I have a question related to these two sentences, when talking about the present perfect, which one should be used?

They seem not to have learned grammar

They seem haven't learned grammar

They seem to haven't learned grammar

Are they correct?

  • 4
    Only your first version is valid. Other grammatical alternatives include They seem to have not learned grammar, They don't seem to have learned grammar, It seems they have not learned grammar,... The first of those is only idiomatically acceptable (though still relatively uncommon) in the uncontracted form (native speakers would never use the contraction as per your third version, but I don't think that's a matter of strict grammar//syntax - it's just a matter of what people actually say). Dec 28 '16 at 14:03
  • "what people actually say" = grammar :) Dec 28 '16 at 14:49
  • @TRomano and what do people actually say? I was almost sure that I could use They don't seem to have learned grammar or They seem not to have learned grammar, but I was unsure wheter this sentence might contain any grammar mistake, or not being spoken currently
    – Davyd
    Dec 28 '16 at 14:54
  • 1
    @Davyd: Perhaps I've got a limited imagination, but I really can't think of more than one possible meaning for any/all of these alternatives. Even including seems (or alternatives such as appears or looks like) wouldn't actually change the meaning in most contexts, since the speaker would rarely be consciously choosing to use that particular hedge/mitigation specifically to allow for the possibility that "appearances can be deceptive". Dec 28 '16 at 15:15
  • 2
    @DavydDiniz: It depends on the person. An educated person: Mr Bond seems not to have learned his lesson. seems not is a tad formal, not very, just a tad. The average man in the street: Bond doesn't seem to have learned his lesson. doesn't seem is normal register. Dec 28 '16 at 15:16

Your first sentences is correct

They seem not to have learned grammar.

Your second sentence needs to be restated from

They seem haven't learned grammar


It seems they haven't learned grammar.

Your third sentence is almost correct, the contraction needs to be expanded because of the "to"

They seem to have not learned grammar.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.