Which of these sentences is the correct one?

I still not speak Russian

I still don't speak Russian?

Even though normally I know that verbs that describe usual or routine things get the structure of present simple, in this case(?) I have doubt that when using "still" it is like a "modal verb", but I'm not sure.

  • Still is not a modal verb. It is an adverb. "Don't" is a modal verb in this sentence and "speak" is the actual verb. "Still" describes "don't speak" to clarify that you are, at the present and also to some point in the past, not able to speak Russian. – Crazy Eyes Oct 1 '15 at 19:52
  • No, don't is not a modal verb. It's an auxiliary, though, which is what's important here. – user230 Oct 23 '15 at 23:57

Negative phrases are most commonly formed with the auxiliary verb "do" in the negative: "do not <verb>". Since 'speak' is the verb that you want to use, it needs to be preceded by "do not" (or "don't"), regardless of the other qualifiers like "still".

I still don't speak Russian.

(BTW, while it likely means you are unable to speak Russian, it can also mean that you are unwilling to speak it)

There are cases when a verb can be followed by "not" to make a negative, but those are few. For instance, "know" can be followed by "not":

I know not what to do.

but it's mostly artistic, bookish way of saying "I don't know..."

  • 1
    I know not is a quote from Shakespeare. Don't get confused, it isn't in anyway in modern use – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 1 '15 at 0:02
  • 1
    It is not necessarily just from Shakespeare. "I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I knew not where..." – Victor Bazarov Oct 1 '15 at 11:58
  • Maybe I'm confusing my writers. Either way, anyone that uses it is probably referencing literary work – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 1 '15 at 15:35
  • Though this answer is not incorrect, it's potentially misleading, imho. A quick glance through your answer made me think that you recommend saying "I know not what to do" rather than "I don't know what to do". – Damkerng T. Oct 1 '15 at 16:29
  • 1
    @VictorBazarov I +1! :-) – Damkerng T. Oct 1 '15 at 17:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.