I happened to see a blog of a Japanese English teacher in a cram school and sentences below are on the blog as usages of a word still.

She is still not here.

She is not still here.

. In this blog he says the first sentence means she hasn`t come here yet. And the second one means she is not here anymore. She has left here. So be careful about the word order.

This explanation confuses me. Because my English dictionary has no example of still used in a negative sentence, I guess. My question is as the title

Can we usually use the word still in negative sentences? If the answer is yes, is his explanation correct?

  • 1
    Yes, although it would be more natural to say "She is not here any longer" for the second one. Commented May 18 at 7:58
  • I don't think it's the position of still that's confusing you - it's the position (and hence scope) of negating not. In #1 it continues to be true that she is not here (because she hasn't arrived yet), whereas in #2 it does not continue to be true that she is here (because she has already left). Commented May 18 at 10:57
  • 2
    The second sentence, with not still, is understandable but not at all idiomatic. What one might encounter is things like You’re not still dating him are you? which suggests the speaker’s surprise (and perhaps disappointment or disapproval) at the possibility that the addressee might not have broken off the relationship in question. Commented May 18 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


Positive and negative are irrelevant to the usage of the word still. As used in the OP, "still" has a general meaning of "up to the present moment", and can be used to qualify words and phrases in both positive and negative sentences.

Here are some examples, expanding those in the OP:

  1. She is here. (Meaning: She is in this place at this time.)
  2. She is still here. (Meaning: She is here, although we might have expected her to have left by now.)

These are positive examples, but we can do exactly the same pattern with negative examples:

  1. She is not here. (Meaning: She is not in this place at this time.)
  2. She is still not here. (Meaning: She is not here, although we might have expected her to have arrived by now.)

Note the difference between sentence 2 and sentence 4. In the first, still points to an expected departure. In the second, it points to an expected arrival. But that is only because the state of affairs is different as between sentences 1 and 3. What this shows is that both sentences can be modified by still, but the implied meaning may vary depending on the context.

  1. She is not still here. Here the presumed meaning is "She is not (still here)." In other words, grammatically this is the negation of sentence 2. "Is she still here?" "No, she's not still here." This is not wrong, but in reality English speakers would express it in different ways, such as "She's no longer here."
  • Thank you for your thorough explanation.
    – yatterman
    Commented May 18 at 21:46

She is still not here.

She wasn't here. This remains the case.

She is not still here.

She was here. It is not that this remains the case; in other words, she is not here anymore.

  • Thank you very much.
    – yatterman
    Commented May 18 at 21:40

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