There is a rule called transferred negation in a sentence with object clause. Look at the examples...

"I don't think you are right".
"I don’t believe he will come."
"It doesn’t seem that they know where to go."
"It doesn’t appear that we’ll have a sunny day tomorrow."

I am wondering after what verbs should we adopt this rule. Should we adopt this rule after "besides think, believe, suppose, expect, imagine, guess, seem, appear"?

Thank you very much!

  • 1
    You can find more info on this topic in the 2002 reference grammar, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, by Huddleston and Pullum et al., Chapter 9 on negation, section "5. Increased specificity of negation (I don't want to hear about it)", pages 838-43.
    – F.E.
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 4:26
  • 1
    It's not surprising that I wouldn't think it's not difficult to disbelieve that we don't really need such a rule. Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 10:02

3 Answers 3


There has been a bit of a discussion about his on ELU recently, in this question:
Is “I believe x does not equal y” the same as “I don't believe x equals y”

While that question deals with the applicability of neg raising in the case of the verb believe, it touches on neg raising as wider grammatical a phenomenon.

The article that is linked there I found very informative, and I believe you will find answers to most of your questions regarding this in there.

Mind you, the approach of the author is that of the potential ambiguity that may exist in these kind of sentences. I don't think a complete list is given of these verbs, but I think it still gives a good general idea of what the author calls neg raising predicates.


While expressing negative ideas with verbs (as you said - think, suppose, believe, etc.), the general practice is putting the first verb negative and not the latter one.

In such cases, the transfer of negation happens from the second verb to the first. Almost all the verbs you described can be used for such construction. So, to answer you, it's the first verb.

Preferred is I don't think he's coming over I think he's not coming
Preferred is I don't suppose he's coming over I suppose he's not coming.

My reference is from here.

One important thing to note here is the verb hope does not allow transferred negation (Essentials of Mastering English - A concise grammar)

I hope she won't be there - I don't hope she will be there


The verbs mentioned in the question in regard to transferred negation in a sentence with object clause are called mental process verbs. I have found a few verbs to which this rule does not apply. These are as follows:

Hope - we cannot say I don't hope. Instead, we say (for example) "I hope he will not pass the driving test".

Wish - we cannot say I don't wish. Instead, we say (for example) "I wish you had not told her".

I have also found that we prefer "I think I had better not ask her" to "I don't think I had better ask her".

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