Do the following sentences mean the same?

He seems to have not eaten for ages.

He does not seem to have eaten for ages.

  • Here is another possible variant: "He seems not to have eaten for ages." Jun 18, 2019 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


To me the first implies there exists evidence that no eating has taken place: He is extremely skinny, showing the signs of starvation and malnurishment, etc.

The second implies that there is lack of evidence of him eating: There is no food in the fridge, no dirty dishes, no crumbs, no food scraps in the trash, etc.

Logically both come to the same conclusion with a slightly different nuance.

  • 1
    Nicely put! It might be worth pointing out that besides that tiny difference of nuance depending on whether the negation applies to to seem or to have eaten, the latter could also be negated as He seems not to have eaten for ages. I don't think it makes one iota of difference whether not goes before to have or eaten. There's also He seems to not have eaten for ages, which I'd say is syntactically "valid", but not "idiomatic" in this exact context (though it would be okay in structurally similar contexts). Jun 18, 2019 at 11:41
  • Or even 'He seems to have eaten not for ages' for a bit of an archaic twist
    – Smock
    Jun 18, 2019 at 12:47

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