Negative Sentences - Definition, Rules and Examples

Having learnt what affirmative sentences are and how they are formed, the next step you should take is to learn what negative sentences are. This article will help you with all that you need to know about negative sentences – their meaning, definition, formation, how it differs from affirmative sentences, along with examples to make it easily comprehensible. In addition to that, there is also a practice exercise you can try out to check how far you have understood the formation and usage of negative sentences.

Table of Contents

What is a Negative Sentence? – Meaning and Definition

A negative sentence is one that indicates that some action is not happening, something no longer exists or that a subject does not possess a particular quality. In most scenarios, it can be easily identified by the words ‘not’, ‘no’, ‘nobody’, ‘nothing’, ‘nowhere’ ‘no one’ and ‘none’. Let us look at a few dictionary definitions to have a much better idea of what a negative sentence is.

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a negative sentence as a “statement that means ‘no’; an act of refusing to do something or of denying something”, and according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “a negative sentence or phrase is one that contains a word such as “not”, “no”, “never”, or “nothing”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a negative sentence as one “denying a predicate of a subject or a part of a subject, denoting the absence or the contradictory of something, expressing negation”, and according to the Collins Dictionary, “a negative clause contains a word such as not, never, or no-one”.

How to Form a Negative Sentence? – Different Ways and Points to Remember

Most often, a negative sentence is formed simply by the addition of ‘not’ to the verb in the sentence. It is also the easiest way to identify a negative sentence. Then again, there are other ways to form and identify negative sentences. Take a look at each type of conversion given below.

Forming Negative Sentences by Adding ‘Not’

Conventionally, adding a ‘not’ to the verb indicates that an action is not taking place. Even in doing this, there are a few things you need to know.

  • When verb forms of ‘to be’ and ‘do’ are used as main verbs, the word ‘not’ can be added immediately after the verb.

For example:

    • She is not a teacher.
    • I do not like anything sweet.
  • When modal verbs such as can, could, will, would, shall, should, must, need, may, might, etc. are used in a sentence, the word ‘not’ should be placed after these verbs.

For example:

    • I cannot help you with your homework as I would be late.
    • You must not be brooding over this.
    • Jannet should not have spoken to her parents like that.
    • She may not find it difficult to complete this level.
  • When verb forms of ‘have’, other regular or irregular verbs appear as main verbs in sentences, all you have to do is use the verb forms of ‘do’ followed by ‘not’ and then the verb in its base form.

For example:

    • I do not have an extra pencil to lend you.
    • She does not know anything about the change in the seating allocation.
    • They did not participate in the science quiz competition.
  • According to the tense of the sentence, the forms of the ‘do’ verb changes. When a sentence in the simple present tense has to be made negative, ‘do’ and ‘does’ are the verb forms used with respect to the noun, or the first, second or third person pronoun playing the role of the subject in the sentence. To convert a sentence in the simple past tense into a negative sentence, you will have to use ‘did’ and ‘not’ (irrespective of what the subject is) followed by the main verb in its base form.

For example:

    • They do not go walking every evening. (Simple present tense – Third person plural pronoun as subject)
    • Sheetal does not have food from the cafeteria anymore. (Simple present tense – Third person singular pronoun as subject)
    • Ishaan did not agree to dance with us for the hostel day programme. (Simple past tense)
  • Sentences denoting all other tenses will have one or more helping verbs and a main verb. In these cases, the word ‘not’ is added after the first helping verb followed by the main verb or the second helping verb and the main verb. In addition to this, also see to it that you do not alter the conjugated form of the main verb (present participle/past participle).

For example:

    • Olivia is not eating anything though we have been trying to get her to do it for more than half a day. (Present Continuous Tense)
    • He has not cut the call yet. (Present Perfect Tense)
    • They have not been marking their attendance regularly. (Present Perfect Continuous Tense)
    • It was not raining when we left. (Past Continuous Tense)
    • The teacher had not told us what to do for our internal assessment. (Past Perfect Tense)
    • The nurse found out that the patient had not been taking his medicines as per prescription. (Past Perfect Continuous Tense)
    • Amit will not have what you require to finish your project. (Simple Future Tense)
    • Raksesh, Rupesh and Ratheesh will not be participating in the International Science Fair. (Future Continuous Tense)
    • The train will not have arrived when you reach the station. (Future Perfect Tense)
    • The children will not have been doing the work properly. (Future Perfect Continuous Tense)

Using Contractions

We have already discussed that adding ‘not’ to the verb will form a negative sentence. In addition to this, you should also know that some verbs such as (is, was, have, etc.) can have contracted forms which can be used instead of ‘verb + not’. Go through the following examples to learn how contractions are used.

Verb + not

Contraction

Verb + not

Contraction

Is not

Isn’t

Was not

Wasn’t

Are not

Aren’t

Were not

Weren’t

Has not

Hasn’t

Have not

Haven’t

Had not

Hadn’t

Cannot

Can’t

Could not

Couldn’t

Should not

Shouldn’t

Must not

Mustn’t

Need not

Needn’t

Will not

Won’t

Would not

Wouldn’t

Forming Negative Sentences Using ‘No’, ‘Nothing’, ‘Nobody’, ‘None’, ‘Nowhere’

Words such as ‘no’, ‘nothing’, ‘nowhere’, ‘none’, ‘nobody’, ‘no one’ can also be used to form negative sentences. Also using ‘not’ along with the verb followed by words such as ‘any’, ‘anything’, ‘anywhere’, ‘anyone’ and ‘anybody’ will also do the trick. Take a look at the following examples to learn how this works.

Example 1:

  • Everyone had gathered in the auditorium. (Affirmative sentence)

No one had gathered in the auditorium. (Negative sentence)

Example 2:

  • We had asked everybody for their opinion on the newly implemented policies. (Affirmative sentence)

We had asked nobody for their opinion on the newly implemented policies. (Negative sentence)

(or)

We had not asked anybody for their opinion on the newly implemented policies. (Negative sentence)

Example 3:

  • All of us were present for the unfurling of the National Flag. (Affirmative sentence)

None of us were present for the unfurling of the National Flag. (Negative sentence)

Example 4:

  • Everything was falling into place. (Affirmative sentence)

Nothing was falling into place. (Negative sentence)

Example 5:

  • We could hear the new music album playing everywhere. (Affirmative sentence)

We could hear the new music album playing nowhere. (Negative sentence)

(or)

We could not hear the new music album playing anywhere. (Negative sentence)

Negating Interrogative Sentences

To form negative interrogative sentences, what you can do is either use ‘not’ after the subject or using the contraction of the verb in the beginning of the interrogative sentence. Here are a few examples that you can refer to.

Example 1:

  • Have you not read ‘The Tale of Two Cities’?

Haven’t you read ‘The Tale of Two Cities’? (Negative interrogative)

Example 2:

  • Does she not teach Hindi anymore?

Doesn’t she teach Hindi anymore? (Negative interrogative)

Example 3:

  • Did you not see the notice that was put up on the board?

Didn’t you see the notice that was put up on the board? (Negative interrogative)

Example 4:

  • Should you not be at the board meeting now?

Shouldn’t you be at the board meeting now? (Negative interrogative)

Example 5:

  • Was she not the one who applied for medical leave?

Wasn’t she the one who applied for medical leave? (Negative interrogative)

Double Negatives

Heard of double negatives? Any idea what they are? Well, the usage of two negative words in the same sentence is called a double negative. The usage of double negatives makes the meaning of the sentence positive rather than negative. Examples of double negatives are given below. Take a look at them and try to analyse the meaning they bring out.

Examples:

  • Pritam was not an irresponsible boy. (Pritam was a responsible boy)
  • This will not be unexpected. (This will be expected)
  • I believe we have not seen anything yet. (I believe we have seen nothing yet)

Check Your Understanding of Negative Sentences

Here is a practice exercise for you to test your understanding of negative sentences. All you have to do is go through the following sentences and identify which part of the sentences classifies them as negative sentences.

1. Haven’t you found your bag?

2. She doesn’t like reading detective novels.

3. Danny is not at the hotel.

4. We have nothing we need.

5. Jackson won’t be here in a few minutes.

6. Are you not the one who had ordered American chopsuey?

7. We do not work for 9 hours everyday.

8. No one agreed to meet by 5 p.m. in the main auditorium.

9. Shouldn’t we bring an address proof for verification?

10. None of us will have to be present by 9 a.m.

Here are the answers. Check the answers to find out if you transformed the sentences accurately.

1. Haven’t you found your bag?

2. She doesn’t like reading detective novels.

3. Danny is not at the hotel.

4. We have nothing we need.

5. Jackson won’t be here in a few minutes.

6. Are you not the one who had ordered American chopsuey?

7. We do not work for 9 hours everyday.

8. No one agreed to meet by 5 p.m. in the main auditorium.

9. Shouldn’t we bring an address proof for verification?

10. None of us will have to be present by 9 a.m.

Frequently Asked Questions on Negative Sentences in English

What is a negative sentence?

A negative sentence is one that expresses that some action is not happening, something no longer exists or that a subject does not possess a particular quality.

What is the definition of a negative sentence?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a negative sentence as a “statement that means ‘no’; an act of refusing to do something or of denying something”, and according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “a negative sentence or phrase is one that contains a word such as “not”, “no”, “never”, or “nothing”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a negative sentence as one “denying a predicate of a subject or a part of a subject, denoting the absence or the contradictory of something, expressing negation”, and according to the Collins Dictionary, “a negative clause contains a word such as not, never, or no-one”.

What makes a negative sentence different from an affirmative sentence?

A negative sentence is generally identified by the word ‘not’ used along with verbs, ‘no’ with a noun, verb contractions ending in ’n’t’ and so on, all of which are used to represent a negative thought or the absence of something or someone. On the other hand, an affirmative sentence is any declarative or assertive sentence that is positive and shows the possibility of an action taking place without any hindrance.

Give five negative sentence examples.

Given below are five examples of negative sentences for your reference.

  • I am not in the mood to watch a movie now.
  • There was no tissue paper left.
  • Manny did not tell me about your accident.
  • Haven’t you booked a cab yet?
  • None of us were ready to present our project yesterday.

Also explore: Present Continuous Tense│Present Perfect Tense│Present Perfect Continuous Tense│Past Continuous Tense│Past Perfect Tense│Past Perfect Continuous Tense│Simple Future Tense│Future Continuous Tense│Future Perfect Tense│Future Perfect Continuous Tense