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Are there differences between negating the dependent clause and negating the independent clause?

I think this is not the reason.

I don't think this is the reason.

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OP's examples are purely stylistic choices, but not all permutations are equally acceptable. I think not that there are absolute rules involved, but that some forms are preferred over others. – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '11 at 0:17
From my answer to “I don't think you X” versus “I think you don't X”: "... some regard the form "I don't think x" as equivalent, for purposes of argumentation, to "I don't think." and "I suggest one avoid "I don't think x" constructions in formal writing or speaking." – jwpat7 Oct 31 '11 at 14:50
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think some differences may be pointed out, but usually it's just a matter of style and they shouldn't be any different.

Consider the following:

A strong atheist might claim:

I think there is no God.

Such statement naturally means that the claimer had, hopefully, gone through a long process of thinking before making this statement and that he really thinks there is no God.

However, an apatheist, a person who doesn't care about God's existence (doesn't think about the problem at all) might claim:

I don't think there's a God.

Which ultimately, if you're being shallow, might result in the same thing, but there might be a slight difference anyway.

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Thanks! Besides what you mentioned, does "I don't think that ..." sound less harsh than "I think that ... not ..."? – Tim Oct 31 '11 at 2:25
Yes, on the same basis my answer describes, I agree that "I don't think that..." sounds less harsh. – RiMMER Oct 31 '11 at 2:31

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