Grammar For IELTS: Negation – Negative Statements

grammar for ielts negative statements
grammar for ielts negative statements

There are many different ways of forming negatives in English. Although the most common way is with not. we can also use adverbs, quantifiers and prefixes to make the meaning of a sentence or a word negative.

NEGATIVE STATEMENTS

We use not/ n’t with verbs to make the meaning of a sentence negative. We add an auxiliary (do. does, etc.) in the negative present simple and past simple of all verbs except be, and the negative imperative of all verbs:

1. USING NOT WITH VERBS

affirmative Negative
imperative Talk to me! Don’t talk to me!
be He’s outside.

We’re waiting for you.

He’s not!He isn’t outside

We’re not!We aren’t waiting.

present or past simple I like Colombian coffee.
They finished early.
I don’t like Colombian coffee.
They didn’t finish early.
perfect tenses They have arrived.
They had seen the film.
They haven’t arrived.
They hadn’t seen the film.
modal verbs We must leave soon You mustn’t leave yet.
infinitives I told you to go.
To stop now would be silly.
I told you not to go.
Not to stop now would be silly
participles Having seen the film. I understand the hype. Not having seen the film. I don’t understand the hype.

In short answers with verbs of thinking and believing, e.g. think, hope, believing, imagine we often put not after the verb.

  • Has Susannah decided to call her daughter Brittany after all?
  • I hope not!

2. USING NOT BEFORE QUANTIFIERS AND ADJECTIVES

We can use not in front of positive quantifiers {e.g. much, many, a lot of) to make the meaning of a clause or phrase negative:

                                    Not many people want to be referees – it’s a lot of hassle and not much money.

We can use not (+ adverb) with adjectives to make the meaning negative:

                                Howard found/thought the climb not (too) difficult but not (particularly) easy either.

  • Putting not before an adjective weakens the adjective, but it does not give it the same strength as an adjective with the opposite meaning, e.g. not difficult does not have exactly the same strength of meaning as easy, particularly if we add an adverb after not like too or particularly.

                                    The maths exam was easy. The maths exam was not too difficult.
(The speaker is more confident of passing the exam in the first example.)

We can also use not before an adjective with a negative prefix

                                    Spanish has a tense system not dissimilar to that of English. (= a bit similar to)
                                   The tap water here is not unpleasant to drink now they’ve removed the fluoride.
                                    (= not awful, but not nice)

The descriptions above are much less positive than the following:

                                       Spanish has a tense system similar to that of English.
                                      The tap water here is pleasant to drink now they’ve removed the fluoride.

3. USES OF NO

We use no to introduce negative replies:

Have you been here before?’ No. I haven’t.’

We do not combine no with a verb to make a negative statement:

                                                  ‘I have no been here before. (Wrong)
‘I have not been here before. (Correct)’

We usually use not + any with a noun to express an absence or lack of something:

                                             They won’t get any help from Janice.

However, we can use no in front of nouns, instead of not… any or not… a/an:

                                              They’ll get no help from Janice.

We can often use no + noun and not … a/any + noun interchangeably, although no is usually more emphatic or more emotionally loaded than the neutral not… a/any.

     There isn’t any reason to change policy at this stage, (neutral statement)
                                       There’s no reason to change policy at this stage, (more emphatic statement)
                                       She’s not a dancer, (statement of fact about her job)
                                       She’s no dancer! (statement of opinion about her ability to dance)

We can use no with different, good and with comparatives:

 Low-impact aerobics is basically no different from the normal type, but it’s kinder on the                                            legs and feet. (= very similar to)

                                         Next-day courier is no faster than first-class post (= isn’t (any) faster than)

                                        Come on! This cafe is no more expensive than the one down the road. Let’s eat!
                                        (= This cafe charges the same prices as the cafe down the road.)

4. OTHER NO/NOT EXPRESSIONS

There are a number of expressions which we use to give negative meaning to a sentence, e.g. never, neither … nor. none, not only, not… for. no sooner … than.

                              The English village is neither as pleasant nor as unchanging as it is believed to be.
                               The German assault would have lasted longer if it hadn’t been for the harsh Russian winter.

  • English rarely uses a double negative, i.e. two words with a negative meaning in the same clause, as most people consider this to be incorrect:

                                        Sorry, but I don’t know nothing about that! (Incorrect)
                                        Sorry, but I don’t know anything about that!         I know nothing about that! (Correct)

But double negatives are possible if we intend to make an affirmative:

                                        I don’t know nothing about Etruscan history  –  I know a little about it!
                                        (In spoken English, nothing is stressed in this sentence.)

We can put not only at the beginning of sentences for emphasis

                               Not only did they monitor the landings, they also recorded all their dates and times.

Note that we use question word order when we use not only in this way.

5. NEGATIVE TRANSFER

When we use verbs like think, suppose and believe to introduce a negative idea, we prefer to make the introductory verb negative, not the verb in the subordinate clause:

                                                              I don’t think the later train will be cancelled.

If we make the subordinate verb negative rather than the introductory verb, it can express surprise or appear emphatic:

I thought that you didn’t smoke! When did you start?

  • We do not use hope in this way:

                                                     We don’t hope that the reunion will be too painful for you. (Incorrect)
                                                     We hope that the reunion won’t be too painful for you. (Correct)

  • With verbs such as seem, expect, appear + infinitive, we use either of these patterns:

                                                    He doesn’t appear to be interested.
                                                    He appears not to be interested.

  • With introductory verbs such as tell and ask + infinitive, we change the meaning when we make the introductory verb negative:

                                             The doctor told me not to take the pills, (prohibition)
                                            The doctor didn’t tell me to take the pills. (= The doctor omitted to tell me ….)

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