For example, "She does not speak Spanish." These statements stand in stark contrast to positive sentence examples. There, the speaker might say something like, "She speaks French very well." Let's take a closer look at negative statement constructs.
Negative sentences are declarative statements. That is, they relay information believed to be true. Negative sentences are typically formed by adding the word "not" after the helping verb. The most popular helping verbs are a form of "to be," including "am," "is," "are," "was" and "were."
Negative sentences can also make use of the words "do" or "will" (including "do," "did," and "does") before "not." In any of these constructs, it's possible to substitute "does not" with the contraction "doesn't." Other examples include didn't, isn't, wasn't, weren't, and won't. If you're writing a formal document or an academic essay, it's best not to use contractions. However, for informal writing, including blogging and social media posts, contractions are perfectly acceptable.
Let's explore some examples of negative sentences.
- I am not flying to England.
- That isn't the way to Nashville.
- They are not from Ecuador.
- He wasn't eating white rice.
- We were not sad when he moved away.
- They don't practice yoga.
- She did not like Bikhram yoga.
- He doesn't have to commute to work.
- They will not be joining us for dinner tonight.
- She won't be attending the Met Gala this year.
- These aren't pistachios.
- They weren't playing poker.
Positive and negative sentences in English grammar are complete opposites. But, making the change from negative to positive is quite easy. Why would you want to do this? Your sentences will benefit from improved clarity with positive statements.
Why say something "is not purple" when we can be more specific and say it is blue? Positive sentences require fewer words, fewer verb conjugations, and draw a direct line to the point you're trying to make. Let's change all the negative sentences above to positive sentences and see how they clear things up.
I am not flying to England.
I am sailing to England.
That isn't the way to Nashville.
That is the way to Memphis.
They are not from Ecuador.
They are from Venezuela.
He wasn't eating white rice.
He was eating cauliflower rice.
We were not sad when he moved away.
We were happy when he moved away.
They don't practice yoga.
They practice yoga.
She did not like Bikhram yoga.
She likes Yin yoga.
He doesn't have to commute to work.
He has to commute to work.
They will not be joining us for dinner tonight.
They will be joining us for dinner tonight.
She won't be attending the Met Gala this year.
She will be attending the Met Gala this year.
These aren't pistachios.
These are macadamia nuts.
They weren't playing poker.
They were playing gin rummy.
Of course, we can't rid ourselves of negative sentences completely. And we wouldn't want to either. Sometimes it's necessary to say, "This isn't a beetle but I don't know what kind of bug it is." There's no way around saying what "isn't" from time to time. However, in the instances where you can positively say what is rather than what isn't, you're setting yourself up for some nice, clean prose.
While you're considering clarity in your writing, consider using the active voice as well. It adds impact to your writing because, in these construct, the subject is carrying out the action of the verb. The opposite of the active voice is the passive voice, where the subject is being acted upon by the verb. In these constructs, the subject is being acted upon by the verb and that can muddy the waters. For more on that, enjoy Change Passive Voice to Active Voice.