Not is one of the most common words we use to indicate negation. It is often shortened to n’t and joined to an auxiliary verb or modal verb:
She’s not coming with us.
I didn’t see what happened.(did not)
I can’t swim.(cannot)
She won’t change her mind.(will not)
It’s at eight o’clock, not nine.
Is that true?
Are you ready?
Not in negative statements (She hasn’t …, I did not …)
We form negative declarative clauses with not after be (she is not talking), after modal verbs (they must not go) and after auxiliary verbs do and have (we did not like it; they have not eaten).
In informal situations, we add n’t to be, modal verbs and auxiliary verbs do and have. There is no space between the verb and n’t:
She isn’t worried about it, is she?
We can’t walk. It’s too far. I’ll take the car.
Although he doesn’t know much Chinese, he is fluent in French, German, and Italian.
I haven’t seen Peter for ages.
We don’t use n’t with am and may:
I’mnot allowed to go out this evening.
Not: I amn’t allowed to … (amn’t is common in Irish and Scots English, however.)
We may not see you later. We have to leave early.
Not: We mayn’t see you later.
With is and are there are two possible negative statements, ’s not or isn’t and ’renot or aren’t. The forms ’s not and ’re not are more common after pronouns; isn’t and aren’t are more common after noun phrases:
The girls aren’t here yet. They’renot coming until later.
The programme isn’t ready. It’s not printed yet. (or The programme’snotready yet.)
In questions and question tags we use aren’t with I:
Aren’t I lucky?
I’m right, aren’t I?
We use the full form not for more formal writing or for emphasis:
It had not been an easy year.
He was not sorry and he is not ashamed.
The Lady Jinneth went out riding alone this afternoon, and she has not yet come back.
Not and n’t in questions (Did younot …? Wasn’t she …?)
We use not or n’t to form negative questions:
Why haven’t you eaten anything?
Couldn’t he pay someone to help him with the garden?
Wasn’t it Cath’s party last night?
Weren’t you listening?
When there is no modal verb or auxiliary verb or be, we use auxiliary verb do + n’t or do + not (don’t, do not, doesn’t, does not, didn’t, did not):
Why didn’t you go?
Don’t those two go to school together?
Questions with not instead of n’t sound more formal or give more emphasis. We put not after the subject.
Why did she not phone and tell us?
Why didn’t she phone and tell us?
Does Ellen not like you very much?
Doesn’t Ellen like you very much?
Don’t, Do not: orders and instructions
We use don’t+ the base form of the verb or do + not + the base form of the verb to make negative imperatives. We use these to give orders, instructions or commands. Do not is stronger and much more formal:
Don’t be an idiot!
Don’t open the oven door until the cake is cooked.
[on an envelope containing photos]
PHOTOS: DO NOT BEND
Donot turn off your computer without shutting down properly.
We use don’t + you in informal speaking to make the order stronger:
We’re getting divorced. Don’t you dare tell anyone!
We can use don’tlet’s or let’s not for first person plural imperatives (us) to make suggestions:
Don’t let’s go out. (or Let’snotgo out.)
We can use the short form don’t as an imperative answer or reaction to something:
Shall I ask Mum to help?
No, don’t. She’s too tired. (No, don’t ask Mum to help us.)