- Identify a negative statement.
- Write negative statements.
Negative statements are the opposite of positive statements and are necessary to express an opposing idea. The following charts list negative words and helping verbs that can be combined to form a negative statement.
|Common Helping Verbs|
|would||ought to||used to|
The following examples show several ways to make a sentence negative in the present tense.
A helping verb used with the negative word not.
Sentence: My guests are arriving now.
Negative: My guests are not arriving now.
The negative word no.
Sentence: Jennie has money.
Negative: Jennie has no money.
The contraction n’t.
Sentence: Janetta does miss her mom.
Negative: Janetta doesn’t miss her mom.
The negative adverb rarely.
Sentence: I always go to the gym after work.
Negative: I rarely go to the gym after work.
The negative subject nobody.
Sentence: Everybody gets the day off.
Negative: Nobody gets the day off.
On a separate sheet of paper, rewrite the positive sentences as negative sentences. Be sure to keep the sentences in the present tense.
- Everybody is happy about the mandatory lunch.
- Deborah likes to visit online dating sites.
- Jordan donates blood every six months.
- Our writing instructor is very effective.
- That beautiful papaya is cheap.
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.
Rewrite the following paragraph by correcting the errors in the past-tense negative sentences.
Once you have found all the errors you can, please share with a classmate and compare your answers. Did your partner find an error you missed? Did you find an error your partner missed? Compare with your instructor’s answers.
Double negatives are two negatives used in the same phrase or sentence. They are considered incorrect in Standard English. 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 (incorrect)||Single negative (correct)|
|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.
On your own sheet of paper, correct the double negatives and rewrite the following sentences.
- Jose didn’t like none of the choices on the menu.
- Brittany can’t make no friends with nobody.
- The Southwest hardly had no rain last summer.
- My kids never get into no trouble.
- I could not do nothing about the past.
- Negatives are usually formed using a negative word plus a helping verb.
- Double negatives are considered incorrect in Standard English.
- Only one negative word is used to express a negative statement.
Write a paragraph describing your favorite meal. Use rich, colorful language to describe the meal. Exchange papers with a classmate and read his or her paragraph. Then rewrite each sentence of your classmate’s paragraph using negatives. Be sure to avoid double negatives. Share your negative paragraphs with each other.
This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Do you ever wonder why a grammatically correct sentence you’ve written just lies there like a dead fish?
I sure have.
Your sentence might even be full of those adjectives and adverbs your teachers and loved ones so admired in your writing when you were a kid.
But still the sentence doesn’t work.
Something simple I learned from The Elements of Styleyears ago changed the way I write and added verve to my prose. The authors of that little bible of style said: “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.”
Even Mark Twain was quoted, regarding adjectives: “When in doubt, strike it out.”
That’s not to say there’s no place for adjectives. I used three in the title and first paragraph of this post alone.
The point is that good writing is more about well-chosen nouns and strong verbs than it is about adjectives and adverbs, regardless what you were told as a kid.
There’s no quicker win for you and your manuscript than ferreting out and eliminating flabby verbs and replacing them with vibrant ones.
How To Know Which Verbs Need Replacing
Your first hint is your own discomfort with a sentence. Odds are it features a snooze-inducing verb.
As you hone your ferocious self-editing skills, train yourself to exploit opportunities to replace a weak verb for a strong one.
At the end of this post I suggest a list of 249 powerful verbs you can experiment with to replace tired ones.
Want a copy of the 249-verb list to read, save, or print whenever you wish? Click here.
What constitutes a tired verb? Here’s what to look for:
3 Types of Verbs to Beware of in Your Prose
1. State-of-being verbs
These are passive as opposed to powerful:
Am I saying these should never appear in your writing? Of course not. You’ll find them in this piece. But when a sentence lies limp, you can bet it contains at least one of these. Determining when a state-of-being verb is the culprit creates a problem—and finding a better, more powerful verb to replace it—is what makes us writers. [Note how I replaced the state-of-being verbs in this paragraph.]
Resist the urge to consult a thesaurus for the most exotic verb you can find. I consult such references only for the normal word that carries power but refuses to come to mind.
I would suggest even that you consult my list of powerful verbs only after you have exhausted all efforts to come up with one on your own. You want Make your prose to be your own creation, not yours plus Roget or Webster or Jenkins. [See how easy they are to spot and fix?]
Impotent: The man was walking on the platform.
Powerful: The man strode along the platform.
Impotent: Jim is a lover of country living.
Powerful: Jim treasures country living.
Impotent: There are three things that make me feel the way I do…
Powerful: Three things convince me…
2. Verbs that rely on adverbs
Powerful verbs are strong enough to stand alone.
The fox ran quickly dashed through the forest.
She menacingly looked glared at her rival.
He secretly listened eavesdropped while they discussed their plans.
3. Verbs with -ing suffixes
Before: He was walking…
After: He walked…
Before: She was loving the idea of…
After: She loved the idea of…
Before: The family was starting to gather…
After: The family started to gather…
The Powerful Verbs List