I've been taught that when making a negative with a sentence with a modal verb in it, not should be placed right after the modal verb as in She might not be good.

But I wonder how about another similar sentence below.

She might be not good.

With not placed after be, to me it feels natural. I'd like to get your answers about this. Thank you.

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    No, it is not idiomatic. Sep 6, 2021 at 18:41
  • 2
    No, that would be "She might be no good."
    – user3169
    Sep 6, 2021 at 20:42
  • 1
    I can imagine the construction being used to contrast good with something else, as in: She might be not (just) good but absolutely perfect for the job. Here, the alternative placement of not doesn't work. Sep 6, 2021 at 22:23
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    Agree with the comments above with one caveat - English is a very dynamic language and something being 'not good' is a usage that seems to be growing. Generally, it's used more in relation to situations than people, but it may be another one of those changes in-progress.
    – PerryW
    Sep 6, 2021 at 23:56
  • Thank you all for the informative comments. @RonaldSole's comment contains an interesting case. English feels as dynamic as PerryW has pointed. Thank you. Sep 7, 2021 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


I would automatically respond with She might be not good* is incorrect you should say She might not be good or She might be no good

However in this situation even the dictionary has no really convincing argument that you are wrong just that it is not normally done that way.

We use no and not in some common fixed expressions: C.E.D.

No problem, no good, not worth

When you see Alan, can you give him this letter? Yes sure, no problem.

It’s no good standing around watching. Do something!

It’s not worth taking a taxi. We can walk.

But since you are referring to all modals;

She might be not good. With not placed after be, to me it feels natural.

Is not a convincing argument for the rest of the modal clan to be treated in the same way. It also has a somewhat colloquial or Pigeon English feel to it.

  • Thank you very much for the kind answer. I'd like to ask you a bit more about it. Is no allowed to modify an adjective good, not a noun in the case of no good only because the case is one of some common fixed expressions? How about no sensitive, no rich, or no clever? I think all the other cases are allowed as long as the speaker intends to emphasize it. Sep 7, 2021 at 6:59

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