Exploring the use of done in AAE

Total time for this activity: 20 minutes

Watch this short video on how speakers of African-American English use the preverbal marker done. Then, answer the questions individually. After you have answered the questions, compare your responses to those of your assigned partner.

Part 1: The linguistic features of done in African-American English

  1. What grammatical category or categories is expressed by done in sentences like We done ate lunch and I done seen it?
  2. What is the difference in meaning among the following sentences in AAE? What is the closest SE equivalent you can provide?
    • I done said that.
    • I been done said that.
    • I done been said that.
  3. How easy or difficult was it for you to provide a clear equivalent for the second and third examples above? Why do you think this is the case? Hint: Standard English can only express the nuances in meaning between the second and third examples using additional words, not with grammatical markers as in AAE.

Part 2: Explaining how speakers of AAE use done

How might you explain the use of done in AAE to students? Do you think it is important for students to understand that the preverbal marker done in AAE is not the same word as the past participle of do in SE? Why might this be important information for English learners?