I got a question about negative form. Could you please help me deal with that? Here is the question.

If someone says, “I don’t think that he will come tomorrow.” What does it mean actually? “I disagree on his coming” or “I agree on his not coming?”

I am trying to figure out where “not” is put in the whole sentence.


It's not about agreeing or disagreeing. It's about your judgement, opinion, guess. In other words, if you say that you don't think something will happen, you mean that from your point of view, it will not happen. But if someone said he was not coming, and you replied, "OK," you would possibly express your agreement. As for "I don't think...," it's used to express what you believe will not happen or take place:

I don't think he will come. = I think he will not come.

  • 1
    I agree that “agree” and “disagree” are used incorrectly here. – Mixolydian Mar 12 at 2:51
  • Practically speaking, the two are the same. But logically, they are not. It's possible to not positively assert his appearance and also to not positively assert his absence. In other words, you're neutral—you don't have a firm belief of either outcome. – Jason Bassford Mar 12 at 4:19

Well, "I disagree that he will come" and "I agree that he will not come" mean essentially the same thing. The opposite of thinking that he will come is thinking that he will not come. The opposite of thinking that he will come is also not thinking that he will come. One implies the other and vice versa.

However, if you're asking if this sentence has any implications like "I don't think he will ever come" or "I think he might come another day" - that depends on what words are stressed in speech and/or the overall context.


It's about what he is thinking, so he thinks that he will not come, if you want him to not come say:

I don't want him to come tomorrow.

If you want him to come say:

I want him to come tomorrow.


As mentioned in the Mixolydian's post, both "I disagree on his coming" and "I agree on his not coming" mean essentially the same thing.

Let's take a look at the whole sentence again:

I don’t think that he will come tomorrow.

The emphasis on this sentence's "not" is on "think". Everything after the "that" is just a description of what the speaker thinks. We can expand the contraction, apply emphasis, omit the sentence after "that" (for illustration purposes), and get this result:

I do not think that (...) .

Which basically means, the speaker does not agree with whichever thought he/she has. We can also replace that word "think" with some synonyms, and the sentence would still mean the same thing. Some examples:

I don’t believe that he will come tomorrow.


I don’t agree that he will come tomorrow.

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