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Geordie Grammar

Geordie Dialect Grammar

It is extremely difficult to collect examples of dialect grammar, compared with pronunciation or even vocabulary. In an interview lasting an hour, for instance, you are likely to hear most of the vowels and probably all the consonants, but very few if any non-standard grammatical constructions. You would not, for instance, expect to hear the past tense of every single verb in the English language, but you might expect to encounter every single consonant and vowel sound. In addition, many constructions turn out to be widespread nationally rather than regionally specific.

Listen to examples

The table below gives several examples of non-standard grammatical constructions typical of Tyneside. All the audio clips are taken from recent BBC interviews and represent current usage. They are from spontaneous conversation and so reflect the natural reflexes of the spoken grammar of Geordie. The left-hand column lists each construction, while the second column gives the preferred form in Standard English. Click on the sound file to listen to speakers using the target construction. The right-hand column gives information about its regional distribution. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it includes examples of distinctive local grammar, such as non-standard negatives and pronouns.

Geordie Verbal Constructions

Geordie formStandard English equivalent / explanationsound filerecordings where this feature also occurs

third person plural is

are

Five Pillars of Islam is, uhm, five rules which we, we live by

  • Read
  • Portesham
  • Bleanish
  • Island

third person plural was

were

the cables was the best, cause that lasted years

  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Salford
  • Boston
  • Nottingham
  • Bristol
  • Portesham
  • Peter Tavy
  • Milland
  • Portsoy
  • Portsoy
  • Portsoy
  • Londonderry
  • Bleanish
  • Island

there was + plural complement

there were

, there wasn’t any machines in them days

  • Salford
  • Nottingham
  • Danesford
  • North Elmham
  • Melksham
  • Hackney
  • Canterbury
  • Milland
  • Maerdy
  • Cardiff
  • Dalmellington
  • Bleanish Island

mustn’t have + past participle

can't have + past participle

, the other thing there was never any shortage of seemed to be rice pudding; it mustn‘t’ve been on rations, but we usually got rice pudding

to be to + infinitive

need to be + past participle

would still be to feed

Stannington

they call him/her/it ...

he/she/it’s called ...

I can remember the carthorse – the last one we had, they called him Jock

  • Stannington
  • Middlesbrough

historic present

the suffix <s> is added to all forms of the verb (I goes, we says goes, they asks) etc.) — a narrative device used to create immediacy and heighten suspense when relating an anecdote

the bairns now, they says, ‘Dad, we thought you were hard and you were hard then and we were frightened to talk to you’

  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Wearhead
  • Middlesbrough
  • Welwick
  • Birmingham
  • Kniveton
  • Cardiff
  • Glasgow

past tense come

came

the water come out the mouth – it was like a lion’s face, but it, the water come out the mouth

  • Stannington
  • Wearhead
  • Salford
  • Birkenhead
  • Boston
  • Birmingham
  • Hilton
  • Danesford
  • North Elmham
  • Bristol
  • Maerdy
  • Dalmellington
  • Bleanish Island

past tense done

did

bought our house and, uh, it's the best thing we done, like

Melksham

tense eat

ate

vegetables was straight out the soil and we eat them

tense give

gave

theory used to be if you chewed your fingernails or ate a grape pip or something, it went straight to your appendix and give you appendicitis

  • Bristol
  • Hackney

past participle give

given

, now you know yourself, if you’ve give something to a good cause, you feel good about it

past tense run

ran

, the club would put a trip on for we, but if we had to go down to Swalwell to get the train; so that was all right - we run down

  • Boston
  • Hackney

past tense rang

rung

I’ve rang them and they've come out

past participle took

taken

was big baskets took with food and

Birmingham

Geordie Nouns and Pronouns

Geordie formStandard Englishsound filerecordings where this feature also occurs

zero plural marker

a small set of count nouns such as week, month, year, pound, stone and mile are commonly unmarked for plural in many varieties of non-standard English, while Standard English requires the plural suffix <-s>

would be just 30 year ago, yes, aye

  • Wearhead
  • Burnley
  • Salford
  • Kniveton
  • Boston
  • Birmingham
  • Warmington
  • North Elmham
  • Milland
  • Resolven
  • Downpatrick
  • Bleanish Island

first person singular object us

me

used to get dropped off, off the bus in the mornings and, uhm, they picked us up on the way back

first person plural object we

us

, she took we, she wouldn't let we go, I mean, she, she did, she'd always took we on these trips

second person plural youse

you

he says, ‘I’ll see youse in the woods!’

reflexive and emphatic pronouns

the reflexive and emphatic pronouns in Geordie dialect (mysell, yoursell, hissell, hersell, oursells etc.) contrast with Standard English myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves etc.

so, I used to sit in the, in the st, the bus stop, in the shelter, you know, just on the, on the ground and have my bait, by mysell

I think I, we had the best years, you know, for entertaining oursells

anticipatory pronoun

much of the North of England speakers frequently use a pronoun as an emphatic tag in expressions, such as I play football, me or he's a madman, him

’ve always had casual work, me, you know

& demonstrative pronoun them

those

, them days you didn’t, you didn’t live with lasses

’ve got flat-irons here, haven’t you? yes, there they are, them are my mothers, look at the candlestick are these the same ones?

  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Wearhead
  • Whitehaven
  • Read
  • Nottingham
  • Birmingham
  • Hilton
  • Warmington
  • Melksham
  • Portesham
  • Londonderry

relative pronoun what

that

know, you know you pray on a mat or something clean, that somebody, you know, what nobody’s walked over

  • Nottingham
  • Norwich
  • Portseham
  • Milland

zero relative pronoun

who/that

father had three brothers lived round the next street

  • Ballymoney
  • Bleanish Island

Geordie Negative Constructions

Geordie formStandard English equivalent/explanationsound filerecordings where this feature also occurs

cannot

can’t

cannot speak for other people, really, can you?

  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Wearhead

do + negative particle = divn’t

don’t

divn’t think they’re right now, anyway

  • Stannington
  • Byker

be & have with unreduced negative particle

in much of the North of England and Scotland speakers favour forms of the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ with a fully articulated negative particle (I’ve not, you’ll not, she’s not and we’re not etc.) whilst speakers elsewhere tend to use a fully articulated verb with a reduced negative particle (I haven’t, you won’t, she isn’t and we aren’t etc.)

I've just never seen a house with two upstairs rooms that are not connected

oh well, there’s, there’s only one door, there’s not a back door, there’s a front door

why, the tractor’ll not gan through a lot of snow

I mean, they’re not here now, but he fell in the stream and he sat, and we had a tent, and he sat, and it was a red-hot day, and he had to sit in the tent, till his clothes, his main clothes dried

  • Stannington
  • Read

multiple negation

single negative particle, not

know, you can't do nothing with them

  • Middlesbrough
  • Burnley
  • Birkenhead
  • Kniveton
  • Bristol
  • Melksham
  • Portesham
  • Plymouth
  • Milland
  • Stonehaven

Geordie Prepositions, Conjunctions and Adverbs

Geordie formStandard English equivalent/explanationsound filerecordings where this feature also occurs

for to + infinitive

to + infinitive

people kept a few hens for to get a few eggs

  • East Harting
  • Bleanish Island

bit + zero of

of

do a bit _ part-time teaching sometimes, I get teaching and that

  • Byker
  • Stonehaven
  • Kilmarnock

conjunction so as

so that

a portion of mat, you see, for you to wipe your feet on and that, so’s you didn't dirty the yard

zero adverbial marker

adverbs are commonly unmarked for plural in many varieties of non-standard English, while Standard English requires the adverbial suffix <-ly>

didn’t know you were doing it, yeah, you used to just do it automatic

  • Stannington
  • Byker
  • Wearhead
  • Withernsea
  • Welwick
  • Read
  • Salford
  • Banbury
  • Bristol
  • Hackney
  • Bleanish Island

non-standard qualifiers

really, quite, very

mean I’m lucky, I’ve been lucky - dead lucky!

she said she was fair sick of looking for these cows

and it was real nice in the woods

  • Byker
  • Leeds
  • Birmingham