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18 Sep 2017


English language being the Lingua Franca and language of official use in Nigeria is by default the language of employment, mass media, education, governance, trade and commerce. The efficient use of the English Language is a resource to any Nigerian that possesses it.


However, upon careful scrutiny, it is discovered that one of the difficulties faced by Nigerians in the English language usage is in differentiating between the words ‘I’m’ and ‘am’. Nigeria operates the use of English as a Second Language(ESL) with her various local languages and dialects being the first language or mother tongue and as a result of this, many non-indigenous or nonnative speakers of the language just like Nigerians (including undergraduates and graduates), experience difficulties in telling the difference between these two words. I once overheard someone, sometime ago, saying ‘i’m’ and ‘am’ could be used interchangeably. No! These words are different in form and meaning therefore cannot be used interchangeably. Let me go a bit into explaining their differences.


‘I’m’ is a contraction of  ‘i am’ (the first person singular pronoun and an auxiliary verb respectively) while ‘am’ is a word on its own (an auxiliary verb). Auxiliary verbs do not depict actions unlike what a lexical verb is known for such as ‘eat’, ‘run’, ‘sing’ etc. ‘Am’ is a variant of the verb ‘BE’. (The verb ‘BE’ includes: ‘Am’ ‘Is’, ‘Are’, ‘Was’, ‘Were’, ‘Being’ and ‘Been’).

‘Am’ indicates a state of being when used as the main verb in  a sentence:

I am a lawyer.

I am at home.


These auxiliary verb could also be used as a helping verb e.g.

I am going there tomorrow.

I am typing the letter presently.


From the above examples we can tell that ‘am’ can only be used with the first person pronoun ‘I’. You can’t use it with the second person pronoun(You) or the 3rd person pronoun in the subjective or objective form (he/him, she/her, they/them). The  Exception to this rule is in the interrogative form I.e. questions e.g.

Am i the only one here?

Am i not good enough for the job?


So when you are linking yourself with something e.g. your occupation (I am a teacher);

your location (I am at home) etc, you don’t use ‘am’ instead of ‘i am’.


The major difference between these words is that ‘am’ cannot start a statement except an interrrogative sentence while ‘I’m’ can be used in the initial position of statements. Examples:

Am a boy. (wrong)

I am a boy. (correct)

Am I not qualified? (correct)