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    #1

    negating a verb directly?

    Why can't verbs be negated directly without an auxiliary verb in English? And why doesn't negation always precede verbs so that "can not" means "not have to", and "can not" written as "not can"? And the same for the other verbs.

    Why isn't "can/could/may/might/will/would/shall/should/is/was/are/were/have/has/had not" written as "not can/could/may/might/will/would/shall/should/is/was/are/were/have/has/had"?

    And why isn't it possible to negate main verbs directly like this either?

    "He not has/likes/knows/said/did"

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    #2

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    Language rules are arbitrary- they exist because that is how the speech community has evolved. There's no reason why, except that we don't. You could ask the same question of a language that places the negative in a different place.

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    #3

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    I'll ask a question: is there actually an English dialect somewhere that negates verbs directly like the examples I gave ("not can", "not will", "not likes", "not knew" and so on), or are they only mistakes that foreigners may make?


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    #4

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    There is no dialect that does this. it is a fundamental rule of English. Main verbs can not be negated - the presence of an auxilliary or modal is required. Or the insertion of the dummy operator 'do' - 'I do not eat fish'. This is just how English works and it would sound absurd to a native speaker to negate a main verb or to place the negative particle before the verb.

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    #5

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    Quote Originally Posted by dihen
    Why can't verbs be negated directly without an auxiliary verb in English?
    The negation of main verbs without an auxiliary verb was once the norm; you still find it sometimes in jocular, heightened, or deliberately archaic contexts:

    1. "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: ask what you can do for your country." – John F. Kennedy.

    2. "I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!" – Theodore Roosevelt.

    MrP

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    #6

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    _
    Last edited by dihen; 13-Jun-2006 at 13:38.

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    #7

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic
    The negation of main verbs without an auxiliary verb was once the norm; you still find it sometimes in jocular, heightened, or deliberately archaic contexts
    Actually, it seems that in about a thousand years ago, English (Old English) used to place the negation particle before the verb. It was probably something like this: "I am" was "ic eom", and "I am not" was "ic neom ("I n'am"), "is not" was "nis (n'is)", and "I can not" was "ic ne cann". Old English and Middle English used to have V2 (verb-second), but the negation particle did not count for position, probably because Old English often used double negatives. Since there were double negatives, a negation particle always needed to precede the verb whenever a word is negated. In Middle English, double negative were lost before V2 was lost; that could be why the negation particle then counts for position and follows instead of preceding the verb. Later, V2 was lost, probably because pronouns were often not inverted. When V2 was lost, it even became possible for most adverbs to precede the verb, but the negation particle still didn't go back to preceding the verb. It really seems strange that the negation particle didn't go back to preceding the verb just because double negatives were lost. And even in the English dialects with double negatives, the negation particle still doesn't precede the verb. I really don't know why.

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    #8

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    Hello Dihen

    One thing to bear in mind is that we can only examine a very limited quantity of original material. We tend to think of Old English as the "beginning" of a process; but at the time, of course, it was "New English", i.e. the latest stage in a process of evolution. It may be that if we had records that stretched back over several thousand years, we could construct a satisfactory theory of negative particle shift; but as things stand, we have only a very incomplete and partial picture.

    To take a similar case: if our records of the French language only began in the year 2000, for instance, we might have a very strange idea of the particles "ne" and "pas". Since you can omit "ne" in colloquial French (and say e.g. "je sais pas"), we might wrongly assume that "pas" was the earlier particle. Whereas in fact the particles "ne" and "pas" (and any accompanying clitics) executed some very complicated dance steps (e.g. in their position with infinitives), before they settled into their current positions.

    MrP

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    #9

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    PS "...we might wrongly assume that "pas" was the earlier particle..." –

    "Assume"? Note how I've inadvertently done the very thing I was warning against!

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    #10

    Re: negating a verb directly?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic
    PS "...we might wrongly assume that "pas" was the earlier particle..." –
    "Assume"? Note how I've inadvertently done the very thing I was warning against!
    I think there was a time when Old English had two negation particles, sometimes both preceding the verb. Maybe it was something like "Ic ne náht cann" (resembling "I not can") or was it more like "Ic ne cann náht" (resembling "I can not")? And besides that, what I mostly want to know is why doesn't the negation particle doesn't precede the verb like the other adverbs, and why do other adverbs still usually follow modal verbs, because it sounds strange to say something like "You only can hope", "I never can do that", "It always is possible", "He often has visited his friends", "I hardly can see anything", or "You never will know".

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