This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
 Other series - go to index  
Keep your English Up to Date


Listen to Professor Crystal

Innit. Spelt I-N-N-I-T. 'Innit' - usually pronounced that way, usually with a regional accent of some kind, often with a Cockney accent of some kind, often with a Jamaican accent - it's because it's come really from the fashionable use, in London mainly, by the Asian community and the Jamaican community, popularised by Ali G and others. It was actually the name of a film in 1999, 'Ali G, Innit'.

It's easy to see where it comes from; it's a contraction of 'isn't it?' - a tag question. 'It's there, isn't it?' 'It's there. Innit?' In fact, that kind of pronunciation has been around an awful long time. What's happened with this new usage though, is it's become generalised to other persons and tense forms of the verb. People would now say 'we need to go on the bus, innit?' Traditionally you'd say 'we need to go on the bus, don't we?' 'They shouldn't do that, innit?' - instead of, 'they shouldn't do that, should they?' And so that kind of usage where innit has now become part of the whole paradigm of the verb - I'm going, innit? You're going, innit? He's going, innit? She's going, innit? And so on. Very unusual for English - English has always kept its tag questions very controlled in the past. But it's not that unusual in languages as a whole - I mean, French has 'n'est ce pas?', German has 'nicht wahr?', Spanish has 'verdad?' - for all the different forms of the verb. English has never gone in that direction, until now.

I mean, basically, all that's happening is that the phrase is asking for agreement, asking for support in an argument. As I suppose, I'm doing now, innit?


download transcriptTranscript (pdf - 42k)

download lesson planLesson plan - Teacher's notes, student worksheets with answers (pdf - 39k)

download audioAudio - Professor David Crystal on "Innit" (mp3 - 619k)
^^ Top of page Back to Index >>