Is it not?

Frequently Asked Questions about English

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Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 7:11 pm
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Is it not?

Post by EC »

English seems to make use of the phrase "Is it not" in questions, as in "Is it not a nice day?" - to which most would reply "Yes". Is this a proper use of the language? Does it have a name?

Firstly, "Is it not a nice day?" is a proper use of English, although it is often contracted to "Isn't it a nice day?" (note the change in word order).

Secondly, this structure is called a Negative Question. Such questions are used:
  • a) to express surprise:
    "Isn't it ready yet? You've had four days to do it."

    b) when we expect a positive response:
    "Isn't it delicious?"

    c) to contradict a previous statement (politely):
    "Is it not spelt with a y?"
Such questions are not limited to "Is it not?" They can be made with any verb and in any tense:
  • Haven't we met somewhere? / Have we not met somewhere?
    Don't you like it? / Do you not like it?
    Shouldn't we go now? / Should we not go now?
    Won't she have finished? / Will she not have finished?
    Aren't you being provocative? / Are you not being provocative?
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