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I saw a post about common mistakes in English, and one of the mistakes was:

Why the postman did not come today? - incorrect

Why didn't the postman come today? - correct

According to the grammar I was studied in past, the grammatical sentence should be:

Why did the postman not come today?

Now I'm not sure already what the correct and natural choice is for most native English speakers.

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  • [correction: the grammatical, not grammatic]. That grammar is right but old fashioned because today everyone uses the short, contracted form of the negative interrogative.
    – Lambie
    Jan 17 at 18:33
  • @Lambie - my wife from Lancashire says 'Did you not?', 'Would you not?', 'Can you not?', etc, and I am afraid I have picked it up over the last 30 years. Does get me quizzical looks now and then. Jan 17 at 20:40
  • @MichaelHarvey Sure, old fashioned.
    – Lambie
    Jan 17 at 20:42

1 Answer 1

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The sentence

(1) Why didn't the postman come today?

is much more common, particularly in informal speech, than either of the other suggested forms.

The form:

(2) Why the postman did not come today?

is incorrect. "The postman" is the is the object of the sentence, and in a question, the object is normally placed before the verb (here "come") but after the auxiliary (here "did") This leaves the full form as:

(3) Why did the postman not come today?

But in speech or informal writing, sentences like (3) are usually contracted to forms like (1).

So "Why was the trash not picked up today?" becomes "Why wasn't the trash picked up today?" while a form such as "Why the trash was not picked up today?" is simply wrong, although it would usually be understood.

In fact, a form like (2) sounds like an incomplete sentence, perhaps part of something like:

It is a holiday. That is why the trash was not picked up today.

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