As in title,

  1. Don't they know it?
  2. Do they not know it?

Are these sentence the same? or the second sentence is plain wrong?

Is there any case where they are different?

  • I think the second sentence has more emphasize on NOT knowing – Maryam Sep 26 '17 at 3:30
  • There isn't much difference. It's just #2 is more formal than #1 is. So it's essentially a matter of formality of style. – user178049 Sep 26 '17 at 3:52
  • Usually, I saw the #1 are often used as a rhetorical question. Can the #2 be a rhetorical question as well? For example, "Can't you do anything right?" , is it equal to say "Can you not do anything right?" – dan Sep 26 '17 at 5:33
  • Yes, either version can be used in a sincere question, and either version can be used rhetorically, too. – rjpond Sep 26 '17 at 7:25

Don't they know it?

Do they not know it?

They are both correct. It is a difference of register. Sentences with contractions such as don't are used in less formal contexts.

Though some have suggested a difference in emphasis, "Do they not know it?" is simply the usual word order in cases where the contraction don't has been avoided. By contrast, "Do not they know it?" sounds very awkward, although where a noun is used instead of a pronoun, both word orders are used:

Do the citizens not know it?

Do not the citizens know it?

Similarly, "Aren't I ..." usually expands to "Am I not ..." (I have never heard "Am not I ..." and it may be ungrammatical); "Isn't he ..." becomes "Is he not ...", and so on.

  • First time, I see 'Aren't I' and good to know it. Can it be 'Amn't I' or 'Ain't I'? – dan Sep 26 '17 at 10:10
  • 1
    "Amn't I" is dialect. "Ain't I" is dialect or slang. "Aren't I" (although it looks illogical) is standard usage. However, for non-inverted, declarative forms, the standard is "I'm not" - not "I aren't" (and "I ain't" is again dialect or slang). – rjpond Sep 26 '17 at 10:43
  • Compared "Do not the citizens know it?" to "Don't the citizens know it?", which one sounds better? Or "Do not the citizens know it?" sounds awkward? – dan Sep 26 '17 at 11:13
  • 1
    Unless you are aiming at an elevated style, "Don't the citizens know it?" sounds better. "Do not the citizens know it?" sounds very formal. "Do the citizens not know it?" is better, but in ordinary conversation and informal correspondence, "Don't" is the way to go. – rjpond Sep 26 '17 at 12:28

Effectively they are exactly the same meaning.

The is a very slight difference in emphasis. Sentence 2 sounds slightly more like they are actively not knowing rather than passively failing to know. When spoken, sentence 2 allows stress to be put on the word not.

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