Negative verb forms

The negative verb forms are made by putting not after an auxiliary verb.

  • She has invited us. (Affirmative)
  • She has not invited us. (Negative)
  • It was raining. (Affirmative)
  • It was not raining. (Negative)
  • She can knit. (Affirmative)
  • She cannot knit. (Negative)

If there is no auxiliary verb, do is used to make the negative verb forms.

  • I like reading. (Affirmative)
  • I do not like reading. (Negative)

Note that do is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • She didn’t come. (NOT She didn’t to come.)

Do is not normally used if there is another auxiliary verb.

  • You should not go. (NOT You don’t should go.)

Infinitives and -ing forms

The negative forms of infinitives and -ing forms are made by putting not before them. Do is not used.

  • The best thing about weekends is not working.

Not can be put with other parts of a clause, not just the verb.

  • Ask John, not his father.
  • Come early, but not before six.

We do not usually use not with the subject. Instead we use a structure with it.

  • It was not John who broke the window, but his brother. (NOT Not John broke the window, but his brother.)

Other negative words

Not isn’t the only word that can make a clause negative. There are some other negative words too. Examples are: never, hardly, seldom, rarely etc.


  • He does not work.
  • He hardly ever works.
  • He never works.
  • He seldom works.

Non-assertive words

We do not normally use words like some, somebody, something etc in negative clauses. Instead, we use non-assertive words like any, anybody, anything etc.

  • I have caught some fish.
  • I haven’t caught any fish.