I am totally confused by what the indirect narration of the following is:

"Are some ministers not destroying the futures of the students?", remarked the student leader.

My book says: The student leader remarked that some ministers were destroying the futures of the students.

How did the "not" just disappear? :(

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL. To help answerers, it is usually good form to explain what your expectation is and then answerers can see where you are coming from. Please explain why you are confused by the missing not and think it should be there. – Peter Jan 12 '16 at 10:30
  • It sounds like you have two questions here. Would you please post them as two separate questions? That will make it easier for people to give each question a good answer. – Ben Kovitz Jan 12 '16 at 12:00
  • The student leader is posing a rhetorical question, where semantically it makes no real difference whether that question is posed in the negative - just as Is the Pope a Catholic? is almost always semantically equivalent to Is the Pope not a Catholic? There's only one possible answer, and both speaker and audience know what that answer is. In principle, you could retain the negation in indirect reported speech; He asked whether some ministers were [not] slaughtering babies, but that's a bit "wordy" compared to the semantically equivalent He said they were slaughtering babies. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 12 '16 at 17:47

A question in the form

Are they not...

Is it not... Is he not... Is she not...

Are you not...

can actually be a kind of exclamation that means "They are certainly...It is certainly...You are certainly...He|she|it is certainly..."

Consider the difference in these two questions:

Is the bus not arriving on time today?

Isn't her new baby precious?

They would be asked with very different intonations in actual speech. The first question is asking if the bus is going to be late. The second sentence means "I think her new baby is so precious! Surely you agree!?"

So, in your original question

Are some ministers not destroying the futures of the students?

it actually means

(I think) some ministers are destroying the futures of the students. Surely you agree!?

  • What about the phrase? – Alex Jan 12 '16 at 12:32
  • Better to ask that as a separate question, as the two questions are completely unrelated. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 12 '16 at 12:36

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