Done my homework

“When I don't have hockey and I'm done my homework, I go there and skate.”

(Yerastov 2010b:117)


The done my homework construction involves a form of the word be, followed by the participle finished or done (or, for some speakers, started), followed by a noun phrase. (1) and (2) show two examples of this construction:

1) I’m done my homework.

2) I’m finished my homework.

Note that the noun phrase does not have to be my homework. In fact, it can be almost any noun phrase, as shown by the following examples taken from Hinnell (2012:4):

3) a. Martin is done his bass tracks and we are ready to start vocals.

b. By the time I am done dinner, I don’t want my side snack.

c. So many bloggers I read are doing this. One is already done her 50,000 words!

d. This will be particularly important once you’re done the tattoo and need to leave the shop.

Who says this?

The done my homework construction is a widespread characteristic of Canadian English, and it is also found in the United States among speakers in Philadelphia, Vermont, and New Hampshire (Yerastov 2008, 2010a, 2010b, 2012, submitted; Hinnell 2012; Fruehwald and Myler 2013, 2015). It has not been found in the dialects of the United Kingdom or elsewhere outside of North America.

Syntactic Properties

The syntax of this construction has recently been studied in some detail by Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015). The following description is based on their work.

Degree modification by all

The done my homework construction may seem to resemble a sentence like I have done my homework. (A sentence that, like this one, contains have plus a participle is said to be in the perfect aspect). However, the phrase done my homework is actually more similar to adjective phrases such as ready for school because, like an adjective phrase, it can be modified by the degree word all. (4a) shows a typical example of all modifying an adjective phrase (namely, ready for school), and (4b) shows an analogous example of the done my homework construction with modification by all:

4) a. I’m all ready for school.

b. I’m all done my homework.

By contrast, done my homework may not be modified by all when it is used in a sentence with the perfect aspect. Thus, (5) is not acceptable:

5) *I have all done my homework.

This is evidence that the done my homework construction is not an instance of a verb phrase in the perfect aspect but rather is more like an adjective phrase.

Co-occurrence with perfect aspect

The done my homework construction also differs from verb phrases in the perfect aspect in that done my homework can actually co-occur with the perfect aspect, as in (6):

6) I have been done my homework for a while now.

By contrast, although done my homework can co-occur with the perfect aspect as shown in (6), the perfect aspect cannot co-occur with a second instance of the perfect aspect in the same sentence. Thus, (7) would not be acceptable:

7) *I have had done my homework for a while now.

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015) show several other ways in which the done my homework construction is distinct from the perfect aspect.

No leaving the object behind

At first glance, it may be tempting to think that the done my homework construction involves simply not pronouncing the word with in a sentence like (8):

8) I'm done with my homework.

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015), however, present several differences between the two constructions. One such difference is the ability (shown in (9c)) to move the word done to the beginning of the sentence, similar to the movement of proud and angry in (9a) and (9b):

9) a. Proud though John is of his daughter, it won't matter.

b. Angry though John is with his daughter, it won't matter.

c. Done though John is with his computer, it won't matter.

This kind of movement is not possible with the done my homework construction. For example, although the entire phrase done his homework may be moved as in (10b), (10a) would be judged unacceptable because only done has moved, leaving the object his homework behind:

10) a. *Done though John may be his homework, it won't matter.

b. *Done his homework though John may be, it won't matter.

In this respect, it is similar to phrases like worth the money because (11a), like (10a), is unacceptable, whereas (11b), like (10b), is acceptable:

11)  a. *Worth though this may be the money, it won't matter.

b. *Worth the money though this may be, it won't matter.

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015) also argue that the meaning of the construction is not what we would expect if it involved an unpronounced with.

Allowed verbs

There is variation across dialects in terms of which verbs speakers allow in this construction. According to Yerastov (e.g. 2010a, 2010b), there is a hierarchy along the lines of finished > done > started. In other words, if speakers accept started (as in I'm started my homework), they will accept all three verbs. If speakers accept done, they will also accept finished, but not necessarily started. Finally, some speakers accept only finished. This kind of hierarchy resembles the one found in the needs washed construction with need > want > like (see here for further discussion of the needs washed construction).

Recent Survey Results

The following map shows results from a recent nationwide survey. It represents speakers' judgments of the sentence I'm done my homework. There is some description of the map on the left, as well as a legend in the upper righthand side.

Page contributed by Jim Wood on February 28, 2014.

Page updated by Tom McCoy on August 9, 2015.

References

Fruehwald, Josef and Neil Myler. 2013. “I’m done my homework.” – Case assignment in a stative passive. Paper presented at the 37th Penn Linguistics Colloquium. Handout available here.

Fruehwald, Josef and Neil Myler. 2015. I’m done my homework—Case assignment in a stative passive. Linguistic Variation 15 (2), 141–168.

Hinnell, Jennifer. 2012. A construction analysis of [be done X] in Canadian English. M.A. Thesis, Simon Fraser University.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2008. I am done dinner: A case of lexicalization. In Susie Jones [ed.] Proceedings of the 2008 Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2010a. Done, finished, and started as reflexes of the Scottish transitive be perfect in North America: their synchrony, diachrony, and current marginalisation. In Millar, Robert McColl [ed.] Marginal Dialects: Scotland, Ireland and Beyond. Aberdeen: Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ireland, 19-52.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2010b. I am done dinner: When synchrony meets diachrony. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Calgary.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2010c. Lexicalization of the transitive be perfect in Scots influenced dialects in North America. In Patricia Sutcliffe [ed.] Proceedings of LACUS XXXVI: Mechanisms of Linguistic Behavior.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2012. Transitive be perfect in Canadian English: An experimental study. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 57 (3), 427–457.

Yerastov, Yuri. Submitted. Reflexes of transitive be perfect in Canada and the US: A comparative corpus study.