An Analysis of Negation in English

Grammar; negation; construction; English


  • Hafissatou KANE
    Department of English Studies, University Cheikh Anta DIOP of Dakar, Senega
April 27, 2021


This paper offers an overview of the different constructions used to express negation in English. Based on previous research in the literature, several negation types have been identified. It has been shown that certain negative affixes such as dis-, un-, anti-, -less, etc. can be attached to the base word and negate it without affecting the remainder of the sentence. The second form of negation is the standard negation, where English adds the particle not (or its contracted form n’t) to the primary verb or to the auxiliary. Negative imperatives are made of do not / don’t + infinitive, while only not is used before infinitives and –ing forms to express negation. It has also been noted that there are several instances in English where negative quantifiers and indefinite pronouns can mark a clause negative. And, one of the major findings at this level is that the replacement of the not-negation (not…anybody, not….anyone) by no-negation constructions (nobody, no one) is often possible. However, the use of no-negation form at the beginning of the clause is more grammatically accepted due to the principle of negative attraction. The study finally shows that subject-auxiliary inversion in negative sentences can be considered optional sometimes.