Lets Learn about Negation in the English Language :)

Hello friends! Welcome to another free English lesson for all of English enthusiasts. Today, we will be looking at negation, that is, how we turn a positive sentence into a negative one. As you may know by now, a positive sentence can become a negative one if we negate the verb. However, there are some other ways to negate a sentence, and I’m going to introduce them today.

how to make negative sentences


A positive clause can be negated by inserting not between the auxiliary and the ordinary verb.

I     have    not    finished.

         auxiliary        ordinary verb

If there is no auxiliary in the positive clause, e.g. She works hard, we insert do.

She does not work hard.

Negative clauses can be followed by:

  • positive tag questions

They are not at home, are they?

  • negative tag clauses, with additive meaning

They are not at home, and neither are you.

  • non-assertive items

He won’t notice any change in you, either.

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  • We can sometimes choose between verb negation and negation of some other element. For example:

He won’t make that mistake ever again.

He will never make that mistake again.

  • In formal style, the negative element may be moved to initial position, in which case there is inversion of subject and auxiliary verb. The inversion of subject and auxiliary verb means that the auxiliary comes before the subject.

Never will he make that mistake again.



  • Several words are negative in meaning but not in form.

seldom, rarely, scarcely, hardly, barely, little, few

  • When these adverbs appear at the beginning of a sentence, there is subject-auxiliary inversion.

Little did he know how much she loved him.



  • Clause negation can be followed by one or more non-assertive items. Non-assertive items may be determiners, pronouns, or adverbs, such as any, ever, anybody, at all, either, much…

We haven’t had any problems with the task.

He doesn’t ever visit us.

  • In many cases, the negative particle no and the non-assertive item can combine to produce a negative form (not ever – never), or can be replaced by a negative form (not anywhere – nowhere).

  • A negative item can affect the meaning of the sentence, depending on where you put it.

She definitely didn’t like him. (It’s definite that she didn’t like him.)

She didn’t definitely like him. (It’s not definite that she did like him.)

  • Look at these examples:

I wasn’t listening all the time. – I listened none of the time.

I wasn’t listening all the time. – I listened some of the time.

  • These two sentences differ only in speech. In speech, you can signalize where the focus of negation is. If you stress wasn’t, the meaning is that of the first example. If you put the stress on all the time, the meaning is that of the second example.

Therefore, intonation is an important part of negation, too.

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