A negative sentence is one indicating something is untrue. Often made as a statement, negative sentences employ negation words such as "no" and "not," sometimes featured in contractions like "don't," "can't," or "won't." In English grammar, negative sentences are created by adding the negative word after the first auxiliary verb in the positively stated sentence. In present and past simple tenses, lacking auxiliary verbs, it is typically added with the auxiliary verb "do."
Simple Positive to Negative
The simplest activity for teaching negative sentences is to assign students a list of positive sentences to be turned into negative sentences. The younger or more inexperienced in English the student, the less complicated the sentence should be. Begin with simple present statements: "I watch TV" negates to "I do not watch TV." Contractions can be taught simultaneously or at a later date. Include a variety of subjects and tenses so students gain experience with past, present, and future negation -- have them negate variations on the same sentences to see the different forms. Try "I clean my room," "I cleaned my room," "I will clean my room," "She cleans her room," and so on.
"To Be" Negation Activities
"To be" negation can be tricky for students, especially when it comes to contractions -- why doesn't "am not" contract to "amn't," and how does "will not be" contract to "won't"? Explain the various forms of negative contractions for "to be" verbs, then practice by creating teams of two in your class--or practice with just you and your student in a one-on-one setting. Take turns making positive statements: "This book is mine," "I am a student," "They are taxi drivers." Play the contradiction game by having the other member of the team fire back with the negative form of the statement.
Space Game: Negative Sentences
Students struggling with negative sentences may benefit from Oxford University Press's negative sentences Space Game, available for free online. Players use a control stick to steer a space ship to hit words composing negative sentence in the proper order. They are presented with several words--one of which is a negative like "don't" or "isn't"--and must hit the words in the correct order with the spaceship to form a negative sentence. In addition to being a fun computer game, distracting kids from the mundanity of grammar, the game's format forces students to think slowly and carefully about each aspect of the sentence and the subsequent appropriate negative element.
Interactive Online Activities
Students who enjoy using the computer for interactive grammar games can find a variety of negative sentence activities online. These are typically formatted so the students can choose from a variety of negative options--"doesn't" vs. "don't," for example--and the computer corrects the answers at the end of the game. More challenging activities compel students to write the complete, negative form of a provided sentence. Woodward Chile's "Don't vs. Doesn't English Grammar Games" allows students to choose between "don't" and "doesn't"--or add another word of their own. English Grammar 4 U requires students to entirely rewrite sentences in the negative; Eclectic English's negative sentence activities pose negative sentences in a wide variety of formats.
- English Grammar 4 U: Simple Present Exercise on Negative Sentences
- Woodward Chile: Don't vs. Doesn't
- Oxford University Press: Negative Sentences
- Teaching and Learning Resources: Positive and Negative Sentences
- English Exercises: Negative Sentences
- Eclectic English: Verb To Be - Negative Sentences and Contractions
Based in northern Virginia, Rebecca Rogge has been writing since 2005. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College and has experience in teaching, cleaning and home decor. Her articles reflect expertise in legal topics and a focus on education and home management.