Habitual be


Habitual be

Habitual be is the nonstandard use of zero copula or an invariant "be" in African American Vernacular English and Caribbean English to mark habitual or extended actions in the present tense, instead of using the Standard English inflected forms of "be", such as "is" and "are". This usage leads to sentences like:

"I be singing" instead of the Standard English "I am singing."

"The coffee be cold" signifies the coffee is always cold, whereas "The coffee cold" would mean the coffee is cold right now.

The use of habitual be is most commonly used by working-class speakers and young persons. Younger speakers tend to restrict their use to progressive verb forms (as in "He be dancing") whereas their parents use it with progressives, adjectives (as in "He be smart"), and expressions that refer to a location ("He be at work"). Young speakers use invariant "be" exclusively to indicate habit, whereas older speakers also tend to omit "be" forms or use present tense verb forms ("He runs") with the use of adverbs like "often" or "usually" to show habitual action.

The source of invariant "be" in AAVE is still disputed because some linguists suggest it represents influence from finite "be" in the 17th to 19th century English of British settlers. Other linguists feel that Scotch-Irish immigrants may have played a larger role since their dialects mark habitual verb forms with "be" and "do be".

References

* The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000 [http://www.bartleby.com/61/82/B0128200.html "Be"]
* The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000 [http://www.bartleby.com/61/12/Z0011225.html "Zero Copula"]


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  • Habitual — Ha*bit ual (h[.a]*b[i^]t [ u]*al; 135), a. [Cf. F. habituel, LL. habitualis. See {Habit}, n.] 1. Formed or acquired by habit or use. [1913 Webster] An habitual knowledge of certain rules and maxims. South. [1913 Webster] 2. According to habit;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Habitual — (auch: Habitualis, Habituell, Habituativ) bezeichnet eine Aktionsart bzw. einen Aspekt des Verbs, die eine gewohnheitsmäßige Handlung beschreibt. Der Habitual kann auf verschiedene Arten zum Ausdruck gebracht werden, z. B. durch ein Hilfsverb… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • habitual — adjetivo 1. (antepuesto / pospuesto) Que se hace por costumbre o que es ordinario o frecuente: Son clientes habituales. La impuntualidad es algo habitual en él. Carlota está tomando su habitual jugo de tomate …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • habitual — (Del lat. habĭtus). adj. Que se hace, padece o posee con continuación o por hábito. ☛ V. gracia habitual …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • habitual — [hə bich′o͞o əl] adj. [ML habitualis, of habit or dress: see HABIT] 1. formed or acquired by continual use; done by habit or fixed as a habit; customary 2. being or doing a certain thing by habit; steady; inveterate [a habitual smoker] 3. much… …   English World dictionary

  • habitual — habitual. См. врожденный. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • habitual — habitual. = congenital (см.). (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • habitual — (adj.) mid 15c., from M.L. habitualis pertaining to habit or dress, from L. habitus (see HABIT (Cf. habit) (n.)) …   Etymology dictionary