVE) is just bad English brought about by high illiteracy rates in the Black community due to historical factors. There are also plenty of white people that speak in a similar way. It is not a difference in pronunciation or word usage (like the differences in English dialects) it is basically just standard English that is grammatically incorrect. The use of double negatives is fine but when you use a double negative to imply a negative it is wrong. Ebonics (AAVE) may fallow some general patterns but it is basically just a name people made up to describe how uneducated black people talk (although like I said many white people speak the same way). By this I mean whenever someone makes a speaking mistake or uses incorrect grammar it could be contributed to Ebonics(AAVE) because it is basically just a way to describe incorrect English.

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Well, I understand that Standard English is actually relatively unusual among all the languages of the world in disallowing double negatives to convey a negative meaning. So I hope you don’t mean that it’s ‘wrong’ in terms of actually being an invalid way in principle of expressing a negative, just that it contingently isn’t part of Standard English.

But literacy, or the lack of it, has nothing to do with it - whether someone can write their native language has no bearing on how well they can speak it, as the vast majority of humans throughout the millennia of low literacy rates, and the many more millennia before writing was invented, would surely agree. So the only way I can think of that would make sense of your comment is that you think that AAVE is not just a divergent dialect of English, but a defective one. I don’t really understand how you can be confident of that … I am not an expert, but I understand from a brief googling around that linguists are not sure if it even arose from a creole language with English vocabulary and West African grammar, which gradually got pulled over toward Standard English without ever becoming identical to it.

And even if it didn’t, even if it descends from one person or group or small group of persons who mostly learned Standard English correctly but failed to internalise the rule against double negatives, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong now that it has become the speech variety of a distinct community who all use it perfectly well and understand perfectly well what is meant when someone uses the double negative construction. That is to say, even if that aspect of AAVE began as a mistake by someone who had otherwise learned Standard English, that doesn’t make present-day AAVE’s grammar any more wrong that the fact that Standard English has lost its case system (presumably also as a result of adults learning it imperfectly) makes Standard English wrong. Language change and divergence just happens, but as long as the people talking to each other within each speech community understand each other, two divergent varieties are just that - divergent, not wrong merely by virtue of being different.

I would be curious, though, to hear your take on the habitual ‘be’, which is grammatical complexity that AAVE that Standard English doesn’t have. Is it too merely a mistake, even though it actually conveys grammatically a distinction that Standard English needs a separate phrase to express?

I think the biggest difference in our view points is our perspective on the study of linguistics. I personally don’t believe that naming something gives it legitimacy. That is why I said it comes down to semantics. Your belief as I understand it is that AAVE has several unique properties that differentiate it from predominant English dialects and it is studied and categorized by linguists as a separate dielectric and therefore it is just as legitimate as any other English dialect(let me know if I am missing the mark on that). My belief is that AAVE is just incorrect English spoken by predominantly ignorant or uneducated people and the fact that it has been studied and given a name does not legitimize it. My thoughts on the habitual ‘be’ is that it’s just a common grammatical mistake. I would also argue that replacing “am’ or is” etc with “be” is not a grammatical complexity. It is an over simplified and inaccurate variation on standard English.

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I’m afraid I don’t understand how the habitual ‘be’ can just be a common grammatical mistake if it actually conveys distinct information that Standard English would need a different construction to express.

AAVE: ‘He working’ = Standard English ‘He is working (right now)’
AAVE: ‘He be working’ = Standard English ‘He habitually works (i.e. he has a regular job, although he may or may not be working right at this moment)’. How is the first of those a mistake, any more than, say, Standard English dropping the ‘-an’ infinitive ending from its verbs, that used to exist in Old English?

(Relevant video from linguist John McWhorter, who is an African-American who speaks standard American English himself John McWhorter on Black English (or AAVE) - YouTube )

If you google ‘AAVE grammar’ you’ll get lots of articles; this one - https://web.stanford.edu/~zwicky/aave-is-not-se-with-mistakes.pdf (pdf warning) gives a good explanation of where you can, and where you can’t, drop the copula in AAVE, among other grammar rules of AAVE that differ from the grammar rules of Standard English but that are nonetheless consistent rules, rather than random errors.

If you think that AAVE is merely broken standard English, how do you account for strong consensus among linguists that it is a distinct dialect with its own phonology and grammatical rules? And would you say that a full creole like, say, Tok Pisin is also just broken English by the same token?

I mean, I’m not disputing the claim that some features of AAVE arose because of people failing to learn Standard English fully, but modern Standard English itself arose as a result of some people failing to learn earlier versions of Standard English, and both AAVE and modern Standard English have also since added complexities that weren’t there in precursor versions of English. Neither language variety as currently used within its own speech community is wrong unless you assume that the current speakers of one variety are trying, and failing, to precisely mimic the current speakers of the other variety… or unless you assume that the current speakers of one variety ought to stop speaking their variety and move over to the standard variety, in the same way that you’ll get people saying that people who speak minority languages like Scots or Scottish Gaelic ought to stop speaking their language and switch to standard English, but I’m not sure if that’s the claim you’re making.

I don’t doubt that many linguists categorize AAVE is its own dialect. Based on the reasons I previously mentioned (based on the subjectivity of language) I do not believe that inherently makes it a legitimate way of speech. I do not know much about UK’s English dialects but I would strongly encourage people to stop using AAVE because it just makes them sound unintelligent.

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Okay, I think we may be getting closer to the crux of our disagreement. Who gets to decide what speech varieties count as ‘legitimate’ and what criteria do they use? It sounds like you are objecting to the use of AAVE not because it lacks its own consistent grammar rules which are every bit as regular as any other variety of English and which are fully understood within its own speech community, but because it is associated with lower class people who would get along better in life if they changed their speech patterns to sound more like the speech patterns of the higher socioeconomic classes.

And you’re probably right - just like telling Irish people that move to England that they’d probably get on better in life if they lost their Hiberno-English speech patterns and conformed to Standard British English. Or indeed telling Scots Gaelic speakers that they’d do better in life if they gave up Gaelic and switched to English. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if African Americans who speak Standard American English do in fact have better educations and better life outcomes in general than African Americans who speak AAVE, on average. But note that this is an entirely socioeconomic class-based argument that you’re making. Just because people would, prudentially, be better to give up speaking AAVE /Scots Gaelic in favour of Standard American English / Standard Scottish English in a society that views speaking AAVE / Scots Gaelic as a marker of inferior class status, that does not mean that AAVE is somehow a defective dialect, or that Scots Gaelic is somehow a defective language. It just means that the people who speak them are surrounded by large numbers of people who will treat them better if they change their speech to conform to the locally dominant standard language.

Does that make sense? Is it your contention that the speaker in the top level post made a mistake in failing to use the locally dominant variety of English rather than his own native variety, rather than making a mistake in the grammar of his own native variety?

In either case, I’d still be interested to hear your take on Tok Pisin, since, if AAVE is based on people learning English badly, Tok Pisin could be said to be based on people learning English really really badly, basically just taking the vocabulary, filtering it through their own Melanesian phonetics and grammar systems, and then undergoing a few generations of creolisation… And yet no one could reasonably deny that Tok Pisin is its own distinctive and fully legitimate language (I mean, it is one of the three official languages of Papua New Guinea - I can’t imagine what more anyone could want before considering a speech variety legitimate).

I think you did a pretty good job summarizing our dilemma. You are right that I believe that AAVE is detrimental to people who speak it as an alternative to more “standard English”. However, I reject it as a legitimate English dialect largely because many characteristics of AAVE are indistinguishable from someone just speaking English poorly. As you pointed out I think the major difference in our viewpoints is simply how we define language for ourselves and what authorities we give credibility to in determining what makes a language “legitimate”. For me many languages are given legitimacy by government the same way currency or borders/land ownership are ( I do not have a lot of knowledge of the language but I think I might put Tok Pisin in this category) . After that I think it becomes very subjective. I have always been weary of research and publications in the social sciences. I think there is an inherent bias that is unavoidable in these publications. (not to mention political factors including studies sponsored by interest groups)

For example if I was a university professor and I was awarded a grant to publish a study on AAVE it would be hard for me to speak against the legitimacy of that dialect because I would basically be admitting that my research was a waste of time and money.

Or if the NAACP issues a grant for an “independent study” the study will never come to a conclusion that even hints towards AAVE not being legitimate.

To me subjects like language are so subjective that it basically comes down to opinion. Based on peoples backgrounds and experiences these opinions can differ drastically. I have not seen any person or group that I would view as an authority endorse AAVE as a legitimate dialect (beyond just a general trend or similarity in incorrect English usage by various people). By default I would revert to my own experiences and knowledge which tell me it is just bad English. Likewise I don’t want to come across in a way that suggests that I think you are “wrong” in your conclusions. I think your point of view is just as valid as mine. I guess to summarize the main point I have been trying to make is that I don’t believe AAVE can be categorized as being objectively correct/valid or incorrect/invalid (even within a scope limited to the people that speak it)

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