done vs. through + gerund (and - gerund!)

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu May 11 19:40:09 UTC 2006

Concurring with Ben about the generational likelihood:  A
white Southerner, I grew up using "through" constructions
("I'm through taking my exams!"; "Hurry up and get through
brushing your teeth so I can shave"; "Are you through with
the catsup?"). It wasn't so much that "done" (in similar
constructions) was stigmatized; it was simply unheard--in
the Southern dialects among which I dwelled--until maybe the
1980s. I still don't use it myself, but it's starting to
sound more normal.

Of course, the case was different with "done" as a modal-
auxiliary ("I done learned that in grade school"; "I've done
baked the biscuits").  That use of "done," while not deemed
ungrammatical (in a descriptive sense), WAS stigmatized by
the social and educational elites.


---- Original message ----

>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-
>Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: done vs. through + gerund
>On 5/11/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
>> But my point is that, for me and any other black person
of my generation -
>> born in the '30's or earlier and, perhaps, even
>> into the present, "integrated" generation - "I'm through"
is not merely a
>> stylistic variation that alternates with "I'm done" from
time to time.
>> Rather, it's that "I'm through" is grammatical and "I'm
done" is
>> UNgrammatical and is, therefore, extremely unlikely to be
used at all under
>> any set of circumstances, except as something memorized
from a script
>> written by whites or some such thing.
>This might be generational. "I'm done V-ing" shows up
occasionally in
>hiphop lyrics, as in "One" by  the Detroit rap group Slum
>One of these days I'm a show you what I'm made of
>Soon as I'm done with these silly little rap scrubs
>Soon as I'm done making my rap million dollar hits
>Soon as I'm done cleaning my soul of this old curse
>Soon as I'm one with the universe
>--Ben Zimmer

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