Negative Questions

man lying on grass
Type: Grammar
Originally published on February 24, 2023 and last updated on March 16, 2023

Engaging in conversation practice that involves answering negative questions can be a highly beneficial grammar conversation topic for English learners looking to improve their overall level and understanding in the language.

Negative questions present a unique challenge for learners as they require a different structure than affirmative questions, which can help to improve their understanding of grammar rules and sentence structure.

By practicing negative questions, learners can also develop their listening and comprehension skills as well as their ability to express themselves more accurately and effectively in English conversations.

The idea of these grammar-based questions is not so much to get the students using negative questions, but more to get them familiar with hearing and answering them. Go through the explanation and examples first before asking your students the questions. If you want you can also encourage students to ask for your opinion on the different topics by using a negative question.

Explanation and Examples

A negative question is a type of question that includes “not” in the sentence. These questions are used to seek confirmation or clarification that something is not true, did not happen, or has not been done.

The grammatical structure of negative questions in English usually follows an inverted structure, where the auxiliary verb (e.g., “do,” “does,” “did,” “have,” “has,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” etc.) is placed before the subject, and the negative word is placed before the auxiliary verb. For example:

Don’t you like pizza? (auxiliary verb: do, negative word: don’t)
Hasn’t he finished his homework yet? (auxiliary verb: has, negative word: hasn’t)
Aren’t you going to the party tonight? (auxiliary verb: are, negative word: aren’t)

Contracted or Uncontracted?

If the auxiliary verb and “not” in a negative question are not contracted, the grammatical structure changes. For example, compare the following contracted and uncontracted negative questions:

Contracted: Don’t you like pizza? (auxiliary verb: do, negative word: don’t)
Uncontracted: Do you not like pizza? (auxiliary verb: do, negative word: not)

Negative questions are commonly used in various situations, such as in conversation, formal and informal writing, and academic research. They are often used to express surprise, disbelief, or uncertainty, and can also be used to show politeness and respect. Negative questions are commonly used in English to confirm information, ask for clarification, and make suggestions.

Conversation Questions

  • Don't you think that stricter gun control laws could reduce gun-related violence?
  • Wouldn't you agree that education is a basic human right that should be accessible to all?
  • Isn't it time the death penalty was abolished in the US?
  • Don't you think that businesses have a responsibility to be environmentally sustainable?
  • Shouldn't we do more to address income inequality?
  • Wouldn't you say that the justice system in some countries is biased against certain groups?
  • Don't you think that the minimum wage should be increased?
  • Don't you think that healthcare should be a basic human right?
  • Shouldn't companies do more to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
  • Isn't it time to re-examine our approach to criminal justice reform?
  • Shouldn't we be doing more to address poverty and homelessness?
  • Don't you think that animal testing should be banned?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.