6 Classic Songs in English With Grammatical Errors
Although for the most part we stick to the grammar rules when we speak English, there are some cases where we might let the rules slip. This usually happens when we are speaking in a more colloquial manner. There are plenty of examples of this in popular music, young and old!
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
Offending Lyric: I can’t get no satisfaction.
What it should be: I can’t get any satisfaction.
This is a very common mistake found in English music, for some reason double negatives just sound really cool in English music. The offending line I can’t get no satisfaction actually means that it would actually be possible for Mick Jagger and co to get some satisfaction, however I very much doubt that this was their intention. That said, I can’t get any satisfaction just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Offending Lyric: ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
What it Should be: There ain’t sunshine when she’s gone.
Another example of a double negative. Some of you may be unfamiliar with the word ain’t this is because it is what is known as a ‘slang contraction,’ which is usually only used in spoken English. Essentially it’s a very informal way of saying there isn’t/don’t have.
The strange thing is that when people use the word ain’t they do actually usually use it with a double negative. For example: I ain’t got no money (I don’t have any money)!
Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd
Offending Lyric: we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.
What it should be: we don’t need education, we don’t need thought control.
Yet another example of a double negative, a songwriter’s favourite grammar rule to break! Once again it’s a stylistic choice which definitely makes the song sound cooler, however for non native speakers it can be confusing… Well do we need education or not, Pink Floyd?
Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
Offending Lyric #1: You ain’t nothin but a Hound Dog
What it should be: You’re nothing but a hound dog.
Offending Lyric #2: When they said you was high class, that was just a lie.
What it should be: When they said you were high class, that was just a lie.
For a song with only 3 unique lines, Hound Dog by Elvis Presley is full of grammatical errors. Firstly we have yet another appearance from our new friend ain’t in another double negative clanger with he line: You ain’t nothin but a Hound Dog.
Secondly Mr Presley seems to have mixed up his moods and tenses in the line When they said you was high class, that was just a lie. A sentence like this would call for the subjunctive mood as it refers to something that isn’t true. So the line should be: When they said you were high class, that was just a lie.
Marvin Gaye & Tami Terrell – Aint No Mountain High Enough
Offending Lyric: Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no rive wide enough to keep me from getting to you.
What it should be: There ain’t a mountain high enough, there ain’t a valley low enough, there ain’t a river wide enough to keep me getting from getting to you.
As if we needed more evidence that songwriters love misusing double negatives here is yet another example! Once again it’s a cool lyric but it can be a bit confusing.
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da – The Police
Offending Lyric: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
What it should be: ??????????
Probably the less said about this one the better…