Negative Structures

How to Form Negative Sentences in a Variety of Ways

No
Flickr

There are a number of negatives structures in English ranging from basic negative sentences to the more complicated neither ... nor and not ... either. Learn the most common negative structures by following the rules below.

Negative Verb Conjugation

The most common negative structure in English is the conjugation of the verb in the negative. Verbs can be used in the negative by placing 'not' directly after the auxiliary verb in each conjugation.

The combination of the auxiliary verb + not is often contracted in English. For example: do not = don't, will not = won't, has not = hasn't, etc.

S + auxiliary verb + not + main verb + objects

She won't come to the party tomorrow.
Tom hasn't finished the report.
We aren't studying Russian this semester.

Negative Imperative

The imperative form is used to instruct / command others. Use 'do not' plus the verb for all comparative forms. No subject is required for the use of the imperative form.

Do + not + verb + objects

Do not begin without me.
Don't waste any time.
Do not touch the glass.

Never

'Never' is used to express the idea that something is never done. Note that 'never' is used with positive form of the verb but results in a negative meaning. It's also important to remember that the present simple and past simple do not take an auxiliary verb in the positive form. In other words, use the auxiliary verb for the present perfect, future, etc., but not with the present or past simple.

S + (auxiliary verb) + never + verb + objects

She never takes time off work.
Mary has never returned my calls.
Peter never walked to school when he was young.

Double Negatives in English

Double negatives - the use of two 'no' words such as not and nowhere in one sentence - are incorrect in English. When modifying something use either a 'no' word, or 'any' as explained in the following sections.

He doesn't like anything. OR He likes nothing.
Angela hasn't visited anyone this month. OR Angela has visited no one this month.
She isn't going to travel anywhere. OR She's going to travel nowhere.

Use of Any

Any and words such as anyone, anybody, anything, etc. are used in negative sentences and questions.

S + auxiliary verb + not + main verb + any + objects

He doesn't have any time.
Mary isn't going to eat any dinner.
Peter hasn't done anything for the past three days.

No Words

There are a number of no words such as nowhere, nothing, no one, which can be used in place of 'any' words. Note the difference in structure between the two. 'Any' words take the negative verb structure, 'no' words take positive structures.

S + (auxiliary verb) + main verb + no word + objects

I have nothing to say.No more / not ... any more
The boys invited no one to their party.
Timothy has gone nowhere this summer.

Negative + Any OR No Word

The following sections refer to specific similar structures using either the negative verb form with 'any' or a 'no' word. In each of these cases examples are given for both forms. The forms used have been explained above.

I have no more time today. OR I don't have any more time today.
She has thought of no more ideas. OR She hasn't thought of any more ideas.

Nobody / not ... anybody

Note: This has the same meaning as no one / not ... anyone.

Susan saw nobody at work today. OR Susan didn't see anyone at work today.
Tom bought nobody a present. OR Tom didn't buy anyone a present.

No one / not ... anyone

Note: This has the same meaning as no body / not ... anybody.

I'm meeting no one today. OR I'm not meeting anyone today.
Alice has bought no one presents yet. OR Alice hasn't bought anyone presents yet.

Nothing / not ... anything

I've eaten nothing all day. OR I haven't eaten anything all done.
Doug talks about nothing with his friends. OR Doug doesn't talk about anything with his friends.

Nowhere / not ... anywhere

Shelly has gone nowhere this year. OR Shelly hasn't gone anywhere this year.
Alex has travelled nowhere outside of the USA. OR Alex hasn't travelled anywhere outside of the USA.

Neither ... Nor

Use the phrase 'neither ... nor' when expressing two negatives together. Note that the verb is inverted after the use of 'nor'.

I have neither the time nor have I had the desire to do my work.
She has neither the time nor the money to help her friends.
Alex has neither the means nor does he have the ability to find a new job.