Negative Sentences in English Grammar

Introduction

Negative sentences are created by placing an auxiliary verb and not before the main verb. The auxiliary verb depends on the tense we are using. We use do + not in simple tenses, be + not in progressive tenses, have + not in perfect tenses and have + be + not in perfect progressive tenses. To negate the verb be and all modal verbs, we simply add not.

Learn about negative sentences in English grammar with Lingolia’s simple lesson. Then practise your skills in the interactive exercises.

The boy is from England, but the girl is not from England.

They are not talking because she doesn’t speak English.

They have not got a dictionary.

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Negation of Modal Verbs and “be”

We don’t use auxiliary verbs with modal verbs or with be when it is a main verb.

To negate a modal verb we put not between the modal verb and the main verb. In spoken and informal speech we usually use the contracted form.

Example:
I can’t speak French.

When we use be as a main verb in the simple present or simple past, we simply put not after the form of be. In spoken and informal English we usually use a contraction.

Example:
He is from England, but she is not from England.
He’s from England, but she’s not/isn’t from England.
pronounfull formcontraction
simple present I I am not I’m not
you, we, they you are not you’re not/you aren’t
he, she, it he is not he’s not/he isn’t
simple past I, he, she, it I was not I wasn’t
you, we, they you were not you weren’t

Negation with “do”

We use do + not before the main verb to negate all other verbs in the simple present or the simple past.

Example:
We speak English. → We do not speak English.

Note that main verb is conjucated in the infinitve/base form – only the auxiliary verb do is conjugated. We use does for the third person singular in the simple present but do for all other persons and did for all forms in the simple past.

Example:
They speak English. → They do not speak English.
He speaks English. → He does not speak English.
They spoke English. → They did not speak English.

The contraced forms of do + not are listed in the table below. They are prefered in spoken language:

Example:
They do not speak English. → They don’t speak English.
pronounfull formcontraction
simple present I, you, we, they I do not I don’t
he, she, it he does not he doesn’t
simple past all forms I did not I didn’t

Negation with “be”, “have” and “will”

Progressive, perfect and future tenses as well as sentences in the passive voive already have an auxiliary verb. To negate them, we simply put not between the auxiliary verb and the main verb.

Example:
They are speaking English. → They are not speaking English. (present progressive)
They have spoken English. → They have not spoken English. (present perfect simple)
They will speak English. → They will not speak English. (future simple)
English is spoken in that country. → English is not spoken in that country. (passive voice)

We can also use contractions for the negated forms of have and will:

full formcontraction
I have not spoken. I haven’t spoken./I’ve not spoken.
She has not spoken. She hasn’t spoken./She’s not spoken.
We had not spoken. We hadn’t spoken./We’d not spoken.
They will not speak. They won’t speak./They’ll not speak.
English is not spoken there. English isn’t spoken there.

Negation with “have”

When the verb have indicates belonging or possession, there are two possible ways to construct the negation.

We can use the verb have with the auxiliary verb do, following the regular neagtion pattern for the simple present.

Example:
They have a dictionary. → They do not have a dictionary.

There is also the form have got. For the negation in this case, we don’t use do, instead we put not between have and got.

Example:
They have got a dictionary. → They haven’t got a dictionary.