ESL – Negative statements

19 February

Negative statements


In negative statements, the basic word order for subject and object is the same as in positive statements.

  • John has gone to school.
  • John has not gone to school.

The difference is that negative statements must contain a negative word such as ‘ not ‘, and must have as part of the verb phrase, either:

  • primary auxiliary verb,
  1. She had not arrived in time for lunch.
  2. Kate is not working this evening.
  3. Tim was not reading your diary.
  • one or other of the modal auxiliary verbs, or
  1. He may not want to come.
  2. She could not see the road clearly.
  • a form of ‘ be ‘ used as a main verb.
  1. That is not my book
  2. It was not my intention to go there.

The word not is added immediately after the first one of these auxiliary verbs. The main verb follows.  The word order is, therefore:   subject + auxiliary + not + main verb.  A negative sentence may contain a modal verb and one or more auxiliaries as well.

  • I may not have gone by the time you arrive.
  • They could not have seen her – they were asleep in bed.
  • They should not have been playing in the road.

In this case the word order is:   subject + modal + not + primary auxiliary + main verb.If the verb phrase does not already contain one of these verbs, then it is necessary to add the supporting auxiliary verb do.The present simple and the past simple tenses of main verbs take the appropriate form of do, and then add not followed by the base form of the main verb.

  • He runs.
  • He does not run.
  • He ran.
  • He did not run.
  • Lynn does not work overtime now.
  • The bus service did not run on Sundays.

The word order is, therefore:   subject + do- auxiliary + not + main verb

The contracted form of not, which is n’t, can be used after every auxiliary verb except ‘ am ‘. This is the most common spoken form.

  • He doesn’t run.
  • He didn’t run.
  • Lynn doesn’t work on Sundays.
  • She hasn’t been to work all week.
  • He isn’t going to come after all.
  • Bill went swimming but Ann didn’t fancy it.


Can + not is usually written cannot.

  • She can’t come.
  • She cannot come.

Other words with a negative meaning, neverbarelyhardlyscarcelyrarely, do not change the order of words in a statement.

She doesn’t buy Vogue.

  • She never buys Vogue.
  • He barely earns enough to live on.
  • I hardly think that is going to put them off.

Thank you for not never reading my blog.



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