I am well aware of the fact that in order to form a negative sentence in Present Simple one must use an auxiliary (do/does, am/is/are) or a modal verb (can, may etc).

I wonder whether it is possible to say 'I have not much time.' (I do not mean 'not so much' time here.) and whether such usage is grammatical.

I mean to say, it is absolutely OK to say 'I have NO time', why is it then incorrect to say 'I have NOT MUCH time'?

I would appreciate it if you referred me to some reliable resources.

1 Answer 1


I have not much time is grammatical but rather stilted. If contracted, it would sound much more natural and conversational, I've not much time or I haven't much time. I don't have much time is how most native speakers would express the idea.

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    My first thought was that as an AmE speaker you'd have included I haven't got much time in the list of "more natural" alternatives. But checking BrE/AmE corpuses for don't have much / haven't got much I was a bit surprised to find that the got version is actually more common over my side of the pond (but it's still a minority usage even here). Aug 5, 2017 at 16:23
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    It is grammatical because plenty of competent native speakers say it. google.com/… Where did you find this rule that an auxiliary is always needed to form a negation?
    – TimR
    Aug 5, 2017 at 20:54
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    @Yukatan: I'd say "rather scarce" is a massive overstatement. Superficially, my chart suggests don't have much is 5-6 times more common than haven't got much. But BrE texts are hugely outnumbered by AmE ones, so misclassification will tend to skew that bias towards the AmE position (where it's 20 times more common). And unquestionably, Google Books favours formal written text over speech, so that will also tend to exaggerate the difference. Finally, I'm older than the average, so I'd still use it even if it were going out of fashion (but I doubt it is, really). Aug 6, 2017 at 16:44
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo: I was focused on the inclusion of got with my first NGram. But I think this one clearly shows how [We] don't have much time has largely replaced [We] haven't much time in the past half-century. So even though this doesn't reflect a syntactic "rule", Yukatan is right to assume an auxiliary is at least "preferred". Aug 6, 2017 at 16:55
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    @Yukatan: Bear in mind that Tᴚoɯɐuo and I are native speakers, but we wouldn't necessarily be aware (in advance of checking resources like NGrams) of all usage shifts like this. Statistically speaking, a usage might decline quite significantly without most people actually noticing the change (or thinking there was anything unusual about someone still using a supposedly "out of fashion" form). But as regards the "formailty" of got - you've got that completely reversed. I'm quite sure including "got-support" would almost always be more informal than most alternative phrasings. Aug 6, 2017 at 17:06

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