Is "Done My Exams" a Regionalism?
A listener reported hearing sentences such as Are you done that plate of food? and Are you done your exams? Whether those sound wrong depends on where you live because it's a regionalism.
Grace B. She wrote, “I am a native Michigander living in Montreal and have noticed a slight difference in accepted grammar: English-speaking Canadians often leave out with where I would say, 'Are you done with that?'
I'd like to think that I am accepting of dialectic differences and give the benefit of the doubt that there is more than one right way to speak or write, but this sends me into near hysterics at how terribly wrong it sounds!
Are you done your exams?
Are you done that plate of food?
Please tell me they're wrong."
Ha! I always love questions about regionalisms. This one is so common that the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project has a page on it where they note that it is common in Canadian English but is also found in Philadelphia, Vermont, and New Hampshire. (h/t to Neal Whitman for reminding me to look there.)
I did my own survey on the Grammar Girl Facebook page and got similar results. It’s definitely a Canadian regionalism, but I also got many US reports of people saying it in Philadelphia and scattered reports all over the East, Central South, and Midwest. Nobody reported hearing it or using it anywhere in the West, which explains why I’ve never heard it.
I was particularly pleased that a Canadian linguist chimed in about the done your exams constructions and gave me permission to use his comments. Thomas Murphy wrote to his Canadian friends, “I'm guessing these sentences will sound totally normal to most of you. That's because the use of a null preposition in these sentences seems to be a marker or indicator of a Canadian English speaker. American speakers appear to be scandalised by these sentences.”
Many of the American commenters were, indeed, scandalized: Of the 180 or so people who responded, 44 said they drop the with or have heard people do it where they live, and most of the other commenters were scandalized Americans.
Murphy went on to write, “The point is that both versions are grammatical in English; however, in most American regional dialects, the absence of the preposition is judged to be an error simply because they don't habitually leave out the preposition. So the only time you would need to worry about it would be if you were applying for a job in the US.”
So Grace, I can tell you that it’s generally considered wrong in most of the US, but it’s not considered wrong everywhere. Think of it the same way you think of other regionalisms such as y’all and The car needs washed, They aren't Standard American English and you shouldn't use them in any kind of formal situation in the US, but they may be acceptable in certain places and situations. Also, follow the link to the Yale Grammatical Diversity page because they have many more interesting examples of the right and wrong ways to form sentences using this mostly Canadian regionalism.