One of my homework is changing sentences into question sentences. The original sentence is:

"Reports were not taken seriously."

I am not sure where the ‘not’ should be put.

‘Were reports not taken seriously’ or ‘Were not reports taken seriously’

Which is right? I feel both are right.

  • Is there any more context? Why are you asking about these sentences?
    – James K
    May 29, 2019 at 11:03
  • @JamesK The original sentence is : Reports were not taken seriously. One of my homework is changing this sentence into question sentence. But I am not sure where the ‘not’ should be put.
    – Y. zeng
    May 29, 2019 at 11:08
  • Have you done any searching to figure it out? What are your thoughts so far?
    – gotube
    Jul 3, 2021 at 4:50
  • Ok, any easier one: He was not present at the meeting. Transform that into negative interrogative. Verb+subject + not+past participle or adjective.
    – Lambie
    Aug 25, 2021 at 15:12
  • @Lambie Okay. I see.
    – Y. zeng
    Dec 25, 2021 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


"Reports were not taken seriously."

Verb: to be

negative of to be: am not/is not/are not Past: was/were

Reports were not taken seriously.

negative interrogative, inversion

Were reports not taken seriously?

Also: Weren't reports taken seriously?

  • So both are right?
    – Y. zeng
    Jul 3, 2021 at 4:53
  • @Y.zeng The "were not" version is not wrong, exactly, but it's much less likely to be used and sounds off.
    – Casey
    Dec 25, 2021 at 8:01
  • @Casey Thanks a lot.
    – Y. zeng
    Dec 25, 2021 at 16:40

The simple negative question is "Were reports not taken seriously".

The other form "Were not reports taken seriously" is more marked. It has a rhetorical effect as it indicated that the person is expecting the answer "Yes, they were".

  • You have the rhetoric reversed. Am I not beautiful? expects the answer, Yes, you are. The expected answer here should be Yes, they were. May 29, 2019 at 13:08

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