English Grammar

Why do they sing "he go" in the present simple?

There are some songs where the lyrics don't stick to the grammar rules (as far as there are rules in a lax language as English).
Singers would often say <he do> instead of he does or <she go> for she goes.
For instance that song by Asher Roth <she don't want a man> or rather <she don't wanna man>.
I wonder if it is some kind of slang or chinese way of speaking. Is it restricted to songs?
Who could tell us more about it?


  • Why 'don't' instead of 'doesn't'? In this case it's quite simple to explain. 'Don't' consists of one syllable to sing, whereas 'doesn't' required 2 syllables ("dos-sant'). The number of syllables have to match the melody. In most cases the melody is written first, the lyrics are written afterwards and made fit - and in some cases grammar rules are violated if it's help to make the lyrics fit to the melody.

    In other cases an 's' at the end of a word disturbs the smoothness of tone melody. A sharp consonant like 's' constitutes a barrier to the next syllable. For example, in 'goes no further' the transition from 's' 'no' is relatively hard, whereas in 'go no further' the transition is smooth. When it sounds better, grammar rules fall prey.

    It's has very less to do with slang, it's a matter what sounds pleasant and doesn't disturb the beat.
  • Sorry, two corrections: 'if it helps to make the lyrics fit' and 'the transition from 's' to 'no'
  • Knacky Whacky,

    You've got a knack of finding the whys and wherefores of things. Thank you for explaining with so much specifics.

    Got it! If lyricks are invented after the melody, and if the writer is a bit lazy at finding words that fit with the x-foot of the line, that's an easy way to make a song flow softly. That goes all the better with a lax language as English.

    As you said, it has less to do with slang - HERE, but since I posted my question, I learned that in some states of America they could say "What it do, my Suzy? Are you cross?" (Mind you. It's not Philip in SF.) But "it do" here might be remains of a wrecked sentence, the kind of "What does it do?" ?? I wonder whether Cockneys would speak that way.

    Thanks a lot, Whacky the knacky.
  • That's not only slang, but poetry too. Have a look at this:
    God SAVE the queen.
    When the going gets tough, the tough GET going.
    But the negation were:
    Johnny Rotten NOT SAVE the queen. (hi, hi..only a construction)
    It's like vision or moral duty. This weird construction can be found in poems now and then, also instead of gerund like:
    She heard him CRY.
    But this is all very rarly and not so important.

    Have a great day all together,
  • I agree with you, capablanca. Poetry is the opposite of realism. As I speak as I am used to doing in my everyday life, there is no art, just platitude.

    Suppose you shout in chorus with the people across the Channel "God save the Queen",
    1° You would be taken for a royalist. Well... are you?
    2° Your shout would duly be taken for a wish, for SAVE is a subjunctive present. The present of the subjunctive has the same form as the infinitive.
    So, dear capablanca, you wish god saved their queen. But, don't worry there is no threat against that old queen.

    Your next example is more convincing because the second tough in the sentence is working as an uncountable plural. Tough is not much used that way.

    She heard him cry. That's not rare at all. Hear is usually followed by an gerund or a bare infinitive. However the meaning is slightly different; an -ing form suggest an ation in progress while the bare infinitive suggests a completed action.
    Ex. Suppose Luna is singing while having a bath. I'd say: I hear Luna singing.
    But all of a sudden, Luna who notices a spider in her bath cries for help. I hear Luna cry for help.
    Anyway, if she had a good cry by having a long weep, I'd have said like you that "I hear her crying."

    Quite interesting your note, capablanca. Your funny poetry in another section of this forum made me laugh a lot. Keep up the funny work, capablanca.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

    From Joe the screwball:
    Your next example is more convincing because the second tough in the sentence is working as an uncountable plural. Tough is not much used that way.

    I don't think it is plural, because it is THE tough.

    From Joe the screwball:
    The present of the subjunctive has the same form as the infinitive.
    ...usually followed by an gerund or a bare infinitive

    A verb can be used in several MOODS. The comparative, the subjunctive and the normal mood (I've forgotten the latin word for that at the moment.) And for a subjunctive moode in present tense, only the infinitive is to use in English, no infinitive with to, no participle, and no conjugation.
    a) I hear that the baby is crying. I hear the baby crying. This is normal, maybe the baby is hungry.
    b) I hear that the baby cry. I hear the baby cry. This is not normal, because it should not cry at the moment.
    I don't know, if my grammar exPlanations are correct. But I'm sure about the several meanings. I don't like grammar very much.
    I'v just looked in my magic sphere. And I see you set up in big business in New York. But this sounds a bit too artificial and old-fashioned, isn't it?
    Have a great day
    Lord Capablanca
    BTW, "God save the queen" is the name for the British anthem. I'really fancy listening to English footy fans singing their anthem. But it is also a wellknown, old British Punk title.
  • Moods of the Verb

    Verb moods are classifications that indicate the attitude of the speaker. Verbs have three moods—the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive.

    Not comparative, what a piffle!
    Capablanca, The tough
  • Greetings to you, Lord,

    I'll apologize if I don't address you in a correct way. I don't know how to address a lord, for a screwball of my kind doesn't use to rub shoulders with upper crust people. Wikipedia taught me that 'lord' is “a title for a male of authority!” That you are indeed, Lord.

    About HEARING YOU HOVERING high in the sky and then HEARING YOU SWEAR(*) that you were right, 'HEAR ME TELL' you this, Lord: You won't have me change my mind. I stick to what I told you about it. A bare infinitive(**) fits for sudden events or actions.
    You taught me about the possible moods of verbs. I think it's interesting as long as the mood of the speaker is at stake. The language will fit on it. But mood of verb is no grammar in itself.

    About your aphorism “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”, I also stick to my opinion. You said that 'the tough' couldn't be plural because of the article 'the'. How strange!
    I think 'the tough' here works as a plural as do a lot of words this kind:
    the needy (plural noun: poor or destitute persons; 'necessitados' in Portuguese)
    the poor (according to Answers.com, online dictionary: “The urban poor are in need of homes.”
    the poor and needy
    the wealthy (Answers.com: “(used with a pl. verb) Rich people considered as a group. Often used with the.
    In my opinion, here 'the tough' refers to tough people as every French speaking people do on Worldreference.com about that aphorism.
    Would you take it as : when the going gets tough, the rowdy persons get go on.
    Or quite the reverse: when the going gets tough, the rowdy go away.
    It's up to you.
    But anyhow 'the tough' in the saying refers to the rowdy persons, the thugs.

    About you fancying English footy fans singing their anthem, I am amazed that you could fancy seeing footy people singing, you, a lord! Thank you for telling me the title of their national anthem. Never heard so far.

    Even though I cannot share your opinion about grammar issues, dear Lord, I am interested in going on chatting with you about anything.
    Hope to get in touch again soon.

    (*) not 'swearing', that doesn't last so much.
    (**) bare infinitive is infinitive without any particle to.
  • When the going get tough, the tough get going.
    I think you're right. The grammar for this proverb is Zero conditional. Look at this:
    Lord Capablanca the battered!
    But I've also found in the style of our tough byword some big sayings:
    When the going gets tough, the tough go golfing/ or go to Rom. I think it's only one tough here. BTW, you can find the word toughS in Cambridge Dictionary, but in another meaning.
    Lord Capablance risen from the death!
    See you

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