How To Make Negatives In English

We make negative forms by putting not after an auxiliary verb.

  • do not smoke.
  • He did not come.
  • They are not expected to come.
  • They have not been invited.
  • She has not come.
  • cannot go.

Basic rules

1. Do is used if there is no other auxiliary verb. After do, we use the infinitive without to.

  • Money brings you happiness. (assertive)
  • Money does not bring you happiness. (negative)
  • She came. (assertive)
  • She did not come. (negative)

2. When be (is, am, are, was, were) is the main verb, we make negative forms by putting not after be.

  • She is not ready.
  • You are not late.
  • was not surprised.

3. When have is the main verb, we make negative forms by putting do not before have.

  • They have a car. (assertive)
  • They do not have a car. (negative)
  • He has a good job. (assertive)
  • He does not have a good job. (negative)

4. We use not before infinitives and -ing forms. Do is not used.

  • It is important not to be late.
  • The best thing about a computer is not complaining.

5. Besides not, there are also other words that can make a clause negative.

Compare:

  • He is not at home.
  • He is never at home.
  • He is seldom/rarely/hardly ever at home.

Negative questions

Contracted and uncontracted negative questions have different word order.

Compare:

  • Can’t we wait? (auxiliary verb + n’t + subject – contracted)
  • Won’t she come? (auxiliary verb + n’t + subject – contracted)
  • Can we not wait? (auxiliary verb + subject + not – uncontracted)
  • Will she not come? (auxiliary verb + subject + not – uncontracted)

Contracted negative questions are less formal than uncontracted negative questions.

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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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