I've seen the following negative sentences in an English book. Placing a negative auxiliary before the first verb seems to be the right way:

  • I don't think she'll pass the exam.

  • The baby's tired. I don't think he's going to wake up tonight.

My question is, would it be grammatically acceptable to say:

  • I think she won't pass the exam. or

  • The baby's tired. I think he isn't going to wake up tonight.

  • 1
    For most purposes, I don't think [X] and I think [NOT X] are equivalent in meaning. But there are probably contexts where one version carries significant implications / overtones that the other doesn't. Oct 8, 2018 at 15:14
  • @ FumbleFinger: Thanks for your comment. I wonder why the other option (I think she won't pass the exam) has been marked WRONG in the answer key!
    – M.N
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:34
  • I think I will keep my thoughts to myself. I don't think I will keep my thoughts to myself. Clearly,the emphasis is different.
    – Lambie
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:45
  • M.N.: You'll have to ask Lambie exactly what "emphasis" is different in his/her example. Apart from the obvious fact that the two statements as given are complete opposites (in #1, I will stay silent, in #2 I will speak out), and the fact that native speakers wouldn't often say I think I will not keep my thoughts to myself, I don't really see any difference in whether you negate the verb think as opposed to negating the statement that you think isn't true / won't happen. But as I said, there may be clear-cut examples where what I think is untrue / what I don't think is true. Oct 8, 2018 at 16:02
  • FumbleFinger: Thanks very much. You've been a great help. +1
    – M.N
    Oct 8, 2018 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


I don't think she passes most of her exams. General statement, simple present.

A general statement about a future exam:

I think she won't pass the exam. = I don't think she will pass the exam.

It depends on whether you want the emphasis on what you think or the fact of her passing or not passing the exam. Your choice.

  • Not sure why you got a downvote there. Perhaps "general statement" should be teased out a bit. "She hasn't been doing well at school. I don't think she passes most of her exams."
    – TimR
    Oct 8, 2018 at 16:42

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