Negation and the verb DO

This lesson explains one of the very important roles of the verb DO: the formation of negative phrases. Before continuing, review these lessons: Introduction to DO | Negation.

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In English, most negative statements are formed with the negative adverb not. When forming negative statements with not, the auxiliary verb DO is absolutely required with all main verbs except BE and modal verbs.

The verb DO, in negative statements, is an auxiliary verb. In this role, DO is conjugated for person and tense. The main verb remains in the base form. Here are examples in the simple present.

subject aux.
verb
not main
verb
noun   incorrect
I do not like bananas. I not like bananas.
He does not eat bananas. He not eat bananas.
Canada does not grow bananas. Canada not grow bananas.
We do not sell bananas. We not sell bananas.

Note that the adverb not always follows the auxiliary verb DO.

affirmative   negative   incorrect
These birds fly.. These birds do not fly. These birds not fly.
I drink coffee. I do not drink coffee. I not drink coffee.
He watches TV. He does not watch TV. He not watch TV.

Here are examples in the simple past. Note that the simple past is indicated with did. This is true for all grammatical persons.

subject aux.
verb
not main
verb
noun   incorrect
I did not plant bananas. I not plant bananas.
You did not buy bananas. You not buy bananas.
They did not import bananas. They not import bananas.

The auxiliary verb DO is frequently contracted with the negative adverb not. These contractions are very common in spoken and written English – see contractions with DO.

Special note: Some English speakers form negative statements with the verb HAVE and the adverb not without using the auxiliary verb DO. However, in American English it is much more common to use DO.

without DO   American English (with DO)
John hasn’t any brothers. John does not (doesn’t) have any brothers.
We haven’t time. We do not (don’t) have time.
He hadn’t a care in the world. He did not (didn’t) have a care in the world.

Note that in the form without the auxiliary verb DO, the verb HAVE is always contracted with the adverb not.

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2 comments for “Negation and the verb DO

  1. 1 March 2014 at 03:12

    I would like to know if I can say I did was, in one sentence. In English can two negative can be used together?

    • lkl
      1 March 2014 at 06:14

      Yes, but only in a very specific way, like this: “What I did was call him.” So you’re saying something like “Yesterday I did something. I called him. What I did was call him.”

      No, you can’t use double negatives in English. If you do, you turn the negatives into a positive. “I don’t have no money” means that you do have money.

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