Negative Questions

Negative questions are of two kinds: contracted and uncontracted. They have different word order.

Contracted negative question

Word order: auxiliary verb + n’t + subject

  • Why don’t you listen to me?
  • Don’t you understand?
  • Hasn’t she any friends to help her?
  • Aren’t they ready?

Uncontracted negative questions

Uncontracted negative questions are more formal than contracted negative questions.

Word order: auxiliary verb + subject + not

  • Why do you not listen to me?
  • Do you not understand?
  • Has she not any friends to help her?
  • Are they not ready?

Contracted negative questions beginning with Won’t you …? Wouldn’t you…? or Why don’t you …? are very common in polite requests, invitations, offers, complaints and criticisms.

  • Wouldn’t you like a cup of coffee?
  • Why don’t you come and stay with us?

In a reply to a negative question, yes suggests a positive answer, and no suggests a negative answer.

  • ‘Haven’t you written to her?’ ‘Yes.’ (= I have written to her.)
  • ‘Haven’t you told her about us?’ ‘No.’ (= I haven’t told her about you.)

Manjusha Nambiar

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

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