We know that if we don't use contraction, the structure of a negative question is as follows:

Auxiliary verb + subject + not + verb ...?

e.g., (1) 'Does he not go to school everyday?'

(2) 'Does the boy not go to school everyday?'

But one of my friends tell me that the 2nd sentence is incorrect because in a negative-interrogative sentence, 'not' is used after a pronoun subject, but before a noun subject: 'Does not the boy go to school everyday?'

I think in such case, 'not' is always used after the subject, no matter the subject is a noun or a pronoun.

Is the sentence 'Does not the boy go to school everyday?' grammatically correct?

  • The form does not the boy sounds completely unnatural to me, even though doesn't the boy is unexceptionable. I think your (2) is how it would be said without a contraction. Oct 25, 2021 at 20:33
  • By the way, there's a lot about this in this question and its answers, although it's a hopelessly confusing muddle. Oct 25, 2021 at 20:35
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    @JackO'Flaherty "Does not a jew have eyes?" Shakespear; dated yes, but not "wrong". I also see that phrasing a lot in e.g. the Aubrey–Maturin series (Napoleonic was setting).
    – sharur
    Oct 25, 2021 at 20:40
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    @sharur (and Jack) and just a few lines later is "If you prick us, do we not bleed. Opposite usage. Both acceptable at the time and under poetic license, neither very colloquial now. Oct 25, 2021 at 20:46
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    @AndyBonner But that apparently contrasting usage actually follows the rule proposed by the OP's friend, that pronouns come before the "not" and nouns after it. What has been missed in this discussion is that we all agree with the OP's friend on at least one point - we would be much less likely to say "do not we bleed?" than "do we not bleed?". The "do not we ...?" word order is possibly obsolete in modern English. By contrast, with the noun, both word orders are possible but (unlike the OP's friend) I would generally prefer to put the "not" after the nouns, too.
    – rjpond
    Oct 25, 2021 at 21:14

2 Answers 2


Your friend is wrong to condemn "Does the boy not go to school every day."* In fact, if you wanted to add an intensifier, you'd have to use this form rather than the contraction: "Does the boy really not go to school every day?"

Your friend's suggestion is also valid, though very archaic in tone (for that matter, both examples with no contraction and no added modifiers are archaic in tone).

* (Well—technically all the examples are wrong because they use "everyday" to mean "every day," when really the one-word form should only be an adjective. But only someone hopelessly petty would be picky about that. And I'm sure that's not me...

  • Does the boy not go to school every day?
  • Does not the boy go to school every day?

Both forms above would be easily understood by any fluent speaker. Both seem a bit formal and a bit old-fashioned to me, I can imagine either being used in Dickens, or perhaps Robert Lewis Stevenson's Kidnapped I agree that a modifier can make the first seem more natural

Does the boy truly not go to school every day?

But I think that the suggested "rule" is another of the many attempts to compose rules for English that significantly understate the allowable variation in usage.

A somewhat more recent example:

Could not the Germans have sold us these ships? (from Tuchman's The Guns of August, {Chapter: "Guben, An Enemy Then Flying"} reporting speech by a member of the Turkish cabinet in 1914, discussing how to "spin" an event.)

Since the original was probably in Turkish, this may be Tuchman's own translation. In any case it sounds natural to me.

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