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12.4: Questions and Negative Statements

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    Figure: Unsplash

    Question Form

    The question form can be tricky, and even native speakers sometimes forget to include question marks at the end of questions.

    Questions include the following four types of words:

    • The "question words" of who, what, where, when, and why (most of the time). These are also known as the journalist words.
    • Auxiliary word: "do," "does," or "did" or another modal
    • A subject
    • Main verb (sometimes with a complement after it)

    Questions always end with a question mark: ?

    Tip: Don't forget to write the question mark at the end of a question. Students sometime forget this on paper.

    All the questions you may have about grammatically correct questions are probably answered in the following video, which is also really good for those who are still practicing conversation.

    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Transforming a Sentence

    English speakers rely on the following two common ways to turn sentences into questions:

    1. Move the helping verb and add a question mark.
    2. Add the verb do, does, or did, and add a question mark.

    Here is an example of moving the helping verb and adding a question mark.

    Declarative Sentence: Sierra can pack these boxes.

    Question (Interrogative form): Can Sierra pack these boxes?

    Here is an example of adding the verb do, does, or did, and adding a question mark:

    Sentence: Jolene skated across the pond.

    Question: Did Jolene skate across the pond?

    Exercise 1

    On a separate sheet of paper, create questions from the following sentences.

    1. Boyz n the Hood is a film directed by John Singleton.

    2. It won many awards.

    3. It was one of the first movies to depict somewhat realistically the effects street life can have on young people.

    4. The movie stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Lawrence Fishburne, Angela Basset, Regina King, Nia Long, and Morris Chestnut.

    5. The movie has stood the test of time.

    6. My daughter will have to think about her college options.

    7. Otto is waiting in the car for his girlfriend.

    8. The article talks about conserving energy.

    9. We need to reduce our budget.

    10. Rusha is always complaining about her work.

    Negative Statements

    Negative statements are the opposite of positive statements and are many times necessary to express an opposing idea. The following charts list negative words and helping verbs that can be combined to form a negative statement.

    Negative Words
    never no hardly
    nobody none scarcely
    no one not barely
    nowhere rarely
    Common Helping Verbs
    am is are
    was were be
    being been have
    has had do
    does did can
    could may might
    must will should
    would ought to used to
    Figure: Unsplash

    The following examples show several ways to make a sentence negative in the present tense.

    1. A helping verb used with the negative word not.

      Sentence: My guests are arriving now.

      Negative: My guests are not arriving now.

    2. Sentence: Jennie has money.

      Negative: Jennie has no money.

    3. The contraction n’t. (This is the same as number 1; there is just a contraction rather than the spelled out not.)

      Sentence: Janetta does miss her mom.

      Negative: Janetta doesn’t miss her mom.

    4. The negative adverb rarely. (Note that "rarely" is an almost opposite, not a complete opposite.)

      Sentence: I always go to the gym after work.

      Negative: I rarely go to the gym after work.

    5. Sentence: Everybody gets the day off.

      Negative: Nobody gets the day off.

    Exercise 2

    On a separate sheet of paper, rewrite the positive sentences as negative sentences. Be sure to keep the sentences in the present tense.

    1. Everybody is happy about the mandatory lunch.
    2. Deborah likes to visit online dating sites.
    3. Jordan donates blood every six months.
    4. Our writing instructor is very effective.
    5. That beautiful papaya is cheap.
    6. Sometimes I work on Saturdays.
    7. The garden attracts butterflies and bees.
    8. He breathes loudly at night.
    9. I communicate well with my family.

    The following sentences show you the ways to make a sentence negative in the past tense.

    Sentence: Paul called me yesterday.

    Negative: Paul did not call me yesterday.

    Sentence: Jamilee went to the grocery store.

    Negative: Jamilee never went to the grocery store.

    Sentence: Gina laughed when she saw the huge pile of laundry.

    Negative: Gina did not laugh when she saw the huge pile of laundry.

    Notice that when forming a negative in the past tense, the helping verb did is what signals the past tense, and the main verb laugh does not have an -ed ending.

    Exercise 3

    Rewrite the following paragraph by correcting the errors in the past-tense negative sentences.

    Celeste no call me when she reached North Carolina. I was worried because she not drove alone before. She was going to meet her friend, Terry, who lived in a town called Asheville, North Carolina. I did never want to worry, but she said she was going to call when she reached there. Finally, four hours later, she called and said, “Mom, I’m sorry I did not call. I lost track of time because I was so happy to see Terry!” I was relieved.

    Double Negatives

    Double negatives are two negatives used in the same phrase or sentence. They are considered incorrect in Standard English. Think of it like math -- two negatives cancel each other out and make a positive. And this is the opposite of what you mean. You should avoid using double negatives in all formal writing. If you want to say something negative, use only one negative word in the sentence. Return to the beginning of this section for a list of negative words, and then study the following examples.

    Double negative Single negative
    neg. + neg.
    I couldn’t find no paper
    I couldn’t find any paper.
    neg. + neg.
    I don’t want nothing.
    I don’t want anything.

    Ain't is considered a contraction of am not. Although some may use it in everyday speech, it is considered incorrect in standard English. Avoid using it when speaking and writing in formal contexts.

    Exercise 4

    On your own sheet of paper, correct the double negatives and rewrite the following sentences.

    1. Jose didn’t like none of the choices on the menu.
    2. Brittany can’t make no friends with nobody.
    3. The Southwest hardly had no rain last summer.
    4. My kids never get into no trouble.
    5. I could not do nothing about the past.Tip

    Exercise 5

    On a separate sheet of paper, rewrite the following paragraph by correcting the double negatives.

    That morning it was so hot Forrest felt like he couldn’t hardly breathe. Ain’t nothing would get him out the door into that scorching heat. Then he remembered his dog, Zeus, who started whining right then. Zeus was whining and barking so much that Forrest didn’t have no choice but to get off the couch and face the day. That dog didn’t do nothing but sniff around the bushes and try to stay in the shade while Forrest was sweating in the sun holding the leash. He couldn’t not wait for winter to come..

    Contributors and Attributions



    This page most recently updated on June 8, 2020.

    This page titled 12.4: Questions and Negative Statements is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .