I have 2 sentences here,

Aren’t crimes only happening in favelas?

Don’t crimes only happen in favelas?

and I’d like to know which of them is grammatically correct, and if they are both correct, then I’d like to know the difference between them.

  • 2
    One is progressive, and uses a form of inverted be plus an -ing verb, while the other is not progressive, and uses do-support. Both are questions, both have inverted auxiliaries as questions do, both contract the auxiliary verbs with not (aren't and don't), both have plural subjects, and both are grammatical. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 18:23
  • 1
    You know how some questions, like #1, seek information, and some introduce a suggestion or even a challenge, like #2? That format is more like #2. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 22:04
  • 3
    Please do not answer in comments. Both comments here are answers (although I think the second is only partly correct.) Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 12:42
  • Os crimes estão acontecendo só nas favelas? Os crimes acontecem só nas favelas? E será que você já não sabe tudo isso?
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


The difference is the same as between:

  • Crimes (do) happen.
  • Crimes are happening.

The difference is that the former is in the indefinite present tense which implies the crimes happen periodically, on an ongoing basis, whereas the latter uses the present progressive form (the '-ing' form) which implies that crimes are constantly happening right now.

Both are correct grammatically, but the former makes more sense in this context.


Present simple: for general statements, auxiliary verb do/does

Crimes only happen in favelas. Declarative

Crimes don't happen only in favelas. Negative

Don't crimes only happen in favelas? Negative interrogative

Present Continuous: for things occurring "now". Auxiliary: the verb be

Crimes are happening only in favelas. Declarative

Crimes aren't happening only in favelas. Negative

Aren't crimes happening only in favelas? Negative interrogative

The main difference between the present simple and present continuous is generality versus occurrence at present. The negative interrogative inverts the subject and verb in the negative.

[Please note, in English we often use crime as an uncountable noun: Isn't crime happening only in favelas?]

The first sentence is about the general idea of crimes in favelas. The second sentence is about whether crimes are happening now.

[This difference between the simple present and present continuous also exists in Portuguese.]


The difference is the verb tenses. However, both are examples of the negative interrogative.

You can see this clearer if you rearrange and strip them down to simple statements

The 1st is in the present progressive - crimes are happening

The 2nd is the present simple - crimes happen

In English, the interrogative in the present simple would require do-support "Do/Don't crimes happen?".

Both of your examples are grammatical, and both are more or less interchangeable in this particular context. Both are natural. There is no real issue with using either of these constructs here.

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