Negative Sentences

A negative sentence (or statement) states that something is not true or incorrect. A negative adverb has to be added in order to negate or “cancel” the validity of the sentence. This “negation” element is created according to the following general rule.

The Negation Rule: In English, in order to claim that something is not true, you form a negative sentence by adding the word not after the first auxiliary verb in the positive sentence. If there is no auxiliary verb in the positive sentence, as in the Present Simple and Past Simple tenses, then you add one (in both these cases, the auxiliary verb do).

Pay attention:

  • • When an auxiliary verb (including modals) is used, the main verb is not inflected (no s or ed ending), meaning that either the base form or past participle is used.
  • • The verb to be uses a different negation pattern.

Review the following table for examples of negation in English. Some examples use the contracted forms more used in informal writing and speech, and some others use the full forms.

Tense Negative Element + Contracted Forms Examples
Present Simple do+not = don’t
does+not = doesn’t
I do not play.
She doesn’t play.
Past Simple did+not = didn’t I didn’t play.
Present Progressive am + not (*no amn’t)
is+not = isn’t
are+not = aren't
I am not playing.
  • He is not playing.
  • We aren’t playing.

Past Progressive
was+not = wasn’t
were+not = weren’t     I wasn’t playing.
They were not playing.
Present Perfect     have+not = haven’t
has+not = hasn’t     You haven’t played.
She has not played.
Present Perfect
Progressive     have+not+been= haven’t been
has+not+been = hasn’t been     I have not been playing.
She hasn’t been playing.
Past Perfect    had+not = hadn’t     You hadn’t played.
Past Perfect
Progressive    had+not+been = hadn’t been    She hadn’t been playing.
Future Simple     will+not = won’t    I won’t play.
Future Perfect    will+not+have = won’t have    He will not have played.
Conditional     would+not    She wouldn’t play.
Conditional perfect    would+not+have    She wouldn’t have played.
Modals    can + not = can’t or cannot (formal)
should+not = shouldn’t     I can’t play.
I cannot play.
We shouldn’t play.

In informal writing settings, you can contract the auxiliary verb with either the sentence subject or the word not. In formal writing settings, refrain from contracting any words.

  • She is not playing. [formal]
  • She isn’t playing. = She’s not playing. [informal]