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One of my friends once said “At least you didn’t be diplomatic.”. It somehow felt a little unsettling. Is “didn’t be” acceptable? Is it grammatically correct?

  • It might be intended as a substitute for "You at least needn't be diplomatic" or a shorter version of "You at least didn't need to be diplomatic". – satnam Jul 3 '17 at 9:05
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    No, it isn't correct. Maybe a slip of the tongue for "didn't try to be diplomatic". – Kate Bunting Jul 3 '17 at 9:08
  • To add to what @KateBunting has said, he could have said "weren't diplomatic." – BlackSwan Jul 3 '17 at 9:24
  • It's unusual, but I don't agree that it's ungrammatical. – Colin Fine Jul 3 '17 at 10:07
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    “Weren’t diplomatic” is what I thought it should’ve been. But I also wanted to know if it was acceptable to use it. – Ram Iyer Jul 3 '17 at 13:10
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Most verbs in English form the negative in a strange way:

You jumped -> you didn't jump
You saw -> you didn't see

using the infinitive form ("jump", "see") and an auxiliary verb ("do", for example).

But a few special verbs (auxiliary verbs) form their negative in a different way by adding "not"

You were -> you were not = you weren't
You should -> you should not = you shouldn't

instead of

You were -> *you didn't be
You should -> *you didn't should

Perhaps if you read very old things, you find that even normal verbs used to do it this way

You jumped -> you jumped not
She loves me -> she loves me not

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