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Isn't This Fun? - Negative Questions

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about the quiz called “Isn't This Fun” but your teacher will probably talk to you about "Negative Questions". If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

Learning how to make negative statements is one thing ("I didn't like that.") and learning how to ask questions is another ("Do you like that?"). Sometimes we need to do both those things at once (Didn't you like that?). It's not as difficult as it looks at first and the questions below will give you plenty of opportunity to practice with negative questions.

  1. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    It'll have to stop raining by lunchtime, ... .... , else we'll need to have the whole meal indoors after all.
    Answer 1 is the correct (and short) form of 'will it not'.
    If your own first language has an 'invariable tag' ('n'est-ce pas' / 'nicht wahr' / 'verdad' / 'ma' ?), make sure you weren't tempted by Answer 4. Although this would be understood, it really isn't right. In some parts of Britain you may hear 'Innit?' ( = 'isn't it?') as a short all-purpose tag, but this should not be taken as Standard English.
  2. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    Why ... ... keep the roads in a decent state of repair?
    Within the question, the verb must come first (so Answer 3 is already unlikely); the people who mend the roads are usually just 'they'. A road-mending gang of just one woman (Answer 1) is also unlikely, even nowadays, and 'we' don't usually mend our own roads. So Answer 4 is the strongest.
  3. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    (Why) ... care about all this rubbish in our streets?
    The statement (or assumption) here is that 'nobody cares', or 'nobody does care'; in which case, the question must become: 'Why does nobody ...?' or 'Why doesn't anyone ...?'. Only this second form was offered here.
  4. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    ... ... look wonderful in that wedding dress?
    Presumably the wedding dress is to be worn by a (female) bride, which narrows our choice to one of the first two answers. Answer 2 makes very much more natural sense. If you have ever been at a wedding, you may well have said something very similar in your own language!
  5. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    I'll have to go and speak to someone in the office, ....
    The original question began with 'I', so Answer 3 is the best match. Don't be put-off by the form 'shan't', which is a special contraction of 'shall not'.
  6. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    ... a spare stamp for my postcard?
    Answer 4 is best. If not sure, try thinking about the 'halfway' forms:
    Nobody has got ... ? (negative statement)
    Has nobody got ... ? (alternative negative question)
    in American English you may well come across the alternative form 'Does nobody have ... ?', but British English tends not to prefer this version (possibly because it sounds rather defensive, as though accusing everyone else of being deliberately unhelpful).
  7. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    Why ... .... an easier way of doing this?
    This is the usual formula to express the opposite of 'there is', in question form. ('There's a bit too much pepper in this soup, isn't there?')
  8. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    Why can't somebody leave me ... .... space to park my car?
    This is the English pattern of 'not ... any'. Some English speakers would be happy to use 'some' (Answer 2) here, but the sentence that says ' ... someone ... some space' is perhaps slightly awkward.
  9. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    ... come over this evening and watch this new DVD?
    Answer 4 is clearest and most usual, though many English speakers would shorten it a bit and say 'Won't you ... ?' (or even: 'Why don't you ... ?', suggesting that you would only NOT go if you had some very strong reason, such as that someone in your family was ill.)
  10. Choose the best version to complete the negative question.
    You're going to have to learn how to do this, ...
    'You are ... aren't you?' is a classic example of a 'tag question'. In many other languages, the 'tag' doesn't vary (French: Elles sont descendues, n'est-ce pas?'; German: 'Alles bequem, nicht wahr?'; Mandarin: 'Ni hao ma?') ... but in English this is an everyday language habit. If the question is positive, the tag is negative (and vice-versa: a negative question takes a positive tag, e.g.: 'You're not joking, are you?').

Author: Ian Miles

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