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I know that the first sentence 'Isn't this a standard?' is grammatically correct, but sometimes I have encountered the usage like 'is this not a standard?', putting not behind the subject this. Is the second sentence form acceptable? If it is acceptable, is there any difference in their tone?

  • Both are OK. Obviously the emphasis is on "not" in the second example. – user3169 Jun 17 '17 at 17:38
  • What @user3169 said. The second form is bound to be less common overall, but it emphasises not more, so it works better in contexts where the speaker actually thinks it should be a standard (and is surprised that it's not). – FumbleFingers Jun 17 '17 at 17:45
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(To make an answer out of this since one hasn't been made in two days...)

As @user3169 said, they're both okay. And as @FumbleFingers said, the extra emphasis is on not, which has the function of suggesting surprise at discovering that it's not a standard.

Is this not a standard? (Because I thought it was, but you're telling me it's not.)

By contrast, the more common "isn't" could be used with different intonations for a couple of purposes:

Isn't this a standard? (I want to confirm my understanding.)

Isn't this a standard? (I'm politely reminding you of the fact.)

Isn't this a standard? (Because I thought it was, but you're telling me it's not.)

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