I was wondering, why exactly is it correct to use "not" without a helping word instead of "do not" with the subjunctive in the negative after the "that" clause, after words like "suggest" or "recommend"

  • I suggest she not go there.

Why not

  • I suggest she don't (maybe doesn't) go there.

How is this explained? I am looking for a present day explanation of why it is structured as is, not some other way.

  • Are you asking about the historical processes that shaped English grammar? Or are you looking for a logical basis for current English usage?
    – Juhasz
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 15:42
  • @Juhasz I've updated the question. Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


When it comes to verbal negation, dummy DO occurs in negative imperative clauses and negative clauses with a primary verb-form (i.e., the preterit, 3rd person singular present, or plain present form) without another auxiliary verb present.

Since subjunctive clauses aren't imperative clauses, and they aren't headed by a primary verb-form (namely, they have a secondary verb-form—the plain form—as head), they don't qualify.

For more details, see A Student's Introduction to English Grammar by Huddleston & Pullum (2005).

As an aside, to make things completely clear: it's absolutely grammatical to use different mandative constructions, such as the one in the second sentence – a so-called covert mandative (where doesn't would be the normal choice in that particular case, sanctioned by the use of a primary verb-form without an auxiliary).

It should also be noted that these constructions occur with (appreciably) different frequencies in different dialects.

Reading the sentences again, the second one leaves some room for ambiguity as well, but I think that's out of scope for this question.

  • That last statement makes me wonder, what ambiguity? Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 17:38
  • @SovereignSun The additional meaning could be paraphrased as "I put forth / am of the opinion that she doesn't go there.".
    – user3395
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 23:38

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