I read some philosophy stuff about life and found some text with such a sentence at the end:

Why did not I do this sooner?

Shouldn't it be

Why didn't I do this sooner?

Why did I not do this sooner?

If you are interested, this is the source - https://www.saymore.in/letting-go-oftentimes-easier-holding/

  • Presumably if the "didn't I" form is acceptable then so is the non-contracted "did not I" form.
    – Dan
    Jan 16, 2022 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


This Google Ngram shows that "Why did not I do" is far more common than "Why did I not do", at least in its source texts since 1940, and over 10 times as common as of 2000. This surprises me, I would have said that "Why did not I do this sooner?" " is an old-fashioned form, echoing the language of the King James bible, and of Shakespeare. The inversion of "not" and "I" was once common in formal speech, and I would have said is now rare. But to say that this "is not English" is simply incorrect.

I would nonetheless favor the use of "Why did I not do this sooner?" or in informal contexts "Why didn't I do this sooner?" except when trying to produce a particular stylistic effect.

  • 2
    The Ngram stat are a bit misleading, though. When searching for "Why didn't I do", you get the results with the note "Replaced Why didn't I do with Why did not I do to match how we processed the books." This means that you don't know how often the different versions of the phrase appears.
    – Mattias
    Sep 16, 2019 at 9:58
  • @Mattias That is a basic problem with Google Ngram (and similar tools). It also doesn't tell you in what way a word pattern appears, nor if it is quoting an archaic text like Shakespeare, nor various other things that a human analyst of a text could. But The usage is common enough that animartco's answer ' Why did not I' is definitely not English is clearly incorrect. Sep 16, 2019 at 15:18
  • Looking at the ngram results for matches for 'why did not i do' I can't find a single example of 'why did not i do' indeed if you do the ngram search with quotes Google fails to find a single example of "why did not i do"
    – james
    May 23, 2020 at 11:16

You were probably reading a poor translation or typo. ' Why did not I' is definitely not English. As you say it should be "why did I not" or colloquially "Why didn't I". I've just realised the colloquial is similar to the wrong use. How strange!

  • Honestly, I saw it first in a different source in a picture. I thought it was a mistake and decided to find copies of it. Some of them were with "didn't I", others - with "did not I" the same. Welcome to English xD Jul 10, 2019 at 14:43
  • Actually I think ' Did not I 'is an archaic form of English syntax. I'm hopeless with dates, but it was a long time ago.
    – animartco
    Jul 11, 2019 at 15:09
  • This is certainly English albiet old-fashioned if not archaic. See my answer for details. Aug 10, 2019 at 0:34

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