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?B:
Are you ready?B:
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’m not allowed to go out this evening.
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.
We mayn’t see you later.
With is and are there are two possible negative statements, ’s not or isn’t and ’re not 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’re not coming until later.
The programme isn’t ready. It’s not printed yet. (or The programme’s not ready 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 you not …? 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.
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
Do not 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’t let’s or let’s not for first person plural imperatives (us) to make suggestions:
Don’t let’s go out. (or Let’s not go out.)
We can use the short form don’t as an imperative answer or reaction to something:
Shall I ask Mum to help?B:
No, don’t. She’s too tired. (No, don’t ask Mum to help us.)
Not: short replies
We use not in negative short replies with mental process verbs (e.g. be afraid, guess, hope):
Will I see you tomorrow, Harry?B:
Oh, Alice, I’m afraid not.
Will he have to go back into hospital?B:
I hope not.
Aren’t you coming with us?B:
I guess not. Rosie’s not keen.
With think, we usually use I don’t think so rather than I think not, which is much more formal and rare:
Is it going to rain?B:
I don’t think so.
In short replies to yes-no questions, we use not after adverbs like probably, maybe, certainly to express degrees of certainty:
Do you think she’ll remember to come at five instead of six?B:
We often use not after but to express a contrast. We often leave out the verb phrase or part of it in the second clause:
You can look but not touch. (You can look but you can’t touch.)
Write the instructions in capitals but not in bold. (Write the instructions in capitals but don’t write them in bold.)
There were a few problems but not too many. (There were a few problems but there weren’t too many problems.)
Not + -ing and not + to
We use not before an -ing clause in more formal styles:
Not knowing what to say, she started to walk towards the door.
Not being heard or listened to is something that elderly people can find frightening.
She didn’t want to admit to not knowing what the Emerald Isle was. (‘The Emerald Isle’ is another name for Ireland.)
We use not to negate a to-infinitive clause. We can use not before or after to, but some people consider ‘split infinitives’ (when not comes between to and the verb) to be incorrect:
She tried not to offend people.
… she wanted to stay for a long time, to not think, to not be afraid, to not be so, so lonely.
We can use or not in questions to ask about a range of possibilities:
Are they coming today or not?
We sometimes use it to force someone to make a decision:
Are you going to apologise to me or not? (Are you going to apologise to me or are you not going to apologise to me?)
Do you want to hear this story or not?
We often use or not after if or whether to express a contrast in expectation:
He always spoke the truth whether it was popular or not.
(“Not” aus English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)
- Adjectives and adverbs
Easily confused words
- Above or over?
- Across, over or through?
- Advice or advise?
- Affect or effect?
- All or every?
- All or whole?
- Allow, permit or let?
- Almost or nearly?
- Alone, lonely, or lonesome?
- Along or alongside?
- Already, still or yet?
- Also, as well or too?
- Alternate(ly), alternative(ly)
- Although or though?
- Altogether or all together?
- Amount of, number of or quantity of?
- Any more or anymore?
- Anyone, anybody or anything?
- Apart from or except for?
- Arise or rise?
- Around or round?
- Arouse or rouse?
- As or like?
- As, because or since?
- As, when or while?
- Been or gone?
- Begin or start?
- Beside or besides?
- Between or among?
- Born or borne?
- Bring, take and fetch
- Can, could or may?
- Classic or classical?
- Come or go?
- Consider or regard?
- Consist, comprise or compose?
- Content or contents?
- Different from, different to or different than?
- Do or make?
- Down, downwards or downward?
- During or for?
- Each or every?
- East or eastern; north or northern?
- Economic or economical?
- Efficient or effective?
- Elder, eldest or older, oldest?
- End or finish?
- Especially or specially?
- Every one or everyone?
- Except or except for?
- Expect, hope or wait?
- Experience or experiment?
- Fall or fall down?
- Far or a long way?
- Farther, farthest or further, furthest?
- Fast, quick or quickly?
- Fell or felt?
- Female or feminine; male or masculine?
- Finally, at last, lastly or in the end?
- First, firstly or at first?
- Fit or suit?
- Following or the following?
- For or since?
- Forget or leave?
- Full or filled?
- Fun or funny?
- Get or go?
- Grateful or thankful?
- Hear or listen (to)?
- High or tall?
- Historic or historical?
- House or home?
- How is …? or What is … like?
- If or when?
- If or whether?
- Ill or sick?
- Imply or infer?
- In the way or on the way?
- It’s or its?
- Late or lately?
- Lay or lie?
- Lend or borrow?
- Less or fewer?
- Look at, see or watch?
- Low or short?
- Man, mankind or people?
- Maybe or may be?
- Maybe or perhaps?
- Nearest or next?
- Never or not … ever?
- Nice or sympathetic?
- No doubt or without doubt?
- No or not?
- Nowadays, these days or today?
- Open or opened?
- Opportunity or possibility?
- Opposite or in front of?
- Other, others, the other or another?
- Out or out of?
- Permit or permission?
- Person, persons or people?
- Pick or pick up?
- Play or game?
- Politics, political, politician or policy?
- Price or prize?
- Principal or principle?
- Quiet or quite?
- Raise or rise?
- Remember or remind?
- Right or rightly?
- Rob or steal?
- Say or tell?
- So that or in order that?
- Sometimes or sometime?
- Sound or noise?
- Speak or talk?
- Such or so?
- There, their or they’re?
- Towards or toward?
- Wait or wait for?
- Wake, wake up or awaken?
- Worth or worthwhile?
- Nouns, pronouns and determiners
Prepositions and particles
- Among and amongst
- At, in and to (movement)
- At, on and in (place)
- At, on and in (time)
- Beneath: meaning and use
- By + myself etc.
- For + -ing
- In front of
- In spite of and despite
- In, into
- Near and near to
- On, onto
- Prepositional phrases
Words, sentences and clauses
- about words, clauses and sentences
- as and as expressions
- comparing and contrasting
- conditionals and wishes
- linking words and expressions
questions and negative sentences
- Neither, neither … nor and not … either
- Questions: alternative questions (Is it black or grey?)
- Questions: statement questions (you’re over 18?)
- Questions: two-step questions
- Questions: typical errors
- Questions: wh-questions
- Questions: yes-no questions (Are you feeling cold?)
- relative clauses
- reported speech
- so and such
- word formation
- word order and focus
- Using English
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