Thursday, February 2

DON'T YOU…? AREN'T YOU…? etc. – Negative Questions in English

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If you know how to make questions in English, then you must be wondering why we sometimes use the Negative Form of Question. For example,

1.       Can’t you speak English?

2.       Didn’t you join them?

3.       Haven’t you traveled abroad?

4.       Don’t you like it?

First things first, if you just wanna ask a normal question – normal meaning and normal situation – please use the Positive Form. For example,

1.       Can you speak English?

2.       Did you join them?

3.       Have you traveled abroad?

4.       Do you like it?

As you will learn, a Negative Question is unique and special. And it’s used to give a different meaning in a different situation.

Now, the important question is: In what situation do we use the Negative Question?

Well, we use the Negative-form Question to express 2 things:

1.       Surprise = Because the situation is not what you expect it to be  

Ex. DON’T you have a class? (= I see you outside school. I think you have a class so I’m surprised.)

ISN’T she Japanese? (=She doesn’t wanna eat “sushi.” I think she’s Japanese so I’m surprised.)

DON’T you like pasta? (=You don’t wanna eat what I cooked for you. I think you like pasta so I’m surprised)

2.       When you expect the listener to agree with you

Ex. DIDN’T you go to the party? (= I know that you went there)

ISN’T the baby cute? (= I know that you’re thinking the same thing)

DON’T you have a brother? (=I know that you have a brother)

Now after knowing these things, when to use the Negative Question, what you need to learn next is how to answer a Negative Question properly.

It’s a bit confusing. Take a look:

A: DON’T you like food?

B: Yes, I do. (=OK)

B: No, I don’t. X

A: AREN’T you human?

B: Yes, I am. (=OK)

B: No, I’m not. X

To the first question, a few people can answer “No” because maybe they really HATE food.  But this is a rare case. 95% of people must say “Yes.” This is the natural situation.

To the second question, everybody must say “Yes.” Unless you are an alien, or a monster of some sort…

This part gets very confusing for Asians and non-native speakers of English coz in their native languages it is possible to mix:

No, I am.  – or – Yes, I’m not.

But please keep in mind that in English, these are impossible:

No, I am. X   Yes, I’m not. X

In English there are only two kinds of answers:

1.       Yes, I am./ Yes, I do./ Yes, I can. etc.

-- or --

2.       No, I’m not./ No, I don’t./ No, I can’t. etc.

Please remember this and don’t get confused when somebody asks you a Negative Question.

A: DON’T you like my country?

B: Yes, I do. (= I like your country)

B: No, I don’t. (= I dislike your country)

I hope you learned something. Please don’t hesitate to leave a question if there’s anything you don’t understand.


Keep on learning !

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